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Ian McKellen as Freddie Thornhill and Derek Jacobi as Stuart Bixby.

Image Credit: Ian McKellen as Freddie Thornhill and Derek Jacobi as Stuart Bixby.

'Vicious' season 1 finale recap: Coming out to Mom

Season 1 | Episode 6 | Aired Aug 3, 2014

Before Freddie and Stuart celebrate 49 years together, Ash accidentally lets news of the anniversary party slip to Stuart’s mother.

Stuart is furious at first, but after some reflection, he decides to take this opportunity to tell his mother that he and Freddie are a couple.

“I think it’s time,” he tells Freddie, earnestly. After nearly half a century, he’s hilariously correct. But thanks to superb acting by both Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen, it’s a suddenly poignant moment for the sitcom.

Assuming the show takes place in 2014, Freddie and Stuart got together in the mid-1960s and stayed together through some of the most tumultuous moments of gay liberation and history around the world. From the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis to the strike-down of DOMA and successful runs of shows like Modern Family and Will and Grace, Freddie and Stuart have prevailed.

And now, their greatest challenge is finally facing Stuart’s mother, Mildred, played by Hazel Douglas (Bathilda Bagshot in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1).

Perhaps it’s the high of filming a season finale, but the whole gang brought their A-game to the anniversary party. Penelope is dottier than ever, exclaiming, “Happy birthday, Stephen!” to Stuart. Human Grumpy Cat Mason (Philip Voss) is especially sharp-tongued this week, likely because his birthday also falls on the couple’s anniversary, and nobody gives a damn.

More important, Ash nearly busts a blood vessel when Stuart asks for the thousandth time, “You know our friend Violet?”

“We’ve all had dinners together, we’ve been to pubs together—we even went to bloody Stonehenge,” Ash scolds Stuart. “Of course I remember Violet! She practically gives me a handjob every time she says hello!”

Iwan Rheon as Ash and Frances de la Tour as Violet.

Iwan Rheon as Ash and Frances de la Tour as Violet

Freddie and Stuart hug him for saying exactly what’s on his mind. “Welcome to the family!” Freddie announces. “How heartwarming,” Mason grumbles. “You’re both going to turn that sweet boy into a gargoyle like you.”

Meanwhile, Freddie has invited none other than Dame Judi Dench to the anniversary party, whom he knows thanks to a Smarties commercial they both did decades ago. Much like Freddie’s fawning over Dame Maggie Smith earlier this season, his excitement over Dench is especially fun considering McKellen’s longtime friendship with the dame. They played Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively, for a 1978 TV drama.

No one expects Judi Dench to show up, especially after Mildred arrives and commands everyone’s attention. Within a minute of stepping into Freddie and Stuart’s Covent Garden flat, Mildred calls Violet a slut, hears Stuart’s news and promptly faints. The party quickly becomes a countdown to when Mildred will wake up and if she’ll remember that Stuart and Freddie are lovers, not flatmates.

On Vicious, it’s important to remember that Freddie and Stuart show affection with theatrical play-hatred. Is there anything more delicious than hearing Jacobi call McKellen a “big bitch?” But every once in a while, one barb goes too far, and the episode follows the other as he tries to make up for it.

This week, however, Violet is on the receiving end of a far-too-personal insult. Fresh off another failed love affair in Argentina, Stuart points out how Violet has never had an anniversary party, since she’s never been married. Fighting back tears, Violet leaves the room in a huff. Ash follows her.

“When am I going to meet somebody?” she asks Ash, moving closer to him like a circling vulture. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

Ash makes the mistake of calling Violet a “wonderful woman” and kisses her cheek. She pounces, nailing him to wall and making out with him for a full 12 seconds as he flails around, eyes wide open, like a petrified gazelle being eaten alive.

Iwan Rheon as Ash and Frances de la Tour as Violet.

Iwan Rheon as Ash and Frances de la Tour as Violet

“Thank you, Ash,” Violet says afterward, licking her lips. “I feel much better.” Ash backs away slowly, with his hands in the air.

Back in the living room, Mildred finally wakes up and refuses to acknowledge Stuart’s news, which drives Freddie to the tipping point.

“I’ll have you know he’s the the most wonderful man in the world, and I’m proud to call him my lover,” Freddie announces, shocking Mildred and, incidentally, Penelope, who had no idea Freddie and Stuart were a couple either.

“I can’t imagine my life without him,” Freddie continues, much to Mason’s dismay over the “graphic” nature of the speech. “When you talk to him, you talk to him with respect.” Mildred stares at the couple for a beat and gets up. “OK,” she says. “Congratulations. Call me tomorrow. And the food was awful.”

Stuart can’t believe it.

“After all this years, my mother finally accepts me,” he says, breathlessly. He opens the drapes of their apartment for the first time ever, letting the moonlight in.

By the end of the show, viewers are left to assume Dench never showed up, but a series of voicemails played over the ending credits reveals she had every intention of showing up:

“Hello, Freddie. It’s Judi Dench. It’s so wonderful to hear from you after all these years. Yes, I’d love to come to your party, but you didn’t leave me your address. So if you could just ring back with that, that would be fantastic.” Beep.

“Hi Freddie, It’s Judi Dench. I still haven’t heard back from you. I canceled plans with Daniel Craig for this, so do phone back.” Beep.

“It’s me again, Judi. It’s 10 o’clock, and I still haven’t heard from you. Right after I throw your gift out, I’ll be heading to sleep, so don’t bother ringing me back. I’ve got an Oscar; I don’t need this bullshit.” Beep.

Oh, Gary Janetti, please bring Judi Dench on for season 2. Please.

Vicious insult of the week: A tie between two of Freddie’s lines: “Why don’t you get us some drinks and stop standing there with your mouth gaping open like a cheap Italian fountain?” and “You’ll know she’s arrived when you hear the gates of hell creaking open” (on when Stuart’s mother will come to the party).

Vicious on PBS


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