Iris has taken over the role of family caregiver and she tends to the cooking and cleaning, while also making chocolates for a local shop. May spends all week at the Brazendale home, a wealthy family for whom she serves as a maid and sometimes personal nurse to the sickly Mrs. Brazendale, only coming home to the Mosses on the weekends. Spirited Ruby has recently lost her job as postwoman to local lad and the Moss's next door neighbor, Frank Gadney (Iain McKee), who has just returned home from the war, so she is forced to seek employment elsewhere. She is also training for the Olympics as a swimmer, so the loss of her job means the loss of her post office bike, which she desperately needs to get to the river to swim. She takes on a job as a corsetiere, because the position comes with a bike, but soon has patrons lined up for her sexy American corsets. Meanwhile, Billy is fighting his own internal demons based on his ship sinking during the war and his being sent home early due to psychological problems.
There are only eight episodes in the entire series and they work to build the characters well. However, I must admit that I found them somewhat boring for the first three episodes, simply because I didn't realize how invested in the characters I was becoming. An interesting twist on the family is that Dadda is a staunch Protestant, while their mother was a devout Catholic. Hence, the boys were raised Protestant and the girls Catholic. This is a point of contention that comes up often, sometimes with hilarious results, such as Dadda angrily yelling at the family pig and calling him a "papist" all the time.
The first episode finds the the kids working to get the family pianola (player piano) out of hock to save face at a homecoming party for returning servicemen. When the local priest, handsome Father Melia (Scot Williams), comes by the house to ask if they can borrow the pianola for the party, Iris doesn't know how to say no, so the family begins scrambling. Billy also finds that he has at least one town tormentor who keeps sending him chicken feathers and he doesn't want to attend the party for fear of reprisal, as he isn't considered a genuine "hero" since he was sent home early and lived, while so many others perished.
In the second episode, we find that Iris becomes smitten with a young magician named Domingo Hennessey, who comes to buy the family's rabbits after Dadda decides to sell them because the girls have grown attached and refuse to eat them at dinner. In what becomes a whirlwind romance, Domingo asks for Iris's hand in marriage, but Dadda refuses because he doesn't want things to change. We soon discover that not everything is as it seems with Domingo and Iris finds herself heartbroken and disappointed.
The third episode finds May spending more time with her employer, Mr. Brazendale (Stephen Moyer, True Blood) while his wife is away being treated for her "nerves." While the pair are out together, she meets a photographer friend of his, who has some not-so-nice designs on May. She doesn't listen to Mr. Brazendale's admonitions to steer clear of the unsavory man and finds herself in a bad way, only to have Mr. Brazendale rush in to save her. This begins the start of a love affair between the pair that will eventually have devastating results.
The fourth episode is a great one where scarlet fever strikes the small, poor community of Garston. When the father and mother of five children die of the disease, the Mosses step in to help, only to have the health inspector declare their house unsuitable for so many, and also a health hazard for the community. They realize the dreaded "tallyman" is being sent around to verify the number of people living in each house and so the entire community works together in a grand caper to deceive the man with subterfuge. It is both a hilarious episode and a heart-wrenching one as Iris and Father Melia work together to try to keep the children together.
In the fifth episode, Billy's best friend Nazzar returns from the war missing both legs and an arm, but not having lost his wonderful charm and sense of humor. Billy once again fights his terror of the sea and has a hard time visiting his old friend, not only because of the war memories, but also some internal feelings that have him questioning his sexuality. In the end, he must confront both issues headlong and decide whether it is more important to be true to himself or to continue to fear both the past and the future. While Billy is fighting his own issues, May realizes to her horror that she is pregnant and has no one to turn to.
The sixth episode finds fiery Ruby coming into contact with a woman who is campaigning against her corsets. When she confronts the incredibly wealthy Marianne Parks, she finds the woman's ideas compelling, including vegetarianism and women's rights. She decides to act upon her ideals, only to get herself and her community into big trouble. Meanwhile, May comes to discover that the Brazendales aren't all they appear to be.
The seventh episode finds Dadda in possession of a snake, which piques the interest of a local school teacher who asks him to come discuss the serpent in her class. The two become romantically interested in one another, only to have the budding relationship spurned by the children, as they consider it disrespectful to their dead mother. Meanwhile, Iris is considering a life as a nun, which leaves Father Melia very conflicted feelings about his feelings for Iris. Things also come to a violent head when Dadda learns of May's pregnancy.
The final episode finds May delivering her baby at home, without the help of a midwife, as her neighbors are shunning the family due to her condition. Likewise, Dadda has left home and is living in a friend's barn, having gone on a bender despite his 20+ year pledge to not drink. May rejects her baby while pining for Mr. Brazendale, who has left town on extended business. Everything comes to a head when the Brazendales offer a solution to May, but nothing is more important to the Mosses than family and they all pull together to help May make the right decision.
I ended up loving Lilies and all of the endearing characters within. Even though it was only eight episodes, I can imagine where things might go for each of the Moss girls in the future as the ending left things open and hopeful. The Moss family is comprised of relative newcomers, but they are all truly excellent in their roles, as are the supporting characters. If you are looking for a British drama with lots of heart, check out Lilies, just with the knowledge that it is a slow burn and takes some time to truly pull you in. But once it does, it doesn't let go.