When these situations are clearly forced for comedy reasons, we start to turn away from a show. However, Ryan has created a show for herself that fits her quite well, so as things go along her character might ease up into someone we’ll actually like.
Katherine herself too often steps across the line from bitch to simple sociopath. ... A little more light and shade would work wonders and still not take it anywhere near Motherland territory, or lead it to be mistaken for any of the other assorted other “mums-go-mad!” offerings that make you wish for Joan Crawford to be reborn and show us all how it should be done.
The idea of a brash, bawdy lady making overly polite Brits uncomfortable has potential. And occasionally, Ryan realizes that potential. I did find her funny on occasion, and suspect I might appreciate her and this material more in a stand-up context. But in the form of a series, it’s pushy and exhausting.
One of many frustrations with The Duchess is that you feel there’s a far better sitcom inside it, fighting to get out. It has intermittent killer lines but lacks coherence and heart. There are fleeting glimpses of a War of the Roses-style divorce farce or a sweet mother-and-daughter comedy, albeit one with a less dysfunctional dynamic. Instead what we’re left is a loud, mildly amusing mess.
Ryan represents her onscreen avatar as a badass rebel doing things her own way — vainly missing the point that an antihero is supposed to, you know, be something other than a hero. Everything about her character is carefully calibrated to scandalize. ... I hope that, even if she’s never handed a megaphone as massive as Netflix’s, she grows up to do more than create art as devoid of purpose, humanity, or worth as “The Duchess.”