In the latest chapter of their campaign to be left alone by the world’s media, Harry and Meghan have unveiled Volume I, the first three episodes of a six-part Netflix documentary. The goal with Harry & Meghan (Netflix, from Thursday) is, says Harry, to give their perspective on life, death and Megxit. “Doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”
That story, in the first episode at least, is largely a rehash of what we already know. (Filming concluded in August, before the death of Queen Elizabeth.) It opens with Harry and Meghan recording angsty video diaries, as though they’ve come through a period of unthinkable suffering, or were up all night worrying how they would pay their utility bills. (My guess: they weren’t up all night worrying about how to pay their utility bills.) “My job is to keep my family safe,” says Harry. “The level of hate that has been stirred up in the last three years against my wife and my son … I’m genuinely concerned for the safety of my family.”
Harry & Meghan is a follow-up of sorts to their sensational 2021 sit-down with Oprah Winfrey, from which the royal family emerged as racist, controlling and out of touch by a factor of centuries. But it is also a Netflix documentary – meaning a story that could have perhaps been told in an hour or less has been padded out to six times that length (the back half of the series arrives next week).
Part one, for instance, takes a cutesy interview with the Sussexes, in which they recall their early interactions, first over Instagram and then in person, and stretches it – to paraphrase the philosopher Bilbo Baggins – like butter scraped over too much bread.
We learn that Harry’s friends refer to him as “Prince Haz” – does that make William Prince Waz? – and that Meghan knows him as “H”. And that, when he let it be known he would like to meet her, Meghan immediately scrolled through his Instagram feed. She was impressed to discover it largely contained images of elephants and African sunsets.
But elsewhere director Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?) chucks in extraneous information like an undergraduate who has suddenly realised their already overdue essay is 1,000 words short. Royal experts are wheeled out to explain that the Windsors live in a gilded cage; old footage reminds us of the excitement in the UK over the birth of Harry.
Amid the archive dross, the occasional nugget glimmers. It is always moving to hear Harry speak about his late mother, Diana, for instance. Alas, there’s lots of loved-up treacle too. “This love story is only just getting started,” says Harry of Meghan. “She sacrificed everything she ever knew, the freedom she had, to join me in my world. I ended up sacrificing what I know to join her in her world.”
If you’re watching with subtitles, the first words that flash across the screen are “poignant piano music”, referring to the gloopy soundtrack. “Poignant piano music” pretty much sums up this heartfelt and gloopy – and sometimes unwatchable – plunge into Planet Sussex.
If there are bombshells, they are saved for further in. Out of the gate, the deal is that the Sussexes tell us what a terrible time they’ve had and we sit there and bask in the blinding glow of their mutual appreciation. The result: a pre-Christmas bacchanalia of navel-gazing that will make you glad there are other things to watch on Netflix and, more importantly, that we in this country aren’t lumbered with a royal family.