Steven Mackintosh (Luther) and Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense) lead the cast of ITV’s new period drama from the producers of Downton Abbey.
The Halcyon tells the story of a bustling and glamorous five star hotel at the centre of London society and a world at war.
The cast of the eight-part series also includes Kara Tointon (Mr Selfridge), Alex Jennings (The Queen), Matt Ryan (Arrow), Hermione Corfield (Pride and Prejudice And Zombies) and Mark Benton (Eddie The Eagle).
Set in 1940, The Halcyon shows London life through the prism of war and the impact it has on families, politics, relationships and work across every social strata with a soundtrack of music from the era.
Monday 2 January 2017, 9pm
An American arrives in town and makes his way to the Halcyon Hotel. It’s raining hard, and he’s distracted by a line of smart black cars that snake their way around the back of the hotel. Meanwhile, the manager, Richard Garland and concierge Dennis Feldman group outside the hotel to greet Lord Hamilton, the owner. Garland registers with some surprise the addition of Charity Lambert, a young, glamorous blonde. But ever diplomatic, he masks the initial shock, and welcomes them in – they’re followed by several other mystery men, all upper class and white haired.
The handsome American, Joe O’Hara checks in, immediately asking questions about the “serious cars” coming in earlier. Receptionist Emma Garland only just manages to field them: it’s clear he smells a rat. And he’s right to: as Lord Hamilton kicks off a closed meeting, it soon becomes clear why sneaking in the back of the hotel has been necessary: Lords, MPs and influencers are plotting how to instate Halifax as PM…but it’s clear that the room contains more than its fair share of appeasers and Nazi sympathisers.
A surprise guest arrives, in the form of Lady Hamilton. Panic stations: she’s a day early, and presumably unaware that her husband lies in wait upstairs…with Charity Lambert on top of him. Staff frantically collude to keep her out of the Royal Suite, but she’s fast approaching. As her key fits into the lock, Garland manages to cut her off at the last – but only just. She departs, but an unspoken humiliation has occurred and she won’t easily forget it.
Informed of the earlier drama with his wife, Lord Hamilton commiserates in the bar. Joe O’Hara introduces himself and they’re making chit-chat when Freddie and Toby arrive, Lord Hamilton’s twin sons. Lord Hamilton clearly favours his eldest, Freddie. He leaves them to it to find a room to stay for the night, rightly suspecting he won’t be welcome in the Royal Suite where Lady Hamilton has finally taken up residence.
Freddie’s just got his wings: he and Emma go down to their childhood haunt in the basement: Emma senses a moment between them, but brushes it off and hurries away. She confides in Betsey who tells her to put it out of her head: he’s an aristocrat, and she’s just the manager’s daughter. They may be old friends, but there surely won’t be any romantic spark.
The next day at breakfast, the Hamiltons are dining in the restaurant when Charity Lambert arrives, despite Emma’s best efforts to fend her off. Lady Hamilton is appalled: her husband’s indiscretions under cover of darkness is one thing, but this is affirmably public humiliation. Freddie ushers her out, and Toby snaps at his father, who responds by giving him a disproportionate, angered dressing down. All witnessed by Mr O’Hara who finds Toby smoking outside and strikes up conversation: Toby is naively indiscreet about his father’s business interests, and Charity Lambert’s connections to the Fuhrer. Upset and embarrassed, he doesn’t seem to notice O’Hara’s unnatural interest.
Garland has a hostile visitor: Lady Hamilton, attempting to get the names of every mistress that Lord Hamilton has ever brought to the hotel. Garland declines, which she takes as a direct slight against her. He tries to protest that he is loyal to the hotel rather than her husband, but it’s clear he’s made a powerful enemy.
Freddie’s party begins: Emma’s perceptions about their romantic tensions are confirmed as they almost share a kiss on the way down in the lift. And Freddie chastises his father for his behavior: he can’t continue to humiliate his mother like this. To his astonishment, his father agrees: his reaction is melancholy, a man facing a series of bad decisions he has made throughout his life. We leave the Halcyon with both families wondering – what does the future hold, for Emma and Freddie’s burgeoning romance, and Garland and Lady Hamilton’s declared rivalry?
Monday 9 January 2017, 9pm
Freddie flies in with his crewmates, and touches down. There’s a brief moment of camaraderie, before he ruefully watches his squadron head towards the mess. He turns the other way: there’s a car waiting for him. Garland’s unsettled – what could she possibly want? Lady Hamilton watches him usher her away, looking furious. If Garland felt that they could make a clean slate, he’s very much mistaken.
Freddie talks with guests, the weight of his new responsibility looms into view: he’s expected in the Lords, with his father’s friends. More alarmingly, Lady Hamilton wants him to use his leave to support her with the hotel. When Freddie demurs, the extent of her distress becomes clear: she’s all alone now, and needs her boys. Freddie feels a new sense of guilt. Lady Hamilton wants to discuss the future of the hotel. It’s time to make changes, and it’s clear that she has Garland in her crosshairs.
Garland insists he’s not worried – that he needs to show Lady Hamilton how indispensable he is to the workings of the hotel. Peggy and Feldman aren’t so sure: Lady Hamilton is wild with grief, and has nobody left to blame for her husband’s indiscretions but the manager who enabled them. Emma’s worried that she hasn’t heard from Freddie, who has been distant. A more pragmatic Betsey is sure that things have changed – Emma should forget any hope of romance. Betsey implores Emma to go to Café de Paris and forget her worries: dancing is just what she needs.
Max Klein arrives at the hotel: he’s an Austrian, sent by an agency for kitchen work. Garland seems not to worry that his nationality will invite hostility, but when he’s shown around the kitchens, he is immediately confronted by head chef Parry, who resents having a “German” working in his kitchen.
Emma and Betsey arrive at the Café de Paris: the place is wild and alive, bodies flinging everywhere, and Sonny Sullivan moonlighting on the keys for an American singer. Emma is dismayed to see Freddie across the room, laughing with his squadron: so this is why he hasn’t been in touch?
Garland realizes Lady Hamilton has put the word out against him. Feldman and Peggy try to scheme with Garland for a way out of his troubles, but it doesn’t seem as though there’s anywhere for him to go. Garland claims he has a plan, to Feldman’s great unease.
Meanwhile, Emma and Freddie reunite at the Café de Paris, but they argue. She and Betsey storm out, in a rage. Freddie’s at a loss of what to do. Back at the Halcyon, in utter desperation, Garland does something drastic.
Charity meets Joe and reveals her plans: she’s embittered and out for blood: Joe refuses to help her, but can see that she won’t be stopped.
The party begins: Freddie in low spirits, Toby getting drunker and drunker. He goes to confront his older brother about residual anger over their father. Anger rides high and Toby bursts out that it was he who spoke to Joe O’Hara. Freddie is horrified – the weight of responsibility that’s been pressing down on him has passed his brother by completely.
The next day, Garland wakes up. He may be in dire straits, but he’s going to fix the Halcyon’s troubles. Tension has been lanced between Toby and Freddie: as Lady Hamilton delivers a lecture on their comportment, they can’t help but smirk like naughty schoolboys. The boys make up and Toby announces his intentions to join the war office – he doesn’t need his father’s approval anymore, but wants to do something useful in this war. Will Garland fare as well with the new Lord Hamilton?
Monday 16 January 2017, 9pm
The Halcyon is in full swing when an air raid siren starts. Emma’s getting used to her new role and must shepherd everyone down to the shelter. Garland keeps a watchful eye on his daughter. When Emma goes upstairs to check all of the rooms are empty, she comes across Max, and is confused as to why he’s in the guest quarters.
The next day, reception is full: rich refugees, arriving over from France. One guest in particular invites Lady Hamilton’s attention – the Comte de St Claire, accompanied by his aide, Lucian D’Aberville. Lady Hamilton stresses to Garland that everything must run smoothly for this allegedly demanding guest. Garland prepares himself. Emma confides in Betsey that she hasn’t heard from Freddie since he left for base – Betsey’s supportive but wary. Freddie, meanwhile, has received a visit from Joe O’Hara, keen to gauge the atmosphere, and attitudes of the RAF as they head into war.
After initial awkwardness, O’Hara manages to warm the squadron up, as they talk about their gung-ho attitudes to fighting in the skies. .Joe and Freddie chat at base: Freddie senses that Joe came to base with preconceptions: he wants to see “poor young pilots, fearful of the coming conflict”. But Freddie asserts that there’s no space for fear in the cockpit.
Toby announces to his mother that he’s going to work at the war office. As he departs, the moment feels slightly poignant: she feels the ‘empty nest’ syndrome for the first time. It swiftly passes, however, as Lucian D’Aberville comes and introduces himself. They’ve met before, but she has no recollection of it. Any tensions soon melt away, however: Lucian is boyish, charming and hilarious.
Peggy is at high tension: Billy’s expressed his desire to sign up in the coming days, as soon as he turns 18. She explains to Garland that she’s worried about Billy’s enthusiasm. How on earth can she protect him when his mind looks like it’s made up to join his father’s regiment, infamously used as canon fodder. The Comte is not making friends everywhere. Parry is in a rage: the Comte has sent back every dish he’s had delivered up to his room. He sends Max in his stead, hoping that a face from the kitchen might placate The Comte. Instead, he antagonizes Max, whose accent he recognizes as Austrian. Max must stand and take the abuse, but is clearly rattled.
Emma is summoned up to the Comte’s room – he is incandescent, everything in upheaval. His gun is missing – and he maintains that only one of the staff could have stolen it. Garland summons the staff about the Comte’s gun. Spurred on by Parry, suspicion is flung immediately onto Max. Emma must make a decision: in her new position, should she go out on a limb for this relative stranger?
When Billy’s birthday cake is brought out, Kate can’t help notice that something’s off. She chases him up and he confides a secret to her that she promises to help with. It’s a riskier venture than she first understands…
As Emma continues to worry over Max, Garland announces to guests awful news: France has fallen. The implications for Max’s family, Emma realizes, are even worse than before. Joe, aware of what this spells for Max, entreats Emma to be active: they go to visit Max. They find a desperate man: he implores Emma to use her influence and help him. Emma’s suspicions about his actions are confirmed: what will she do? Garland is under a similar quandary: just how far will the Halcyon go to protect its staff?
Monday 23 January 2017, 9pm
Toby is working at the War Office when he hears that Squadron 392 has gone down – that’s Freddie’s squadron. He can’t get any more information at this stage, but tells Garland and Emma – she is aghast, but tries to stifle it – she’s got work to do.
Joe has drinks with Peyton Delane, the owner of his station. He’s “calling him up to the majors” – his own chat show, focusing on news and entertainment. He’s done well in London, but this show’s going to be in America…and it’s going to make him a star. Delane puts the package forward to Joe: it’s very lucrative. He can’t refuse. Joe comes into the reception and sees Americans everywhere leaving – as he explains to Garland, he’ll have to add his name to the list. He’s leaving on Monday evening. Emma is icily restrained about it, but hints that she’s unsurprised that Joe is fleeing the country as war sets in.
Adil sends room service up to Toby via Tom, who doesn’t understand why Toby’s so awkward.
Betsey comes across Sonny playing a trumpet – his father’s. He can’t master it and she teases him about it, but he intends to persist. As they go onstage, a woman appears who doesn’t quite fit with the average clientele of the Halcyon. Betsey sees Feldman remonstrating with the woman, and rushes forward: it’s her mother, Gloria. Betsey’s embarrassed, but also delighted to see her. Gloria seems to have made a fresh start. But Sonny watches on, unsettled and wary of Gloria, and the reaction she incites from Betsey.
Lucian and Lady Hamilton continue their flirtation: she reveals she’s never been to the cinema, thinking it a pastime of the lower classes. He’s charmed, and promises to take her.
Freddie returns, and Emma realizes how tense she’s been until this point, waiting for news of him: he’s unharmed, but his copilot Radimsky’s plane crashed, and he’s recovering in hospital. In sheer relief at his luck, Emma and Freddie go to his room they are interrupted when Lillian comes in, almost catching Freddie and Emma together. After catching Lillian gossiping about what she nearly saw, Garland reveals to Peggy that he suspects Emma and Freddie are seeing each other. He fears he’ll break her heart – through his status or the danger he faces.
Joe’s producer reveals that his show’s been cancelled: Delane doesn’t intend to leave a correspondent in London to cover the war. Joe’s horrified – how can Delane leave the English alone like this? Impassioned, he continues to persevere with Emma, trying to make it clear that he’ll still be supporting England from the sidelines. She remains skeptical. Meanwhile, Lady Hamilton goes to Toby ahead of her date to the cinema with Lucian, and tacitly asks for his blessing: it’s clear she’s nervous. When they arrive at the cinema, she wonders whether, in holding back from new experiences, she’s been the one missing out.
Toby rebukes Adil for sending coffee up to his room: he crossed a line. Adil’s embarrassed and chastened. Meanwhile, romantic awkwardness has reached Lady Hamilton: while her attention is rapt in the cinema, the lights go up to reveal Billy, Kate and Robbie there too – and they’ve spotted her. Mortified, she rushes out in a panic and demands that Lucian find her a car.
Gloria feels small and out of place in the hotel: she gets slightly too drunk and makes a scene, before disappearing. Panicked, Emma and Betsey go on the hunt for her upstairs, before finding her passed out in an empty room. Betsey shows her pain over her mother: she realizes she’s never going to be what she needs.
Joe finds Peyton Delane, and makes the case for staying in England, and the moral responsibility they have to tell the story of the war. Will it fall on deaf ears?
Monday 30 January 2017, 9pm
Monday 6 February 2017, 9pm
Monday 13 February 2017, 9pm
Monday 20 February 2017, 9pm
Watch the trailer…
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