17 Excellent British Period Dramas You Can Binge Right Now

15 of 18

Hugh Dancy, Romola Garai and Hugh Bonneville in “Daniel Deronda”. (Photo: BBC)

Daniel Deronda

This four-part adaptation of George’s Eliot’s controversial and ambitious final novel was originally released in 2002.

Set in the 1870s, it tells the story of – you guessed it – Daniel Deronda, a sensitive, intelligent young man who is the illegitimate son of an aristocrat. Sparks fly when he meets the beautiful Gwendolen Harleth at a roulette table, but, since she can’t inherit her late father’s estate because she is a woman, she needs money more than passion. Gwendolen is obliged to marry into wealth, and becomes the unhappy bridge of self-centered aristocrat Henleigh Grandcourt, who is a fairly terrible husband.  As her situation becomes more and more oppressive, Gwendolen turns to Daniel for help, only to discover his involvement with the young Jewish singer Mirah Lapidoth. Torn between his devotion to Gwendolen and his passion for Mirah and the plight of her people, Daniel is forced to look at his own mysterious past.

(This is the most basic summary of this ever, just so you know.)

Trying to adapt a 700-page novel for the small screen is always challenging. And the novel’s split narrative – Gwendolen’s disastrous marriage and Deronda’s search for purpose – doesn’t help matters much. To put it plainly: Purists may not love everything about this adaptation. But, overall, it’s a fairly good distillation of the story’s larger plot elements and social themes. And the cast – which includes Romola Garai, Hugh Dancy, Hugh Bonnville and Greta Scacchi, among others – is top-notch.

Number of Seasons: 1

Where to Watch: Hulu