STRIKE: Line Of Duty

 

[A knock at the door of Comoran Strike’s office. Two figures enter]

Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott: I’m Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott –

Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming : – And I’m Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming

Together: And we are from AC-12…

DS Fleming: – Wait a second, is that a cup of piss on your window sill?

DS Arnott: That’s breaking building regs…

Robin: It’s not mine!

 

[Strike walks from his office into the reception area]

Strike: What do you want?

DS Arnott: It’s come to our attention Eric Wardle has been leaking you investigative information about ongoing cases which you then go on to solve.

Strike: Who says that?

DS Fleming: Detective Carver.

DS Arnott: Kate! That’s confidential information!

DS Fleming: Sorry, I don’t know what came over me… I just felt like telling him.

DS Arnott: Don’t tell him about Anstis then…

Strike: Oh, so Richard Anstis is involved in this too? He owes me a leg… you might say an arm and a leg.

 

[Suddenly a senior police officer bursts through the door]

Superintendent Ted Hastings: What the feck is going on here you two?

DS Arnott: We don’t know Guv, he just has an effect on us both!

Super Hastings: [Addressing Strike] You listen here son – we have you bang to rights.

Strike: Then I have no choice…

 

[Strike leaps out the window quickly followed by Robin]

Narrator v/o: Little did AC-12 know but the secret identity of down on his luck private detective Cormoran Strike was that of the super detective COMORANT MAN! Aided by his trusty sidekick Robin (who is in no way an intended copyright infringement on any other superhero sidekicks who may go by a similar homophone or name) they fight crime through sheer coincidence using their author given ‘make up an expertise in the necessary skill on the spot’ writing.

Super Hastings: The Comorant Strikes again!

 

[outside walking down the road in slow motion Comoran is smoking and Robin is not looking where she’s going as she looks up a new job to apply for on her phone]

Robin: Thank goodness we both took advanced courses in stunt work!

Strike: Actually I didn’t. I just got blown up by an IED on tour in Afghanistan. On the bright side my tuition only cost me a leg. Get it… ‘it cost an arm and a leg’… and I lost my leg… but… not an arm…

 

[Robin looks at him awkwardly not sure what to say since the BBC might censor this scene for fear of offending someone. They continue walking down the street]

Strike: Quick Robin! To the Comorant Copter!

Robin: We don’t have one…

Strike: The Comorant Cycle!

Robin: Nope…

Strike The… Comorant… um Canoe? Cart? Chariot? Crop duster? Caravan? Caravel? Catamaran? Coach? Compact car? Coupe? Cruise ship? Container ship? Clipper ship? Cutter? Cable car? Convertible? Container ship? Conveyor belt? Covered wagon? Crane? Combine harvester? Chair lift?

Robin: Nope none of them. Not even a Convoy.

 

[a few minutes pass as Strike, with a thousand yard stare, suffers PTSD with only the cigarette in his mouth twitching to show he’s still alive before he recovers]

Strike: Bugger… um, alright… let me use my trusty Cormarant lighter, ‘strike’ up another cigarette and we’ll go down the pub.

Robin: Won’t they find us there?

Strike: No way. This is London – there are loads of pubs!

Robin: But I found you there after knowing you only a few days. I’m sure they’ll –

Strike: – Well hopefully I’ll be so drunk by the time they find me I won’t care!

Narrator: SO CONTINUE THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF COMORAN STRIKE AND HIS ‘WE’RE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP NOR WILL WE EVER BE’ SIDEKICK! UNTIL NEXT TIME, SAME CORMORANT TIME, SAME CORMORANT CHANNEL!

THAT’S ALL UNTIL THE NEXT TIME ” COMORANt STRIKEs”!

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NEXT TIME ON THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF CORMORAN STRIKE!

Narrator: NEXT TIME ON THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF CORMORAN STRIKE!

[Setting: Interior: Cormoran Strike’s office]

Robin: Cormoran, my secret… the reason I dropped out of university and only did temp work like some common working class criminal Luddite with only 24 GCSEs, 18 A Levels, a Duke of Edinburgh (with honours), a George cross for bravery and a GNVQ in Hospitality to my name is…

Strike: – You’re ginger? I mean I thought it was a bit of a piss take when your parents called their red haired daughter that to be honest. And what if you got sun burn on your chest? Let alone that time on the stairs when I grabbed your –

Robin: – No! Shut up! It’s because…

Strike: – Because you’re an underdeveloped two dimensional cliche written by an author who knew she would have a multi-book deal in order to flesh out your characterisation. Thus s/he only did a very basic introduction to us in the first book as if s/he has all the time in the world to do so later on?

Robin: … No and that’s a little too meta-narrative for me and my delicate, yet vastly superior to yours, feminine intellect which can only conceive of marriage and dresses (and getting qualified as a detective to take work away from you). It’s because…

Strike: – Wait, what was that last bit you muttered under your breath?

Robin: Oh, nothing… anyway my secret is…

[Suddenly a large hairy man leans in through the window knocking the wall down in the process due to his semi-gigantic physique]

Strike: … you’re a wizard Robby? Oh, wait, wrong series… and I wouldn’t know anything about that hidden wizarding world anyway… even if this office is located on Charing Cross Road, the same street as the Leaky Cauldron and, as a Muggle, I should be completely unaware of its existence… though, as a detective, I notice blatantly ‘wizardy looking’ people going in and out of that place constantly. Well at least you’re not from the village of On Pagford. There’s a bunch of wankers on the Parish council there…

Robin: No, it’s because…

[Suddenly another large bearded man, with a boy on his back, walks in]

Hodor: Hodor? Hodor, hodor.

Bran: Hi, I’m here for the meeting of literary characters with bird themed names.

Cormoran: No sorry mate, that’s later tonight across the street. (And anyway my name’s Cormoran not Cormorant. Irish giant not a bird...) You and beardy will have to go sit in the park and stare at the tree that kind of looks like it’s got a bleeding face for a while. Or the pub. I know a really tolerant pub nearby. But hold the door for the other big beardy bloke to leave first as he’s got something crawling out his pockets.

Hagrid: It’s a dragon’s egg…

Bran: A Targeryen!?

Hagrid: No, I’m a septuagenarian actually. Back’s been giving me right trouble recently…

[exit both large bearded men. One slowly dragging a torn off door behind him]

Robin: No! My secret is…

 

Narrator: NEXT TIME ON THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF CORMORAN STRIKE!


I’ve seen a lot of misleading ‘next time’ teasers in recent years. I suppose that’s their purpose in a way but it can be very annoying when it’s a fake out such as the teaser includes something that gets cut away from before the ‘reveal’ moment or it’s the final moment of the next episode so in fact acts as a teaser not for the next episode but the one after that.

BBC Adaption Review – Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Overall the tone is awkward. It’s not dark enough to take seriously and so you start seeing all the narrative conveniences. The original book was apparently filled with dark humour and swearing but it seems both have been toned down for a general audience for fear children might see this due to Harry Potter. People, as a contrivance to push the narrative forward with little challenge, just seem to give Strike information with little if any justification – many breaching the confidentiality of information act time and time again. The characters in this challenge of deductive reasoning be they red herrings, antagonistic persons or actual criminals are all but given pantomime level depictions in terms of their overt antagonism.

Our leading man is an Oxford drop out ex-military police investigation branch member which is as Marty Stu a characterisation as you can do short of saying he’s a blood relative of Sherlock Holmes for a detective story. But he has a prosthesis. That’s his one permanent flaw. Everything else can be changed. He is the wish fulfilment figure for women who wish to ‘fix’ the men they’re involved with. Robin finds him down and out but through her presence he gradually becomes a better man if not detective.

Robin is… bland? I want to say bland but it’s more true to say she is a character who has no real issues (although I know how her major traumatic ‘character development’ revealled later in the series which… suffice to say it was hinted at but it’s still the most blatant ‘if you don’t sympathise with this character and fogive all her sins instantly after knowing this you’re a monster’ tactic possible). She is there as an audience surrogate but doesn’t seem to have much development beyond some quite generic ‘recognises the value in this gruff but talented man’ aspects and an innate ability to gossip and lie using a bad Liverpool accents on the phone. Her fiancé is portrayed as a bit of an arse in order to make Strike seem better by comparison and attept to force us to sympathise with her if nothing else. She has a job offered by Strike yet applies for another job and is offered it (arguably Strike’s job was temporary and she needed something more secure but the series never gives this point it’s due), gets given a dressas a ‘bonus’ for her help (which is a bit sexist ironically considering how far Rowling goes out of her way to declare herself a feminist) but overall she just seems to be another narrative device with little charm.

Their names are a little on the nose too.

Comoran, while being the name of an Irish folklore giant, is also one letter off cormorant (hilariously closely connected to a bird known as a shag in what has to be some of the most juvenile ‘pretending to be mature’ naming possible by an author I’ve ever seen) are described by the RSPB as

“A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear almost reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past.”

… so basically the film noir detective of the bird world.

While cute little robins are described as:

“sing[ing] nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will sing at night next to street lights.

… Robin. Batman. Sidekick. Also small but ready for a fight. Even Rowling had Strike acknowledge it in the book.

So our leading man is old school, a little pompous seeming and previously persecuted (and also he strikes!) while his sidekick is small but pluckyour grizzled male lead and his plucky, red head, young side kick and probable future love interest.

Show Premise

Cormoran Strike, a war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street, is wounded both physically and psychologically. His unique insight and his background as a Special Investigation Branch Investigator prove crucial in solving three complex cases, which have eluded the police.

… Or, as with a lot of pulp fiction writing, ‘the police solved the case with the evidence at hand BUT THEY WERE WRONG watch as our intrepid, Ayn Randian wet dream of a protagonist,hero through brute force, social connections, illegal methods and sheer ‘right place at the right time’ luck achieves the impossible and reveals the truth! Women want him, men want to be him.

As mentioned everyone seems to have, even if only for a moment before dropping out, attended Oxford or Cambridge. The dual purpose being that Rowling is writing to reflect her audience because, it seems to her, only the most educated people apparently read books (apart from, of course, everyone who bought her books who didn’t attend one or the other of those institutions thus making her a worldwide best selling author rather than a literary curio) or these sort of things only occur to ‘the beautiful people’ and social elite whose lives are just so much more interesting than we common folk.

Often you would see that happen with Agatha Christie too but in fairness she was churning so many books out she needed to have as many instantly recognised short hands, e.g. people who go to Oxford or Cambridge are highly intelligent, wordly, knowledgeable and therefore would deduce with some evidence the facts of a crime, as many different locations as possible for variety to appeal (don’t like country estates? How about a village? The seaside? How about aboard moving trains?) and thus it was a bit of a ‘cheat’ since such culturally elite people were financially capable and prone to exotic foreign travel which still wasn’t anywhere near as commonplace as it is nowadays so addeed to the writing’s appeal. It aso reflected the end of the Imperial era’s mindset of venturing into the world and conquering the local troubles – which in this genre’s case is usually a murder or theft. However Rowling is writing that era’s detective story in the modern age and it is an awkward fit resulting in, ironically, a far narrower world in direct contrast to the same figures about a century ago.

In case you’re wondering the second book involves the murder of an author so she fell into that classic ‘write what you know’ author specific trap that early in the series! Stephen King would be proud.

Not one risky step whatsoever is taken in telling the story. If asked ‘please give me the most stereotypical detective story possible’ no longer will we turn to Agatha Christie, who more or less defined the genre single-handedly so originated what others would copy until it became a cliche, but we will turn to Rowling… oh I mean ‘Galbraith’ though we all know it’s her. If you are from Britain and remember when the news covered that it had been revealed she had been writing under a pseudonym then it was this particular book that was being referred to. I guess, as far as the publishers were concerned, it wasn’t selling well enough for such a high value author so they needed to ‘leak’ her name to boost sales.

You can have cliché characters, I mean 90% of literary detectives from the past few decades could fit into the depiction of Strike, apart from his leg, and you wouldn’t notice. Grizzled, likes a drink, ‘seen things’ in combat/police work and generally dislikes humanity except when women throw themselves at them for a quickie. One day someone will write a cross over where one detective replaces the other and no one notices until they actually see their face.

I think my main issue with this adaption, on the assumption the book covers these things, is we get small, but sequence destroying, skips in events. For example does Strike ever lock his office’s entrance? It must be on a latch as every walks in and out of it freely and occasionally people are sat in there waiting though both Strike and Robin hadn’t been in since yesterday. It’s a narrative device we often unconsciously witness. As an example: if you see a character pick up a key the audience acknowledge this and therfore you can skip to them opening the door and without  literally depicting them put the key in the lock – but here we don’t even have the ‘key’ mentioned in passing let alone seen sometimes before seeing the results. In the context of this series it seems everyone immediately gives Strike their life story and not barrier stops him except for tension (e.g. the safe opening). Nor, if I’m honest, do there seem to be any repercussions to certain actions. Does no one wonder where Lula’s will came from when Strike hands it over? Do we really think it would be as easy as Strike pretending to be taking a phone call to walk right into the studio of Guy Some? The police detective seems to just give Strike case information freely without quit pro quo. Strike pays off a criminal to steal the Satnav from the car and it’s never mentioned otherwise.

Everything slots too easily into to place to the point there is no risk nor resistance to Strike uncovering the truth – he even gives chase through a crowded market with little issue though he has an apparently ill fitting prosthesis! It all just comes too easily. If solving the mystery, as with Agatha Christie, isn’t the focus then give us more nuanced character development not just characters who are deemed highly intelligent because you name drop Oxford and Cambridge, are not morally good or physically capable just because they served in the army (was the criminal suggested to be ex-military? If so the depiction of ex-service men as either hero or villain is damning and isn’t a positive considering how many in real life find themselves incapable of re-adapting to civilian life thus falling between the cracks if they’ve no support) and not strangely flawless just because they’re female.

Apart from Rochelle, who seems more a figure of pity, all the women seem successful intelligent and only have faults because of the men they’re involved with. It’s a strangely anti-feminist (e.g. ‘here’s a dress as a bonus’, engagement issues being the main issue for Robin and Strike’s ex seems to instantly not just get re-engaged but marrying someone else in what seems to be a very brief time period), yet simultaneously misandranistic, tone posing as feminist as Rowling has with women where they’re both depicted as perfect, highly intelligent, beings surpassing their male counterparts with ease in every way but at the same time completely reliant upon them though every man has so critical flaw making them anything but sympathetic save for Strike as the leading man whose only permanent ‘flaw’ is a physical one. Most of the male characters are depicted as unrepentant in their antisocial behaviour and yet our leading man Strike, to a limited degree since this is the first book in an assured series (which other authors cannot reply on happening so their characters will evolve over a book), has some small progression from a misanthrope drunkard to a man slowly overcoming his limitations and finding worth in his life. Which is implied to be thanks to our heroine and her plucky attitude entering his life and not his own personal development having closure on what seemed a mutually destructive relationship with his ex. He just hadn’t met the right woman yet to make him a better man. The closest we got to a negative depiction of a woman was Strike’s ex who, after apparently having a very troubled relationship with him which they repeatedly tried to repair, quickly moved on though it’s presented as hypergamy. Oh and the ‘blow job for a fiver’ woman who just seemed, in the context of the series, to be a repugnant caricature of working class people or those on benefits – which Rowling famously once was before the first Harry Potter book got published and found it’s audience. It’s the sort of depiction of the less well off you only see in works of the pre-Victorian literature unless it’s by someone like Charles Dickens, Irvine Welsh, Niall Griffiths or Dorota Masłowska and others where it’s used for social commentary to discuss why these people ended up like this and with their often jaded worldviews.

You don’t get that with Rowling. Bad guys are bad guys. Men are flawed and most can’t be redeemed. Women are perfect except when they rely on men. Men need a woman’s intervention to change. Working class people are very likely criminal scum unless they’re too stupid to be. Basically J K Rowling would like to be the 21st century Agatha Christie but hasn’t accounted, realistically, for shifts in both literature and society.

Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

An irreverent look at the first three episodes of the series which cover the first book in the series.

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A quick introduction to our protagonists

Cormoran Strike

His name alludes to the bird cormorant however it’s actually the name of a giant in Cornish folklore, especially Jack the Giant-Killer. Strike is a very blunt indication to the audience of his manner. Considering the sort of names detectives have there’s no pont mocking how on the nose it is…

Has social connections currency (rock star father, supportive sister)

but is still down on his luck (has debts due to loans)

but even then can afford to bribe working class people.

Has fighting and investigation experience (Afghanistan veteran. Former military police.)

Limitations: A fake leg hence he isn’t fit for the army nor the police but has the skills hence he became a private detectives and moral convictions so he’s not a drug smuggler capable of knowing how to avoid detection.

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Robin Venetia Ellacott

Young.

Office temp.

The first time she met Strike he nearly bumped into her sending her falling down the stairs but then he saved her by grabbing her by the breast. This is never made an issue of and you half wonder if they’ll mention it at some point down the road.

Offered a job by Strike but the teaser for episode two suggests she already has a job interview elsewhere. Commitment issues then…

Inquisitive/breaches confidentiality (looks up data on Strike in depth though somehow has never heard of him despite his father being well known).

Engaged to be married so not a romance option… yet.

Given an expensive dress as a gift at the end. Because that’s what employers do of course.

Limitations: Commitment issues. Ginger. Her middle name is Venetia. She is a sidekick named Robin helping a detective who wears a lot of dark clothing. Even Strike remarks on it in the novel. Wink, wink audience I’m not a lazy writer it’s all meta-narrative intertextuality. I didn’t even bother to change the spelling to something like Robyn.

Verdict: Robin is a self insert fantasy version of Rowling and the sort of man she would like to do the dirty with. Taming him like Kathy tried to tame Heathcliff except Robin is going to be successful.

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The Case of the Clandestine Cuckoo’s Call

Episode 1

An introduction to the by the book cliches so we need never cover character development ever again. Ever. Even after the next ten or so books that Rowling has announced she has planned for Cormoran and Robyn to trundle through with their gradually building, unresolved, sexual tension.

A model leaves a party and returns home and changes into more comfortable clothes. Next thing we know she falls to her death from her balcony and lies dead in the street as the snow continues to slowly fall.

Three months later and it’s been ruled a tragic suicide… but is it? BUT IS IT?!

No, obviously, otherwise the rest of this show would have a very original ending for a detective series where Strike admits actually the police got it right. And Robin would be jobless but that’s besides the point. You tuned in to see a murder be solved not see the trials and tribulations of an office temp.

We begin when Robin, a plucky young point of view character, enters the scene.

She arrives at the office where someone angrily walks out.

We meet the dishevelled detective. Cormoran Strike. He has problems. He has a past.

The office is in disarray.

He is bleeding after a fight with his disgruntled ex-fiancée, Charlotte Campbell, who is exiting the scene. Also she plays no other role in the show except to cause Strike to go out and get drunk at one point so he and Robin can bond. So forget her name. In fact forget the name of everyone but Strike and Robin as they’re all cardboard cut outs you’ve seen time and time again in other crime dramas. Even in adaptions of Sherlocke Holmes no one notices if you omit Lestrade and Mycroft. Same thing for these books so I won’t bother with names for the most part.

As he chases Charlotte he accidentally bumps Robin who nearly falls down the stairs to her death. Except he grabs her breast. Heroic. How many women’s lives have been lost because a man feared to grab a woman by her chest when no other part of the body was in reach? We will never know…

He offers her the temp job. Maybe because he needs the help. Maybe to avoid an accusation of sexual harrassment. We will never know…

He heads out to go drink alcohol. Also to do research in places of group meeting. i.e. the pub.

Robin looks through his papers and looks him up online. Because you look up your employer after accepting a job obviously – and at work so you don’t waste personal time.

A squirely man, generically named John, comes to meet Strike and says his older brother, Charlie (who didn’t bite his brother’s finger), played football with Strike when little. Strike doesn’t remember him though he remembers Charlie. Ooh isn’t he blunt? Isn’t he honest? Already someones knees are trembling!

An investigative police detective offers him the police’s findings when meeting in a cafe. No pretext why… which is no doubt illegal. But that’s how it goes down in the dark underbelly of… wherever the hell this is set in London. Near a posh bit though meaning his office isn’t just run down but actively depreciating the value of properties around him due to how it looks. Really into that shabby chic look. Even has a completely random pipework piece of art on the wall to give it a more grungy look.

He goes to the apartment of the victim and the doorman lets him in to look around and there’s even a well timed coincidental meeting with the neighbours and their driver. Don’t worry the driver is irrelevant after a single conversation.

Strike goes to meet someone but UH OH it’s the uncle, Tony, warning him off the case! The uncle refers to his nephew John. Stop the investigation he warns Strike. John’s so jittery they’ve had to get a shake plate to counteract it as he’s doing structural damage to the law firms offices. He’s doing it at such a frequency he’s phasing through the walls now.

Then Strike walks down a street where out of the blue a working class woman offers him a blow job for money. Because that’s exactly what all working class women do with their day when you are a multi-millionaire author living in a mansion even though you yourself were on benefits once and should know better than describe them like that. He refuses but when he can’t instantly be given the information he wants from a drop in drugs rehabilitation medical clinic he pays the woman to create a distraction so he can trespass into the office, photo documents and contact the suspect.

He meets the suspect, Rochelle Lulla’s homeless friend she met at the drug rehabilitation centre, in a cafe but she runs away. However she only runs around one or two corners so even with the fake leg he keeps up with some effort.

During all this his leg gives him trouble going up stairs, and generally, seems to be an ill fit for him which he should get replaced. But after this episode it never bothers him again… in fact for a guy with a prosthetic he is rather sprightly… almost as if they never told the actor to be conscious that the rle required it whenever they did a full body shot…

The episode ends with him finding the homeless friend in a council flat lying dead in an overflowing, and steaming, bathtub. He tries to do CPR having first wasted time shouting her name in an over dramatic manner. Will she survive? This is the end of an episode and she isn’t Robin so obviously it’s no.

Also this show has really outdone itself. ‘Black guy dies first’ was in effect but also that women get it worse so the first two people to die are both black women… At this rate the door man needs to watch his back.

Episode 2

The homeless friend is dead. Life goes on. Apparently Strike is an Oxford dropout because we can’t trust anyone but a Oxbridge candidate to be capable of solving mysteries. Of course he is because ‘just’ being a former member of the military police wasn’t enough. He has a normal, if somewhat neurotically normal, sister who offers him a bed, which he refuses, and becomes instantly chummy with Robin as if they just instantly click. Meanwhile Strike goes to interview the dead girl’s mother and Lula’s boyfriend who wears a wolf mask because… that’s how Rowling sees the fashion industry? The model there strikes up a conversation with Strike. She was a Cambridge candidate… because we can’t have anyone who isn’t in the top 5% of society with money be a character it seems even for minor figures. She knew his friend and his father – but she assures him she hasn’t slept with them. Oh, okay, thanks… I mean did he need to know about that. Can you guess what happens? A detective meets a beautiful woman… come on… you don’t even need three guesses… that’s right they have sex because he is just that irresistible. She even likes the artificial leg. Then leaves him sleep in at her apartment as she goes off for a morning shoot. Because every detective is a lion sleeping on the rock in the midday sun.

After returning to the officer Robin tells him she didn’t gossip with his sister as if she did him a favour. She also tells him, after his given her a job that she’s got an interview for a HR job elsewhere and has written it in the work diary. I mean she is a temp so okay of course she has to apply elsewhere but to write it in the work’s diary is psychotic as if she thinks that’s normal and not throwing her current employment in his face. Strike visits the downstairs neighbours of Lula. Of course the wife is using the in door swimming pool because hey what well off past middle age woman doesn’t get introduced doing this activity? Oh also she wants grime like Strike. Because he’s a walking sex machine no woman can resist. He’s John Shaft – can you dig it? The doorman also uses that pool apparently we learn later. Robin goes to her interview, gives an incredibly vague answer and on the same day is offered the job… because that’s how life happens for some people apparently? I mean yes if you’re an internal applicant since you’re in the building but she is a temp from an agency presumably unknown to the company she just applied to.

Lula’s boyfriend is already in Strike’s office though the door was, presumably, locked. It’s never mentioned why he came in here and waited save we are meant to always detest him and suspect he did it. His characterisation is done so heavy handedly he risks going into a pantomime routine at any moment. Every scene he is in he is needlessly antagonistic to the point the only way he could realistically be like that is if he was permanently in withdrawal and mentally ill. But it’s never explained so ‘he’s just a nasty piece of work’ is all we can surmise. Also that he’s such a red herring that him actually being involved in Lula’s murder would have been a double fake out reveal.

So Strike figures out the neighbour wife was stuck out on the balcony because her husband is an abuser. We never have any interaction with the husband so we just have to accept this version of events. Women are always victims and men always broken in some way. So then we cut to Strike and the police detective discussing Rochelle’s (the dead friend) death. In a cafe. In the middle of the day. Apparently that doesn’t break any sort of courtesy rule let alone law leading to his immediate firing and likely sentencing for what might amount to an effort to pervert the course of justice if he’s unlucky. Nope – the metropolitan police are the reference library service of crime and you don’t even have to file a freedom of information act request to get extensive details from them.

Sometimes it seems like Strike assumes things and it happens to be true. A better writer might go with that and prove sometimes, even with his extensive training, he can be wrong by doing things by instinct.

So Strike talks again to the overly helpful doorman. Apparently the doorman uses the indoor pool. They seem to make a bit of a big deal about the fact he was away from his station for 15 to 20 minutes while going to swim. Personally I think he would be there longer if he did more than 2 or 3 lengths. Also, and more realistically, there are times when he would be away from the desk when he goes to the toilet. There seems to be some confusion between what a doorman does and what a guard dog does. He isn’t chained to the entrance. So the doorman gives Strike the CCTV recording of the night when Lula was killed. I guess as a pay off for not revealing he abandoned his post but still this is all a bit too easy…

Vashti comes up as a place where Lula tried on clothes on the day of her death.

Leather gloves come into the equation as they were a gift from Guy Some to Lula but the boyfriend also had a pair (why he has a pair of these unreleased fashion items is only, at most, brushed over next episode as Guy gives people stuff).

Strike finds clues like it’s going out of style. Oh wait no. They’re just being handed to him on a silver platter.

At the office Robin answers the phone and Strike’s ex is on the other end. He speaks to his ex and she has already, in what must be the space of a week at most, found a new man and is going to marry him. Hypergamy? Fear of becoming an old maid? We never know. She was a plot device to make us sympathise with Strike.

He says he’s going out for a while so Robin can shut up shop by herself.

She, for no real reason, goes looking for him and finds him in the pub from before. He is of course steaming drunk. However, unrealistically, he’s also terribly PC telling Robin she’s a good person and other such platitudes. The closest he gets to trouble is calling another man ‘beardy’ though of course he has something more than a 5 o’clock shadow himself.

So she takes him back ‘home’ to the office with a carton of chips.

He watches the CCTV on his laptop and announces ‘Got you’… because ‘oi beardy’ and wondering if he was about to get his clock cleaned would have been too funny a cliffhanger.

Oh and at some point he had taken his leg off and instead of putting it back on urinated in an empty cup and, when Robin offers the next morning to clear it away unaware what it contains, he quickly refuses and throws it out the window. If someone doesn’t find a clip of someone getting water thrown on their head out of the blue and made an edited together YouTube video of it then this is wasted potential. Also the uncle is having a fling with the abused downstairs neighbour wife (so maybe they get a happy end after the series though nothing is mentioned in the third episode).

Episode 3

We start immediately in a flashback of Sergeant Strike’s army days as part of a convoy of vehicles. A truck is blocking the path and he notices a guy use a mobile to phone someone. As the convoy is about to pass Strike calls out ‘wait!’ There’s an explosion. Next thing a boy, who was stood with the phone man at the side of the road, points an automatic handgun at Strike, looks at his missing leg and smiles before winking and walking away. The camera pans out and we see Strike lying on the ground with his leg missing surrounded by the corpses of his comrades.

He vomits upon waking. We cut to Robin, pristine walking down the road and arriving at Vashti’s to try on clothes and lure the shop assistant into gossiping about Lula’s last day alive when she visited there. Robin says Strike is her brother and when he turns up and gives his usual gruff offhanded assessment, after giving a a look up and down before revealing himself, that her dress is ‘nice’ and nothing more the shop assistant comments that her brother is like that too. With a little better execution this would have been an amusing scene but it loss a bit of potential in adaption.

Strike is still a bit hung over. Robin tells him what she learned about an abscent shop assistant having tapes a conversation with Lula where she divulges about being excited about meeting someone.

So it’s time to tick off another lead and they visit Guy Some at his studios which are filled with models and such. At reception Strike, unbelievably, pretends to be on the phone and walks by trying to blag his way in. Maybe it was meant as comedy or seriously – it’s hard to tell with this series. To be honest it should have been written a bit more as a comedy as it is so cliché. If it had been this series would be much better.

Guy stops them and calls them out on what they’re doing but allows them in. They go sit in his office and apparently his real name is Kevin. Again I’m not sure if this is meant to be funny or not. In fact he’s a little racist towards white people but nothing much seems to get made of it nor is it really commented on. Apparently that’s preferable to his story about how his father beat him when he wore a dress when little. They see the unreleased gloves and other bits which were given to Lula as a present. I think at this point Guy says he gave them to the boyfriend to so he’s off the hook finally.

So onto the next scene. They return to Lula’s apartment as if it’s got a revolving door. Strike bought flowers for no real reason besides a pointless face hiding moment. Why even return there really except to notice changes with are inevitable since it’s being cleared for the next tenant. They find a library card so Robin will go to the library tomorrow and do some research. Sure… I mean that was in your job description wasn’t it? He gives the flowers to Robin and this leads to her in the next scene having a minor conflict with her fiancé. He is talking of the future but she doesn’t know what she wants.

Meanwhile Strike is down the pub drinking and smoking.

The next day he goes to visit Lula’s adoptive mother. She insists on watching old movies which have a password on them for no good reason. The password is Leopard_1942. She says that’s the year she was born. Because you need to know she is old… no not just ‘of a more advanced age than myself’ no I mean the message is she is OLD O L D – the sort of old that children refer to when they speak about anyone who isn’t a child. Lula’s adoptive white mother is super old. So old. Practically dust already. Except… you know… there are still people that age alive and well so making such a grandstand of it is a bit convoluted but they treat her like she is over a hundred years old the way she behaves. The excuse of course being she is being heavily drugged medicinally so she is a bit out of it though it’s never specified in the adaption what the issue is save being terminally ‘old’. Strike bought some macaroons along to sweeten her up. She’s on a sort of drip feed medicine or dialysis machine so I don’t that’s wise.

So the nervous brother, John, appears. He tells Strike that Lula had been trying to find her birth father. I think it’s mentioned her birth mother was already dead.

Meanwhile Robin goes to the library and uses Lula’s card to see what books she checked out. Maybe things have changed since I last used mine but I’m pretty sure what she does using a computer there to see what ‘she’ last looked at doesn’t exist in real life. At the very least having access to digital copies of research papers… and if they were digital why would they need to be checked out when multiple electronic copies can be looked at simultaneously?

Strike returns to Vashti the next day and finds the other shop assitant there. He tells her recording conversations is illegal and demands a copy of it. So that’s some blackmailing going on there then…

Next Strike and Robin are sat where else but the pub.

Lula’s birth father was a Ghanaian academic but has died since. She shows Strike a photo of Lula’s birth father and birth brother. Strike recognises the belt of the brother’s military uniform instantly. He deduces she must have been going to meet her birth brother not their father. Well yes with the father being dead that would be the obvious answer unless this takes a turn for the occult.

Coincidentally the birth brother, Jonah, is still in the country and meets Strike at the embassy or military base. Her birth brother blames himself for her death as he couldn’t bring himself to meet her. Their father didn’t even know he had a daughter. He resented she was so well off while their birth mother suffered as Lula refused to aid her find her two missing sons before she died as she always sold her story to the press as she was so poor. Apparently Lula had informed him she was leaving everything she had to him and had wanted to piss off her adoptive uncle.

Later Strike encounters the uncle who immediately says he will have to add stalking to his charges against Strike for harassment. Strike says he paid the concierge to have an alibi though the uncle insists, from the very start, he had Lula’s best interests at heart.

Strike goes to a pool hall and enlists the aid of a down on his luck ex-soldier turned full time crook. He asks him to get someone to steal a particular sat-nav but not the car it’s in.

Robin turns the HR job offer down as she wants to be part of Strike’s line of work instead. She then goes home and has an argument with her fiancé. Out of the blue he makes a comment to the effect she will go sleep with Strike. He claims it’s a joke but there seems to be some previous event we, as the audience, are never told about which might tarnish our opinion of Robin. It’s a heavy handed scene to make us dislike him though we know so little about him. See ths guy? ‘I think he’s a wanker and you need to agree’ style writing.

Strike talks to the detective on the case and surmises that the killer will kill again if he needs to. Playa gonna play, killa gonna kill. At this point I do wonder if any women were ever under consideration apart from Rochelle. It’s a bit awkward the one working class character in the series to have relevance to the case was a former drug addict portrayed negatively (alongside miss ‘wanna blowjob’) while figures like Evan Duffield, Lula’s on and off boyfriend and depicted as nasty despite the drug use. The lower orders are animals who cannot control themselves apparently.

Back at the Creswel house the mother is drugged up and can”t remember anything about whether her son was there or not on the night. She then out of the blue comments on how her husbands friends were ‘queer’ and had good taste choosing John…

… um wait. Are we being told John a.k.a. Nervous brother was sexually abused by friends of the family? Or is she just severely homophobic (so we are back to the ‘so old…. she’s like a dinosaur’ image the show is portraying)? It’s a very out of place sudden moment.

Strike says he needs to use the toilet but really he’s going to go snooping around the house. There is usually a nurse present in the house so you would assume she was around but… I guess she was ‘using the indoor pool’ so she is out of the way without explanation.

The uncle arrives knowing Strike is there. How? Who knows but the pressure is on. Strike is in Lula’s old room, which he recognised by the red mittens her adoptive mother mentioned a few times, except actually it’s John’s room. He cracks the safe just in time to pretend to come out of the toilet and announce to the stunned uncle that he should give it a few minutes. Apparently the house had a few toilets which while possible would have been checked in minutes by someone determined to do so like the uncle just now.

Nonetheless Strike escapes with the documents. Next stop is the pool hall to pay off his criminal contact who laments that his ‘boy’ was very sad to have to leave the car where it was. Also he’s given a broken bike bell the robber also took for no real reason except I guess it was shiny and adds to a plot that never really gets developed during this adaption.

Back at the office Robin tells Strike she didn’t accept the HR job. He informs her that he probably won’t be able to keep her on once this job is done. She finishes for the day and… goes down the pub to cry and drown her sorrows. That must be one hell of a pub seat as it’s always the exact same pub and table they sit at.

Strike reviews the evidence. He has what is best described as a ‘recently on _____’ like episode recap of all the moments of the show so far in hopes the audience will instantly piece it all together. It’s trying to do the BBC Sherlock thing but on the cheap. It’s a bit embarrassing. Apparently when he said he ‘had you’ at the end of last episode he meant ‘I’ve a clue to follow’ rather than he identified the culprit.

John, with a bottle of wine, arrives to congratulate him on finding Jonah, the blood brother, to be punished for Lula’s death. Remember John, the adoptive brother, hired Strike to prove her death wasn’t a suicide, as the police concluded, but a murder.

But here is the denouement! He reveals the killer! He worked it out using the evidence suddenly… and because it’s coming to the end and someone has to be the culprit!

It was…

It was…

John! The guy who hired him!

Dun dun durr…

Strike had lured him out of the house via Robin setting up a false meeting and went and got the will. (Which I’m sure is illegal).

Strike tells him the following:

Tony, the uncle not the tiger, knew he killed her but couldn’t admit it to himself. How does Strike know this? It’s never really explained…

He lays out how Jon had the opportunity what with his mother being too drugged to know if he was home or not (oh also he lives at home with his mother – what a loser! I mean even if she is terminally ill let’s judge all people in a similar situation as weirdos right? Right? Because that’s what comfortably well off writer’s seem to be doing right now and ignoring the current housing economy and outdated things like family love), got the gloves at the flat to cover his finger prints (which is sheer coincidence) and framed Jonah for the murder (again how did he know Jonah was going to turn up? Another coincidence!) allowing him to remain appearing innocent. EXCEPT IT WAS PRESSUMED A SUICIDE SO HE WAS IN THE CLEAR IF HE HADN’T RANDOMLY DECIDED TO GET STRIKE INVOLVED. I have to assume he couldn’t find the will… but he had it already! There must be some other convoluted reason which the adaption glosses over.

He also knows he killed Charlie, john’s brother and Strike’s best friend when they were little, because he has the broken bell John kept in his car and the day Charlie died was the code to the safe in his room. The latter would be a memorable date and as for the bell it could have been recovered from the quarry Charlie fell into and John kept it in memory of his brother but… no it’s easier to suggest her took it from the crime scene when little as if to say he’s been a killer all his life. Some people are just born evil apparently and not because of circumstances moulding them COUGH-Voldemort and Snape-COUGH

The stolen will proves John is guilty. Maybe it wasn’t Lula’s old room but John’s so why did he have the mittens? A trophy? Maybe he wanted to be Lula. Maybe he’s gay. Maybe he’s a repressed transexual. Maybe he’s bisexual. Maybe it’s Maybelline. The show throws out the hints but never confirms it just like Rowling’s other works. Dumbledore was gay – the evidence was there in the series you just never put two and two together but Rowling can’t connect the dots for you otherwise she misses out on that lucrative super-conservative market of readers. And if you don’t notice it you’re a homophobe!

It’s obvious that John loved his adopted brother but when Strike took his attention away John couldn’t deal with it and committed an act of passion! And then Lula was with her drugged up boyfriend he knew he could be better for her but she rejected him and it was another crime of passion!

… and that’s what happens when you over read into things boys and girls.

Anyway so the will proves he killed everyone. Lula, Charlie – even Rochelle who ‘knew too much’ and phoned him to tell him about Strike and ended up paying with her life for it as she was deemed unreliable too (if John had a major issue with drug use, whether due to daily seeing what it did to his mother or otherwise, in the books it clumsily included here).

Strike declares that money was a secondary motive to John. The primary one was envy. Why? Because John kept Charlie’s bicycle bell. John’s mother liked to categorise her children: the smart one, the pretty one, the funny one – but John was always second in his mother’s eyes. (So add implied Oedipus complex too while we are giving him every issue under the sun to demonise him as bluntly as possible).

The leather gloves were the fatal mistake. They are porous. Criminals sweat and so John sweated over everything despite thinking he avoided leaving evidence. How Strike knows this and that John didn’t wipe every surface as well as wear the gloves is beyond me though it makes logical sense. It comes across more as a bluff than astute knowledge unfortunately. I mean skin flakes and hairs would also be left behind inevitably to be picked up by a thorough investigation. At least this has up to date, if glossed over, modern forensics being mentioned.

Strike says criminals sweat – and John is sweating.

So do people who exercise… Getting thin to manipulate people. Building muscle to strong arm people. It’s all there. People who sweat are all criminals. And if you don’t exercise but are sat in a very warm room the police are already onto you too. In Summer everyones a crook.

So that is the ‘playground taunt’ necessary to start the inevitable attempted murder fight. John breaks the bottle over Strike’s head. Then they tussle. Then the bottle is broken and being lowered onto Strike’s neck as he resists. They throw each other about a bit and break the frosted glass of the the door.

Then Robin appears and hits John with a fire extinguisher through the broken window. However, now having the advantage, Strike begins to repeatedly punch the unconscious John repeatedly in the face until Robin tells him to stop. There are no consequences to Strike’s assault. Act of passion and all that.

Time passes.

Time passes.

So John’s mother is also dead now. Thus all the Cresswell family members are dead save the uncle. He maybe be an adulterer but it’s with a woman in an abusive marriage which makes it okay (apparently). He says he will honour Lula’s will. He says he didn’t know what happened with Charlie and wanted to protect the family. (I have no idea why Lula didn’t like him actually though that seemed to play a part throughout it all with everyone assuming there was animosity between them). Also he will pay Strike what John owed him. Which wouldn’t happen in a noir story – the detective would just be thankful he got out alive.

At Strike’s office Robin answers the phone which won’t stop ringing constantly. Hey guess what Strike bought her ‘a bonus’. It’s the green dress she tried on at Vashti’s. She reminds him she knows how much it costs. He assures her it’s fine as they’ve plenty of work so he can afford to give her a permanent job as he was able to pay off all his debts.

For the final shot he walks out side, lights a cigarette and walks down the road in slow motion.

The End.

Fun fact: I looked up things and the downstairs neighbour’s wife is the sister of the partner in the uncle’s law firm. So everyone is connected however if it was mentioned in the show it is a very blink and you miss it moment. Hence why they were having an affair. Also Guy Some called Lula cuckoo so that’s where the title comes from. She didn’t call anyone though at the time of her death so… yeah. ‘It’s just a cool sounding title’… There are a lot of small elements you would have to be intensely focused on listening and absorbing in a short period of time but the overall tone and pacing of the show suggests it’s more easy going that it is. In fact there is a lot the adaption glossed over to the point a few minor characters got cut.


The collections of scenes from the episodes were compiled by Katerina Varela so please go visit her YouTube page and show her some support.

I quite enjoyed the story, cliche filled as it was, but it did have a lot of conveniences and I’m guessing a lot has been lost in the adaption from book to screen including seemingly minor, but essential, pieces which connected the various dots of the narrative.

Well I hope that was enjoyable. I will try to do it for the rest of the series too. Next is The Silkworm so that will be up in a fortnight unless they mess around with the scheduling again as they did by having episodes one and two on consecutive nights then left about a week until showing episode three which concluded this case.

The Living and the Dead Episode 6 and Overall Series Review

BBC Description for Episode 6: “After the events of recent weeks, Nathan and Charlotte’s marriage faces its greatest test yet.”



Credits:

Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Sylvia: Diana Quick
William Payne: David Oakes
Gabriel: Arthur Bateman
Dr Kahn: Sudha Bhuchar
Ben: Royce Pierreson
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Masked Man: Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
Writer: Simon Tyrrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan
Psychiatric Nurse: Syrus Lowe


… I copy/paste these credits from the BBC’s website. Why is the actor Syrus Lowe credited after the major production staff roles? Either someone was lazy adding it to the end instead of in correct order next to Sudha Bhuchar who he shares scenes with …or maybe its time to play the [play the racism card] due to an unintended slip up.


Victim of the Week: Nathan by his nearest and dearest (dead and alive and, unintentionally, not even born yet). Charlotte I guess due to her husbands mental instability (I don’t side with such aggressive behaviour towards the mentally ill which is excused due to the person being ‘frustrated’). The town as a whole really as the landowner has gone downhill rapidly.



Synopsis:
Nathan is stood at the edge of the lake mirrored on its surface. He demands Gabriel show himself. He will do whatever it takes to see him.

We see a modern interior and someone asleep in bed. Rock-a-by-baby is being sung by a boy walking down the corridor towards the woman in her bed. ITs red coat. She always looks cross-eyed. She asks what Gabriel wants. ‘Help me’ he says. The boy’s a bad actor. This episode is going to be fun…

Red coat is being served breakfast in bed by a man. It seems she is a mental hospital patient. I wish I could say I’m surprised but this series really comes across as an ardent skeptic told to write fantasy and so goes about it in the most half-hearted derogatory way possible. She is given her pills to take. She has a visitor so she can go down to the day room and he will take care of the baby. It’s going to be an inanimate doll isn’t it? She spits the pills out.

Red Coat’s name is Lara. Ben told granny Lara had admitted herself for seeing things. It’s her granny who has visited her. Asks how the baby is. Lara saw the boy. So did Lara apparently. It was blamed on post-natal depression. postpartum psychosis in Lara’s case. Granny brings an attaché case out and has Lara open it. Nathan is her great-great grandfather. RIGHT WELL THERE WE GO END OF SERIES – LETS ALL LEAVE NOW. WE KNOW THE UNBORN BABY THUS SURVIVES AND DOOPDY DOOPDY DOO WE GET HERE AND THE FAMILY HAS VAGUE TELEPATHIC ABILITIES CASE CLOSED. Gran calls him a handsome devil. Lara also see the boy’s photo. Granny recounts that Gabriel drowned. And then they look at Nathan’s work book from 1894 the year her mother was conceived. Lara photo’s them with her tablet. The Appleby house, Shepzoy, was sold when Lara was a baby and all of this was hidden from Lara’s mother (who at this point is the missing link of this family) but Granny reflects she should have let her know.

Granny hopes seeing this doesn’t make it worse. Lara replies maybe that’s what she needs – to get worse. to get better. (Movie logic which in real life would never be beneficial). The staff members, and Asian doctor and a black attendant (from earlier) discuss Lara’s request to leave. She claims the hallucinations have stopped though only last week she was reporting suicidal ideation. ‘And the family history’ she adds at the end. Lara’s mother killed herself when Lara was three months old. The doctor decides they must keep her in – under section if necessary.

Lara’s baby (who is real) is cradled by its daddy. He is mixed race. Why am I mentioning people’s’ ethnicities? Well recently the BBC have really taken to their equal representation policy seriously by having casts for as many shows as possible to have multiple ethnicities. If you saw the recent War and Peace production it definitely has a more varied cast than the 1970s version. In shows of fantasy or family orientated programming, such as Merlin, they always ensure this. My point? They had an all white cast in this series until this episode and seem to feel the need to include as many non-white actors now they can during the modern parts and its a bit of an overkill. They’ve had black actors in Charles Dickens productions before so they could have had some of the itinerant field workers be non-white without breaking the quasi-realism of the series. It almost feels like they believe there were only Western European Caucasians in Britain in 1894. Admittedly other ethnicities were much rarer but for their mandate I think everyone would have excused it. Is that why this series was premiered online as a box set? Because someone thought it wasn’t representative enough? That is an awkward situation if so. I would rather they just get the best actors for the roles than give the impression that they are being forced to follow a mandate when needed.

They say its a shame that she has to say but they’re the professionals and know best. She sends her partner to get a toy left in the day room while she steals the car keys and escapes with her child. They head to the Appleby house. You would think it is being lived in but apparently not. Partner leaves her a voice message noting his missing keys and child, named Lottie, and is concerned but just wants to know they are alright.

They arrive at the house and we see her enter as she did at the end of one of the other episodes. In the window we see Gabriel looking down.

Back in 1894 Gwen tells Charlotte that Mr Payne is waiting for her. so that’s his role in the story is it? To swoop in and save Charlotte? Charlotte doesn’t want to see him and asks if Gwen has seen her husband. NO. Unfortunately Mr PAyne has turned up and they have an awkward exchange similar to Hugh Grant in a rom-com. He has a proposition for her. Nathan appears dishevelled. Mr Payne hopes they do not miss the workers who hae abandoned their farm ‘a lack of faith’ he offers as reason. Charlotte says ‘we do not lack faith’ to which Nathan laughs disjointedly.

Mr Payne wishes to purchase the two acres of marshy land that border his estate. ‘By the lane? It’s worthless’ Nathan replies. Mr Payne intends to drain the field on his side and pump it. Charlotte says it is ambitious and takes a shine to him. Nathan stalks towards him commenting on him ‘advancing with your speculator’s fortune, step by step, parading you innovation and determination (So Nathan is no longer the man he was at the start, a man of science and modernity, but obsessed by the supernatural). Qualities he notes his wife admires. So he is also paranoid now. He says he was joking when Charlotte gets this impression too. ‘The bog is yours if my wife is willing’ he says as he exits.

She excuses him saying ‘he has been working late. Writing.’ Mr Payne politely says he is a gifted man. She excuses herself. She goes to Nathan and says she has suffered through hell with him and his madness. She asks if they can at least appear competent. Author on board condemning of mental illness rather than demonstrating how societal norms have changed. If the intention was otherwise this dialogue was a bit clumsy.

He notes she is being cold with him after she asked him to be more animated and that he had lost the spring in his step. She says she is going with mr Payne to look ast the land because they need more money to pay wages. ‘to keep going’ he mocks as he has clearly given up on life since the revelations regarding his son’s spirit still being around. He comments ‘A good man, an ideal husband.’ as she walks away.

In the field Charlotte and Mr Payne discuss matters but her dress gets caught on a rusty piece of metal protruding from the land. Is Payne a killer who has hidden his wife’s corpse? It seems like they want to hint this, or some other hidden agenda, but don’t dedicate to it.

Back in the house Nathan appears at the door to the kitchen surprising Gwen. He mocks that she took him ‘for a ghost of my former self’. She offers him breakfast but he says his appetite seems to have waned. He asks about her hedge witch cures. She is a witch (albeit actually quite a fair depiction of the ‘wise/cunning man/woman’ who used to actually exsist providing folk remedies and such to thier local community. I wish they had made more of this not just toy with the idea to explain why she had poison – in an era where posions in all homes were even more commonplace than they are now). He wants to see those. She shows him them in her locked case. He looks through the bottles. He finds a bottle of psilocybin mushrooms – hallucinogenics which Gwen claims are ‘to help explore a difficulty, to see it, to feel it differently. To be used with caution’. He says he saw them being used on two melancholy patients. One, a woman, broke through her malaise emerging shaken but much better but the other, a man, saw more tha his doctor bargained for before taking his own life. ‘kill or cure’. He finds a bottle containing deadly nightshade. She says she has only used a trace as ‘more could be the death of you’. He sees why she locks it, thanks her and leaves. Quickly she locks it again looking concerned.

Charlotte returns with Mr Payne and speaks to Gideon the foreman. They are short-handed but he has a merge collection of turnips. She commiserates the effect it has had on him being one of the few left.’Thems that left got fainter hearts’ he assures her ‘maybe we don’t need them’… but he is an old man and the signs of the strain show on him. She says he saw her with mr Payne. She asks if Gideon can help dig up the abandoned machinery there. Gideon wonders if that’s what he is after. Charlotte laughs about it being buried treasure. She thanks him and invites him to the kitchen for some warm cider brandy when he is done. He continues his work having thanked her.

Charlotte returns to see Nathan trying to see Gabriel in a mirror but she distracts him by appearing in it instead.

The reverend Denning is walking down the road as more people leave declaring to him the place to be cursed. He hopes may the lord watch over them and is returned the courtesy. Charlotte is walking behind them. The Reverend invites her into the Wheatsheaf to sit by the fire. In the now empty pub he gives her warm sugar-water and a dash of brandy. He asks how her husband is. ‘Somewhat remote. More so every day’ she answers. Then she begins to tear up saying that their baby is growing inside her and she doesn’t know what to do. The reverend offers to talk to him. There is a lot of people thanking each other in this episode.

Denning finds Nathan in the forest wandering. ‘Lost you flock’ Nathan mocks. ‘Always hoping to find one gone astray’ the Reverend answers back. Nathan apologises for mishandling him and for what he did to Harriet, Denning’s Daughter, but he is best left alone now. Denning says Charlotte fears for Nathan’s happiness. ‘What is happiness? A man needs peace of mind. you have your faith. You should be in a monastery. If I had it I would be. I’d sit in a cell. I would watch the light move from wall to wall. I would contemplate eternity.‘ Denning challenges him that he would not miss the world, his wife or the child that is coming? Nathan speaks of Gabriel which Denning believes is causing Nathan to fear that he will lose this child as well. But maybe tis not fear but guilt but the pregnancy is a gift. ‘A gift of God‘, Nathan mocks, ‘so it was God who took my son away, sending down this angel with her book of light to lead him to his doom, she who appeared to you daughter and to me? I fear… I fear she hasn’t Denning. His soul is living. His soul, which you believe, is not at peace. He’s isolated, he’s tormented.

‘Its YOU you are describing!‘ shouts Denning. ‘You in purgatory unable to move on. And its you pulling others into your unhappiness. My daughter. The village. It’s you Nathan!

Me. The lost soul? I must find a way out.‘ he replies.

Denning tells him to be with his wife not the dead. Nathan mocks that its sensible advice.

Back in modern times Lara’s partner has left another voice mail asking if she is okay as she checks the house. She breathes heavily… just to make it more creepy. The house is unlit and she is using a torch. She goes up the creaking stairs leaving the baby alone. Gabriel appears near the baby and looks down on it making it cry. Lara appears with the torch under he face. She has Nathan’s snowglobe and has found the cot. She makes the fire and they sit in that room. She listens to her partner’s voice mail saying he needs her to pick up the phone. Apparently he had also texted her. She texts back ‘Sorry I left like that, I just need a few days we’re fine’. It is 22.00 and she looks at old photos on her tablet. Hell of a battery life on that thing then. She looks at photos of Charlie, Martha, Jack and Nathan’s book. She notes references to a book of light and sees the stick figure drawing and finally pieces together its her it’s referring to. Apparently its an iPad specifically. How she can tell the brand of the item I have no idea but then this is part funded by American money so who knows. She hears a door bang and goes to investigate.

In the corridor, only lit by her iPad, she tells Gabriel she knows who he is. She wants to help him but doesn’t know how. Gabriel says ‘he wants a new baby’ and before she can explain he has disappeared.

Bak in 1894 Nathan is writing. He criticises Charlotte for not knocking and disrupting his privacy while he tries to find privacy. She says he doesn’t want the new baby. She asks if he wants her to fall down the stair and give him his miscarriage. ‘No, of course not.’ She says it’s what he wants – she can ‘feel it like ice’. He asks why would he want her to miscarry? ‘Because you cannot bear to be a father again’ she answers disdainfully then leaves saying she is going away from his cold eyes. ‘What do you think I’ll do, freeze the baby in your womb? And you look at me as if I’m the mad one. But it’s you. You’re afraid of giving birth, of motherhood, and so you project this infanticidal urge onto me, making me the thing you fear, which is not only unfair… but stupid!‘ She answers back ‘And you’re so clever because you found a profession where you could feel less damaged because everyone else is damaged more… and now down here you have to face it. There’s something wrong with your mind… and your heart… and your soul!‘ He attacks saying he can’t recall what he liked about her. She leaves holding back tears. He apologises after she leaves.

She walks across the fields with a hat on looking lost inside.

He is in his study taking baby shoes and other items out fo a box. He says ‘just us now just you and me’ looking at a photo of Gabriel.

The next morning Gwen apologises for arriving late and asks if Charlotte is there. Nathan tells her to take a few days off. He says Charlotte is gone and the sooner Gwen follows the better. So Gwen leaves confused.

In modern-day Lara is filming a walk through the dilapidated house going towards the kitchen. She is filming it for her grandmother. How does she know where this place is if it was sold shortly after her birth and no one spoke of it? Presumably the granny told her but it was off-screen. There are modern fixtures in the house so it wasn’t empty too long ago. Theres graffiti tags on the wall and Lottie, the baby, begins to cry again. She sets up a baby monitor so she can go explore the house. Quite prepared for someone who fled a mental ward and headed straight to the house. Of course Gabriel is lurking in the background.

Lara reads Nathan’s note-book recounting how Gabriel’s guardian angel was otherwise. ‘Who is the woman with the book of light? Gabriel saw her too. he drew her, thinking she was a guardian angel when she was the opposite… come to take him away. Did you lure him to the lake that day and let him drown?

She speculates, to thin air, that Gabriel wants someone to blame. ‘Well that’s not me‘ she states defiantly. ‘I am not here to be punished‘.

Gabriel is looking at the baby.

She is sat outside smoking wondering to herself what she is doing.

Then back inside she has a voice message from granny saying Ben, her partner, is worried and maybe Granny should have told her as it was ‘playing with fire’. Really? You told your grand-daughter in a mental ward about where she might find answers to her ghost delusions and you thought it was okay? Granny can guess where she is and is sure Lara doesn’t want her to say where she is but if she doesn’t come back soon she’ll have to. She says not to stay there to long.

…um yeah just do it now. She has a baby with her. Seriously. If you were that concerned you would. Don’t do this just for narrative conventions as it’ll still take them long enough to get over to the house so there is plenty of time.

Lara hears Gabriel singing rock-a-by-baby to the baby. She rushes over and sees him stood across the room from the baby. She begins explaining that Gabriel’s daddy wished he never lost him as she’s seen his notebook and that her would ‘give anything, ANYTHING, to have [him] back’

‘He didn’t save me’ Gabriel replies.

That’s not his fault, it’s no ones fault‘ Lara replies. Yes it is. Gabriel fell in instead of being cautious and he wasn’t supervised by someone who could save him. Hell I kind of hope it’ll turn out to reference the witch drowning thing as a sudden twist so it’s the townsfolk who are at fault hence why they kept on about how cursed the place was. Lara says Nathan is so desperate to see Gabriel. Does she think Gabriel will pass on just because she said that or he can time travel then? She tells him to go to him and tell him he forgives him. Tell him your alright. Well obviously Gabriel doesn’t. He’s one of those sorts of ghosts’ The sort to hold an everlasting grudge that can’t be resolved. Face it this is a horror film setting. Gabriel part 5: Ring-Around-The-Corpses.

Back in 1894 Nathan breaks into Gwen’s stash of poultices. Well actually he just turns the key. That isn’t very secure then. Did he get the key off her at some point? I know you don’t have to show everything of screen, in fact some director’s make it part of their style, but when you mention how a character locks something away and the other accesses it so easily you have to indicate why. ‘Plot convenience’ isn’t enough. So he heats something deadly. Swallows it. The camera pans back slowly and we cut to Mr Payne stood by the fireplace of the vicarage as he heard Charlotte. He heard she was there and was just passing. He has a pineapple. She notes how odd it is to just be walking about with a pineapple.He says he heard it was good for expectant mothers although it maybe hogwash. WOAH SLOW DOWN 1) She’s still married you lotharo and 2) that’s quite needy 3) we get it, you’re the more balanced guy and the better option for her with you indulging in hearsay but also happy to dismiss it.

She thanks him saying she has kind neighbours as Mrs Denning lent her a dress, which he says becomes her, just as Harriet walks in the room. He excuses himself saying he must leave her rest. Harriet calls him Charlotte’s guardian angel. ‘ wouldn’t call him that’. Harriet suggests ‘A saviour, perhaps?’

We cut to Nathan swaying back and forth before the fire in the study. the ‘do not cross the hayfield’ song from a previous episode plays. He is delusional and calling himself ‘one of them, a lost soul’. He hears Gabriel’s voice beckon him saying he is going to sail his boat.

Nathan goes down to the lake and relives the day Gabriel drowned. Gabriel was poking the boat further on using a long stick and leaning out over the pond/lake. (It might be missing the point of his costume in this episode but as Nathan is in an undershirt and suspenders he looks like he is from a tribute band for Mumord and Sons.) Of course he doesn’t save him and we see Gabriel’s ghost looking up at him from the pond’s jetty.

He returns to the house distraught and does a ‘I’m in distress/deep remorse’ pose of agony. Then he hears Lara’s voice speaking to Lottie. He chases her up the stairs and she keeps turning corners so we narrowly miss her. He gets to the end room and sees Gabriel stood there. Nathan is glad to see him and beckons the boy to him. Gabriel doesn’t move. Nathan asks if ‘she’ is here but Gabriel says he is on his own. (Was the actor told to speak in a monotone or does that come naturally – it’s not good and its unbelievably distracting in this pivotal scene. Also his ‘ghost status’ seems to be informed by having some wet/recently dried hair). He tells the boy he has been looking for him. ‘I’ve been hiding’ the boy replies. Nathan asks if he didn’t want to see him to which his son replies ‘you didn’t want to see me’. Well that’s realistic kid dialogue so well done on that.

Again Nathan, now in front of his son, says he would give anything. Gabriel tells him ‘stay with me, Daddy. Look after me.’ ‘How’ asks Nathan. ‘You know how’ answers the boy…. oh my goodness this is far too realistic children’s dialogue. Nathan blinks and the ghost is gone.

In the modern-day Lara is stood at the lake. then the camera cuts back suddenly to the same shot and she leaves to go to the house. What was the point of that edit? It was like some attempt at a subtle jump scare.

Inside we see from her perspective filming bits of the interior lit by her torch. So I’m guessing we are going to get a jump scare. She calls out to Nathan by name asking if he wants to know who she is. She explains she is his great-great-grand daughter and isn’t trying to haunt him or his son. she just wants to get on with her life. She just wants to go home she sobs. she just needs prove she’s not mad.

Is the baby going to die ironically in a mirroring of his circumstances. If it does they’ve really telegraphed it.

She wants to see Nathan and he has seen her. She sees… Harriet?… in a bloody dress. SO yes there was a jumpscare… Oh also shaky cam. So the last 20 minutes of this series has shifted drastically from drama to horror I guess.

Back to third person and she slams a door behind her sniffling. She checks her recording but the girl wasn’t caught on it. She phones Ben and in tears explains she had to come here to stop it from haunting her and Lottie. He says the police are involved. She realises they know where she is and that Sylvia, a.k.a. granny, told him. She puts the phone off and packs everything up in order to run. She loads the car and drives away with Lottie.

We see Nathan stood in the road shielding his eyes. – Remember a few episodes ago? Yes it’s coming full circle seeing it from her perspective. It looks like we are going to be checking the list off of all their crossover moments. She sways off the road.

Next we see her lying down and Gabriel stood over her says ‘Daddy’s coming’ – Is she dead? Probably. She asks what Gabriel means. Well its obvious but he repeats himself. (You know I just realised who she reminds me of. She has the exact same face as the actor Kevin Sussman who plays Stuart Bloom, the eternally down on his luck comic book shop owner, from The Big Bang Theory).

Nathan dresses and sits writing. He has an Ernest Hemingway look today. He recalls things Charlotte said about being alive and there’s just her and him. He scrunches up the start of a letter to her. It seems days are passing by and he doesn’t know how to word this suicide letter to her.

Charlotte is speaking to Mr Payne about photography and how timing is essential and the amount of light you admit. GET IT ITS ABOUT NATHAN CLOSING HIMSELF OFF AND EVERYTHING. ‘Like the moment you capture between the taker and the taken’ GET IT HE’S MAKING A MOVE ON HER and she is smiling. She brushes a strand of loose hair aside and Mr Payne reaches for it. She excuses herself and says she must go home to her husband. BIT LATE NOW.

Nathan takes bottles from Gwen’s stock. Lara is walking down a corridor. She can see him through the interior door and its lace netting. He is using a pestle and mortar. She rushes in shouting ‘No Nathan, stop!’ REMEMBER THAT SCENE WHEN HE DROPPED THE PIG’S BLOOD – it’s that except she saw him making a deadly substance while from his side she appeared when he was going to wash the bucket out. Obviously the rooms empty when she gets inside but Gabriel appears.

‘He’s killing himself’ she declares, ‘what about his wife and baby?’ – Um… you’re in the future so you know how it turns out. Why are you speaking in the present tense as if you can change history? Anyway Gabriel, the littlest grim reaper, declares they can come too. No they can’t otherwise there’s a time paradox where Lara’s great-grandmother isn’t both. She shouts No, no at him and leaves as he stares blankly at her. I swear the boy’s related to someone on the crew since he seems to just be serving as a place holder.

Back in 1894 and Charlotte is heading down the road while Mr Payne calls after her. She’s on foot and he’s in his trap and pony. That seems more effort than it’s worth to be honest considering the time to get it all ready would cause.

He fears for them both, her condition and Nathan’s desperate state, he implores her to stop. He understands she loves Nathan but sometimes a man needs to be left alone to lick his own wounds. He asks she give him one more day alone and return tomorrow. Considering how confusing the editing has been regarding Nathan putting his clothes on multiple times I don’t know if one more day makes any real difference. Really it might be revealed this too is a bit non-chronological too and Nathan’s events occurred a week or two before Charlotte’s thus she will find a bloated rotting corpse either way.

Mr Payne asks to drive her back to the vicarage but she hears Lara call out to her from the nearby boundary. ‘He’s going to kill himself’ she shouts and Charlotte hears her.

…Wait so it’s not just Nathan’s bloodline, the local bloodline, which has ‘ghost/time travelling communication’ skills? Maybe because of the baby she has them temporarily? I’m joking obviously but it makes sense in context.

Mr Payne asks what the matter then grabs Charlotte’s arm saying ‘Must I force you, like a lunatic, for your own good?’ Oh So he’s an antagonist with false positive traits revealed in the final act then… which was kind of obvious. *cough*Hans*cough*Frozen* (okay he had the ‘almost shot a man running away’ thing too but that probably happened more in reality than anyone likes to admit). She tells him to unhand her and he does. Then he does puppy dog eyes which is hilarious. It is Gif bait if I ever saw any.

Rotting fruit and the empty swing then we see Nathan preparing his poultice. Charlotte walks in the y say its good to see each other. Nathan says he is sorry he has to do this. she asks how they got there when they were going to be so happy. ‘My fault’ he says ‘you were damaged when you met me. Deeper than I knew’. She replies saying ‘your secret ingredient. You insoluble grief… I believed that one day I;d find a solution, I might be the solution and just by being with you I would erode it’.
Which is a classic mistake of those who are around depressed people. Of course what does she do? Blame him some more. Which is realistic sadly. No wonder he is going to kill himself with support like that.

He says she made him so happy but he has seen ‘him’ out there and spoken to him etc. She says ‘if you believe it, I will believe it… I think I’ve known for some time. Maybe even from the beginning. you want to join him?’
[Okay on a side note, though it’s never properly mentioned, I am assuming that Gabriel is his son from an earlier union. If it was mentioned I completely missed it. Seriously at this moment you could see some underlying aspect of her being a woman wanting ‘good prospects’ and latching onto Nathan due to his weakness. It’s an extreme reading of her character but she seems a bit too obsessed with ‘making him happy’ when he wasn’t morbid but demeaned him and ran once he became difficult to deal with.]

‘You want to leave me?’ she asks.
‘No’, he replies, ‘but I have to’.
She says ‘No you don’t. Let’s go together. Let me drink first. Trust me’.
She cradles his face in her hand as she holds the drink.
‘Is it strong enough for both of us?’

He says she doesn’t have to do this but she insists she does because she can’t live without him. As she raises the glass to her lips he slaps it out of her hand shouting ‘no’! They embrace and cry and he sees Gabriel. He shouts ‘I’m sorry I wasnt there. I’m sorry I failed you.’ Is he saying it to Gabriel or Charlotte? You decide. Then he adds ‘…I let you die’ as Gabriel stands there staring at him. ‘I love you’ Nathan says smiling. Gabriel was apparently smiling but stops doing so and goes into a neutral face.

Charlotte says he’s gone. We see he is gone at the kitchen door. Nathan says he’s gone. Yes he is gone. Part of me wishes every other character, the dead and the living, came in saying ‘he’s gone’ too. Such a hammy over wrought moment… The music swells, Nathan smiles, Charlotte’s face… is non-committal but maybe concerned? They say they love each other.

Gideon, the foreman, is walking through the fields towards the house and the doors open. he is surprised to see her there and says it’s a tonic to see them both. They both thank him. Good dog, lie down, roll over, now play dead.

He tells them they’ve been digging the old machine out od the east marsh and thinks they should see it.

SEQUEL HOOK TWIST TIME!!!!!!!!
It’s Lara’s car being pulled up by tethered horses. The yellow modern one. So she went off the road. She is dead. More importantly these country bumpkin’s need to get off to the patent’s office and get this stuff registered. It would kick British industry ahead of the world by about a century! No loss of empire or any of that! Old Blighty would remain old Blighty evermore!

Denning and everyone left is present and don’t know what to make of it.

Gwen says ‘maybe this is what’s troubling the land?’ Denning says ‘if it was it’s all over now’. Everyone moves to get a closer look but Nathan. We get a quick camera zoom up on Lara at the lake as she is seeing these events unfold.

She begins to relive the car crash. The snowglobe flying through the air. Did you see the film ‘Dredd’ about 2000AD’s Judge Dredd? It’s like the slo-mo scenes from that with the same sort of music. We see her head hit the windscreen and she shouts ‘no’ and in the distance people are huddled together.

Gabriel takes her hand. She wonders what happened to Lottie. Gabriel says her father came and took her home. She wasn’t hurt and she’s safe. (He knows she is the mother so why not call Lottie her… oh maybe Lottie wasn’t her daughter just she was in a relationship with a single father?)

Gabriel says Lottie is his mummy now. (I got 9th Doctor Who vibes from him earlier on… you know the episode I mean. The one with the gas mask ghost virus). It makes her her own adoptive Great-Great Aunt too logically then. She looks down at him and smiles as the music swells.

Nathan turns around from the crowd and sees Gabriel and Lara hand in hand and walking away into the forest. He looks sad but smiles acceptingly. Or has gas. One or the other.

Summer 1895 we see standing stones and the house. They baby has been born and Nathan cradles it in his arms by the fire as Charlotte strokes its head. Then a short moment of the couple walking across the fields as the sun sets. The director must have realised they got the shot and didn’t want to waste it though it is a bit jarring. Maybe they could have used this at the standing stone bit a few seconds earlier?
As he lay away at night, Charlotte asleep next to him, Nathan hears a man’s voice calls out to him asking if he is there. A woman giggles. SEANCE SEANCE SEANCE He puts on his evening gown and goes to look. Lights are on downstairs. It’s a modern lamp. The woman is continually giggling for a good 15 seconds so the joke must have been hilarious. Nathan asks if anyone is there. The man asks if anyone is with us. They all look up from the table. They are dressed in 1920s cocktail dresses and tuxedos. The man says that the ‘notorious Nathan Appleby’ is with them when Nathan reaches the foot of the stairs. He welcomes him to the land of the living and wants to ask a question.

“Why did you kill your wife?”

DUN DUN DURR ZOOM IN ON HIS FACE
Blatant sequel baiting stinger/hook…



Review:
Do I want to see more? Personally I felt it wasn’t focused enough and the final scene on its own would have been an excellent twist. The Lara stuff was pointless. If they omitted her sequences to maintain the mystery (although she is a modern-day person obviously) this would be a far better series as the question of ‘is it ghosts or just mental illness and bad luck’ would have been more than strong enough. The car appearing in 1894 is completely out-of-place and some effort to create an unexplainable mystery to make people want answers. There will be time travel or more likely a return to the ‘its purgatory’ twist used in the writer’s previous work. I feel like there must have been some outside interference here insisting it be more like Life On Mars and so the modern era stuff was forced into it. Also I think the cinematography is very similar to Poldark so that either has the same team or they were told to replicate it as trailer fodder.

It felt uneven and I think it’s because they didn’t make clear certain things:

Charlotte’s relation to Gabriel (his biological mother or just the second wife of his father?)

Why did he return? Did his parents die? Did he leave after Gabriel’s death? Was there a first wife? (Well the ending implies this and maybe I just wasn’t paying attention when a first wife was mentioned – thus Charlotte is safe and it’s not going to be a case of ‘why did he kill Charlotte’ if there is a second series.)

Gwen’s sex scenes, except to make clear she isn’t a prim and proper Victorian woman (and imply paganism as ‘sex = pagan’ in some writer’s minds), provide nothing extra to the narrative. She is a hedge witch but these scenes feel forced in for no good reason and otherwise she is nothing but a sycophantic servant saying ‘yes sir/ma’m’ in most of her scenes.

Charlotte’s whole character development is a very jaded character. Initially she is a progressive woman in the early episodes, aping Bathsheba Everdene from the novel ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, only to later give way to becoming a opportunisitic critic of her husband, abandoning him but then suddenly deciding in the end to love him once he seeks death. It paints a quite sexist image of women throughout the series as the only women not to be helpless or hysterical are those not focused on in any great detail (e.g. Mrs Denning, Charlie’s mother, field workers). Even more so than an intentionally sexist depiction it suggests Charlotte chose to break her vow, both marital and personal, to always support him which in those days was a very serious breach of decorum (and probably why novels like Moll Flanders and Anna Karenina were so popular of course).

Charlotte’s character seems to have taken a very sudden and severe shift. The progression from loving wife to hard-hearted mistress in this single episode has neither been developed over the series nor justified save that Nathan has given into his grief over his dead son. I have to wonder if there was a member of the production staff supervising the continuity of the series as we have a scene early on where Charlotte notes the dark side of Nathan’s personality and vows to be there for him to keep it from consuming him but when that time comes… she condemns him and moves into the Reverend’s house. Of course there was. This is no accident but an intentional development in her character and it is very bitter. Again the writers are showing a very pessimistic view of their character’s humanity towards each other under the guise of a Victorian ghost story series. When times are good she is loving. When they are bad she ascribes to the depiction of married women as harridens sniping at their suffering husband when given the opportunity. The recovery at the end is forced and far too quick. Would a woman who had fled the home because of her husbands mental instability really be so quick to return to him? She saw a ghost and that is all that is needed to recover the relationship? Convenient.

I cannot in the final scene feel any connection or sympathy with the main characters due to how throughout the series little effort, beyond heavyhanded moments, is made to endear them to the audience. They try but there is no energy in the interaction when you contrast it with something like Poldark. Maybe the actors didn’t have chemistry? But if that was the case edit around it, do things to create for the audience the atmosphere at least – not just a smile, giggle and kiss. This is a married couple not school children. Saying that maybe, in the event of there being a second season, we will be presented by people who knew Nathan before his son’s death and it be explained he has always been a bit detached. They tried at the start of the series with Charlotte saying how he had been stoic but… it all just rings so hollow in the end result.

Overall the series is well done on the technical side. The cinematography, lighting and sound are all to be commended. However all this is for naught in a multi episode drama if the script is weak and sadly I find fault in it time and time again. At the start of the series the near parodically unblemishable ‘goodness’ of the protagonists is almost a caricature. They come in and improve society taking up the reigns of the previous generation and try to improve it but, as whould be expected in a better drama, their challenges seem to have little effect on them. After the farming machinery fails it goes unmentioned until the last episode. People dying in the community seems to have little effect on their estate and day to day lives if they don’t get involved. They’re just drifting through the events of the series and only get truly affected once Gabriel becomes involved.

Perhaps the writers meant to show us how they are not so perfect with Charlotte’s efforts to be farm manager and to modernise the processes failing? But that conflict is a reasonable narrative drive for a storyline not a narrative device to be used so flippantly. Are we to accept that Charlotte, having purchased a very expensive piece of equipment, would leave it to rust after its initial breakdown? Even for that era the Applebys would have sought the aid of an engineer to repair the machine and ensure workers know how to maintain it correctly. But no its just gone after the first episode or so, and ignored until the last, to be a red herring for the reveal of the modern car. However it fails if that was the intention.

There is no consistent logic to the diegesis as we are meant to accept one thing at one point then expected to shift our opinion on the basis of a single scene. Charlotte the loving supportive wife becomes the damning wife over the course of one opening scene in episode 5 but after the attempted suicide at the denouemount of episode 6 we are to believe they made up so quickly? You can argue that between the suicide scene and the ‘twist’ in the series final scene that quite an extensive period of time has occurred. Enough that their daughter has been born and they have settled back into a routine but as the transition is so sudden the average audience will be caught unaware by the off-screen re-establishment of their relationship. Due to her quick assumption of the role as farm manager and her behaviour during Nathan’s mental breakdown she ultimately comes across more as a character concerned about control than a sympathetic figure who we are meant to vie for.

Nathan is a bland lead. We are told he is a practitioner of the new science of psychology thus a young, handsome, well off male protagonist who is also intelligent. However when do we see his skills used and not just suggested in passing? Admittedly they can only use the level of psychology that was available at the time which was pre-Freud/Jung. So what Nathan uses is an even more basic version than those now surpassed, yet well established in the public consciousness, landmark works. So how do they present it in the series? He hypnotises Harriet Denning twice during the series. You could argue he applies his skills when dealing with others during the series but really could we not argue that his words could have come from any other character in the positions he finds himself in? His major arc is seeing ghosts which he initially dismisses but eventually is driven to a state of high agitation by.

We see him in turn either be the authoritarian landowner ordering his workers about or in scenes where he sympathises with distraught characters – except he is at these points patronising them as he himself hasn’t seen Gabriel’s ghost yet which causes him to act in the exact same way as them. The change in his character is too sharp a turn. The fall from ‘man of science’ early on debating Denning to ‘occult dabbler’ hoping for reunion with his deceased son is done in the space of, the space of about 4 scenes bridging episodes 5 and 6.

The other characters are a mixed bag. Some have greater potential than they are allowed (Denning, Harriet and Charlie’s family), others serve their purpose well as supporting characters (Gideon, Maud Hare and her son) while others feel underdeveloped (Gwen, the old man of episode 2) and some poorly implemented (the deceased whose backstories serve as the crux of each episode specific story).

Each episode has a good concept for a standalone story but overall the narrative across the series doesn’t flow smoothly and feels more like we reach checkpoints where the next major development must occur. There is a way to do this but I feel that somewhere in the process, perhaps the episode editing, the developments occur so jarringly that we as an audience are given little time to accept developments and so with each episode the overarching storyline regarding Nathan and Gabriel, supported somewhat at odds with the modern-day narrative which itself ultimately serves little point other than to create plot teasing conveniences for the 1894 storyline, leaves the series feeling poorly paced and somewhat aimless unintentionally.

They seemed to have a theme to each episode but it was always handled clumsily. Episode one we had farming practises and possession. The end result was people were stuck in their old way and potentially lethal methods (baptism of an unconscious person which likely would result in drowning). Episode two was child labour. The end result was… inconclusive really. The story wrapped itself up but this episode does seem out of keeping with the tone or the rest of the series. Episode three we had anti-intellectualism with the character missing from the rest of the series. Episode four was elopement and homosexuality where, through a sequence of convoluted situations, the lovers are both dead and the lesbian is shot dead at point-blank range by the character depicted having heterosexual promiscuous encounters with itinerant-workers. Episode five Nathan has a mental breakdown due to seeing Gabriel’s ghost and Charlotte abandons him. Episode six Lara escapes a mental ward in a hospital with her baby runs away to the house and gets in a car crash having seen Nathan as a ghost.

Lovely life affirming messages and social commentary here. It doesn’t know if it wants to be. A drama discussing social issues, a supernatural horror or commentary of an isolated community. It wants to be something to everyone but ends up being a less than pleasing sequence of events featuring predominantly unlikable characters. The Dennings, Hares, Charlie’s and Gideon’s families are the backbone of the series and I wish it had focused on them with the Applebys being far less in focus as there was much more potential for the series as an ensemble piece than what we got.

I would however be happy to see a second series as there is great potential here and the technical side of the series is very strong if somewhat behind its contemporaries, in a period where many BBC dramas are almost nearing instant classics through both talent and the budget they receive allowing more freedom, but the writing and pacing here needs to be seriously focused on next time and anything like the modern-day teasers needs to be reviewed and potentially excised if it doesn’t serve the main storyline where it was little than a distraction and made the final episode a damp squib of a resolution.

Good idea, good technical side and good acting but something about the execution of the end result was off. Thus making this more in line with the Merlin, Musketeers, Atlantis level of BBC dramas and not anywhere near the level of Sherlock, War and Peace or the period dramas the BBC is famous for producing – nor indeed anywhere near the standard of writing we saw in Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes.


Comment, like or follow if you want. Or don’t. It seems like no one watched this in the end as seems the case with their adaptions of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent…

The Living and the Dead Episode 5

BBC Description: “When the village is engulfed by murderous spirits, Nathan and Charlotte must fight to put an end to these terrifying events.”



Credits:
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Smith: Harry Peacock
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Writer: Peter McKenna
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan


Victim of the episode: Everyone really as it is the ‘third act’ of the series. Nathan via Gabriel, Maud via hysteria, Harriet being used by Nathan, reverend Denning through failure to perform the exorcism successfully (and thus a loss of faith possibly?), Charlotte being emotionally shut out by her husband and in turn shutting him out harshly in return when he breaks down. The community being flooded by ghosts.


Synopsis:
It’s night-time and Charlotte is wandering the house as there’s banging coming from a room. It’s Nathan opening a crate. ‘It was meant to be a surprise’ he announces. She opens the crate with little effort in comparison to his loud attempt that brought her here. Inside is a crib for their baby. They have a moment together.

Outside and an empty swing sways in the breeze. Gwen is having it off again in the bracken and plays kiss chase but the guy lets out a hideous scream. Nathan walks out the house demanding someone show themselves. It’s a misty night filled with the screams of the damned. DUN DUN DURR

A voiceover talks of the massacre during the Civil War when the Roundheads massacred people in the town. Children run through the town with sacks on their heads around a scarecrow with a noose around its neck, crows caw, Gideon the foreman sacrifices/kills a pig. Peters mother Maud says that Gwen’s ‘bit on the side’ saw a disemboweled woman hanging from the tree. She thinks it’s an omen. It can’t be believed as ‘railway lads are townies’. Gideon doesn’t believe it himself.

Nathan and Payne walk through a work site and he asks where he saw something but Payne doesn’t want to recount it. He thinks something is wrong here and doesn’t like the place. The work for the aqueduct is stopped as they need to find new workers willing to come here. (The village is a ghost town which is probably meant as a bit of dramatic irony considering what is about to happen). Charlotte says damn them and the railway. He feels any time they make progress something happens. Nathan thinks something is going on but Charlotte is more dismissive only accepting what she sees and nothing more. She wants them to focus on the farm and the future. GET IT? SHE IS MORE AND MORE BECOMING THE LEVEL HEADED ONE NOW WHILE HE IS GIVING INTO THE ‘MAGICAL’ SIDE OF THINGS.

Gwen routes around the library and finds the dead son’s picture and the Ouija board but quickly hides it before the Applbys’ return. (They are depicting her being shifty but there is no pay off later as she seems to be set up as a red herring).

Charlotte is photoing the costumed townsfolk and children. Nathan is at the swing in the forest looking for evidence. He finds runes carved on a tree trunk. He sees the modern-day red coat woman in the distance and runs towards her but she disappears behind a tree. Charlotte sees him in the distance and he sees the woman in red in the distance crossing a field. He says he is alright when she seems concerned. Charlotte photos the masked children and villagers with only Nathan remaining unmasked. They remain still for a few seconds and then Charlotte says they’re all done.

Nathan hears a baby in the house as he ascends the stairs. He sees the red coat woman run from one room to another. When he gets into the room all he sees is the crib stood in the middle of the empty room’s floor.

Reverend’s daughter Harriet , wearing a cloak and hood, walks through the town seeing the traditional pagan like festivities around her. Nathan rides up on a horse and says he needs her help. She says she is expected at home. He insists its important and needs their attention this evening. He is very insistent.

He uses pig’s blood to draw on the wall as Harriet watches and he asks if she remembers how they did it before. He intends to hypnotise her. Does the ‘focus on the watch and let all else fade away’ routine as common for portrayals of hypnotism of that era.

Maud Hare walks out her door and hears screaming in the distance. (Did her son Peter die? I honestly forgot the end of that episode by apparently he did).

Nathan wants the now hypnotised Harriet to tell the red coat woman he has seen her and ask her what she wants. She seems to just be unconscious but suddenly, as a minor jump scare, speaks in a raspy voice saying they’re coming for you just as he was about to wake her. That is all he gets. Cryptic.

A loaded cart goes down the road as more workers leave the village.

Mrs Hare complains of it to the Foreman. The butcher’s wife is wanting through the stores and hears noises. Creaking, rats, all that. Blood drips on some dusty vases.

In the pub the foreman supports the Appleby’s but Mrs Hare says maybe the workers had the right idea as they can all see whats happening. He asks where would they go? Somewhere new where they’re not living side by side with evil.

Charlotte calls for Gwen. She sees the drawing on the wall. It was done in pig’s blood. ‘Nothing good comes from inviting the dead back into your life’ she says.

Denning and his wife are in the living room. Harriet comes back home. Harriet explains Mr Appleby her tardiness but doesn’t explain the details.

Charlotte scolds her husband for involving the girl. He says about seeing the red coat woman and how if she saw what he saw she would believe. he describes how the woman has pictures which move as if alive and knows the names of Peter Hare and others.

Denning shouts about involving his daughter in these matters and says to not involve her in their misadventures. In the distance they see a fire has been set alight. They go to explore. The Denning says not to bother as itll burn out by the time they get their. So Nathan resolves to go look in the morning.

We see him stood under the charred tree the next morning as Denning arrives ‘to satisfy his own curiosity’. Theres not signs of a burning but Nathan is certain. Denning is annoyed by Nathan saying ‘I believe in God and man and very little in between’. They haven’t found the remains – yet.

Charlotte processes her photos. She notes in the background of one a boy holding a wooden toy boat who wasnt there before. Gwen distracts her regarding food being ready. She seems dismayed as if her husband perhaps has a point.

Nathan explains about the red coat woman ghost to Denning who is irritated by Nathan. He is sure she is orchestrating it all. He thinks it will escalate unless they do an exorcism. Denning refutes it saying exorcisms are only for the most extraordinary cases. He refuses. Nathan is insistent.

Walking down a path with a horse and cart Charlotte asks Gwen if she believes in ghosts. Gwen says she’s not certain she believes in ghosts but there is ‘more than just man and beast’. They talk of spirits lingering.

Mrs Hare, working the fields reveals she has marks around her neck she is covering. Foreman hears the screaming voices. The workers run towards Charlotte calling out about soldiers and spirits and such. Through the mists she sees Roundhead soldiers on horseback rush past the. No one is sure whats going on. Mrs Hare runs off. It’s all Hallow’s Eve. She recounts that this is when the Roundheads committed the massacre then calls on everyone to run away as far as they can.

Nathan asks the pig blood drawing to tell him what it wants. As he goes to empty the bucket he sees the red coat woman run up and tell him to stop. The blood spills across the floor.

Denning talks to his wife in the church and Harriet enters. He is a skeptic regarding the occult but he doesn’t know what to make of this. Someone bangs on the doors so he goes to look but when he opens it no one is to be seen. Harriet feels something choking her as she claws at her throat. When her parents come back they see her levitating as if being hung. They run beneath her to support her. The wife keeps shouting she is choking. Her father runs for baptismal water and ‘in the father, and the holy ghost’ exorcises her. She descends and her tells them to go wait at home as he has to go do something.

At Nathan’s house he agrees to do the exorcism. Charlotte rushes in and speaks of the events in the woods. Nathan seems overjoyed everyone is seeing what he has been seeing. The workers are outside. He tells them to go home as Reverend Denning will perform a ceremony to get rid of this darkness.

Charlotte asks Denning if he believes this is all the work of ghosts and the dead. He says he knows he has “… seen terrible and unexplainable things and whatever hand is behind them must be stopped.”

She asks if he can banish only the evil spirits and not the benign. ‘I have no room for such distinctions. All that is present must be cast out’. Charlotte recalls the boy. ‘it is imperative if Shepscoy is to have any peace’.

People run down the road and crowd into the pub.

Denning does the holy rites at the Appleby house – its depicted like a major moment. Gwen also watches. Candles flutter out. Doors close by themselves. Shadows scuttle by. Nathan believes its working. Then the gramophone with Gabriel’s voice starts up. Denning says to ignore it. It’s not his son; the devil takes on many forms. Nathan cannot resist but to listen. The voice mentions playing with his boat. The wet boat boy was their dead son… of course as he drowned. Charlotte shows Nathan the photo. HEnce why she asked about benign spirits being also cast out. Nathan is angry she knew but didn’t show him the photo, NAthan goes to stop Denning. Denning says the boy’s soul is with God and chastises him trying to stop the exorcism. Nathan forces him out of the house. He goes as far as telling Denning he will take his gun to him if he doesn’t leave. Resigned Denning leaves.

Mrs Hare leaves her house under cover of night.

Charlotte hears the banging outside return and scolds her husband that Gabriel is dead. ‘He is still my son’ Nathan replies while looking at photos of him.

The people in the pub’s basement are scared.

Denning hears screams and sees blood dripping into a puddle. Mrs Hare runs through the forest. Denning calls out to no avail. Mrs Hare falls over and sees her hand covered in blood. She turns and sees a hung man. Elsewhere Denning sees the same above him. Terrified Mrs Hare runs into a fork in a tree and presumably breaks her own neck with the force. Dennings screams out seeing the trail lined with hanging bodies. We cut back to Mrs Hare and somehow she laughed herself onto the fork in the tree and is unable to work herself free from it as she is suspended off the ground. She soon succumbs and dies. Denning, holding up his lamp, sees the path no longer has the bodies.

Foreman announces to the people ‘they’re gone’. Denning meanwhile breaks down into sobs.

The next morning people g through the forest looking for Maud Hare finding her shawl and such along the way. He found her suspended body in the tree.

Nathan is writing in his journal saying he feels his sons ghost all around him. Charlotte with the workers calls out and says they found Maud’s body. THey thought he was going to get rid of this. He tells I decided not to proceed with the ceremony’. Why the foreman asks. ‘I had good reasons. Very important ones.’ He hears Gabriel’s voice singing from the house. He runs back inside and demand ‘give back my son’. Charlotte rushes in after him shouting ‘you do realise none of them will work for us again?’ but he is too preoccupied. He shows her the photo which she tries to grab and rip up while shouting ‘I just want him to leave us alone’. but Nathan unintentionally strikes her while trying to get the photo back. She of course is shocked, she draws back and there’s blood on her lip. It’s probably not ironic that this episode she has had a red blouse on and he seems to be wearing what would be modern clothing. He reaches to her but she shouts ‘No!’ and runs away. We see the pig blood drawing and Gwen approaching the bloody rag she affixes to the tree in episode one which by now is dirty.

Charlotte takes out a negative of her husband in a field. it’s the photo she took at the start of episode one. Next we see Gwen is in a coat and hat in the kitchen. Has she seen Nathan. Gwen says no and advises she and the baby leave for their own safety. She even offers to go with them so she isn’t alone. Charlotte says she can’t leave her husband. Gwen says she wont abandon her. This would be a nice scene if it wasn’t for the fact they seem to be hinting Gwen is out-of-place here and probably a witch and thus involved in the events. (Spoiler: They kind of abandon all this hinting and she is a benign, if over subserviant, red herring figure).

We cut to a scene of Nathan playing with the toy boat by the lake sending it out onto the water. The water ripples and the episode ends.



Review:
A penultimate episode and all that you would expect it to entail. It was Denning’s big moment to be honest and if they had filmed it a bit differently or had more intense music it would have improved the scene. I’m not sure if they perhaps made Nathan a bit too… not unlikable but definitely not amicable… a character right from the start so when we see this unravelling of him it isn’t as big a shock. I mean that is also an issue of ‘boxset’ releasing this show. I am watching the last two episodes on a separate day as it felt like this was going to be the real meat of the series with everything leading up to it but honestly right now I feel like with some good editing you could knock this series down to 2 maybe 3 hours by omitting the mining boys of episode two and cutting down the other episodes.

Gabriel, though it is never stated explicitly, is Nathan’s son from a previous relationship – in fact I was even go as far as to assume marriage. At some point I feel a scene wa omitted indicating these facts but the series likes to tease it. If this was the case I would think that from the very start Charlotte, although clearly enamoured with her husband, would have behaved slightly differently when arriving to this town and all its reminders of his son. It seems she is aware of Gabriel’s history but she never refers to him as Nathan’s son – that is to say that of the pairing of the Applebys on Nathan has a connection to the boy.

This dancing around a few facts seems a vain attempt at maintaining a mystery which need not exist. If anything the revelation she is not his first wife would give the audience more questions to answer but it honestly feels like they are stringing it out as if they already knew they would have a second season commissioned even before filming began. It’s pointless and the efforts to hide it end up deterring much-needed time for developing the narrative they are telling right now. Either make it an outright mystery resolved in the final episode or don’t waste the audiences time acting as if we need to piece together minor plot points. Again this series seems to feel smarter than it is and wants to impress that upon an audeince it seems to be speaking down to.

Charlotte’s character development is very pessimistic in tone. I have to wonder if there was a member of staff supervising the continuity of the series as we have a scene early on where Charlotte notes the dark side of Nathan’s personality and vows to be there for him to keep it from consuming him but when that time comes she confides in Gwen who I keep feeling is being kept in the background to be the cause of distrust and such now she has Charlotte’s confidence but this never comes to fruition. She just seems to be a poorly implemented red herring in a show that hasn’t developed her that way save for her being a hedge witch (thus representing the ‘dark’ faith opposition to the ‘light’ version of reverend Denning and both in contrast to the logical science views represented by the Appleby couple.

Again the writers are showing a very pessimistic view of their character’s humanity towards each other under the guise of a Victorian ghost story series. What they did with Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes wherein they created a sort of hyperstylised version of the 1970s and 1980s eras of policing on television respectively doesn’t carry over here. You can see the influences to those series but here it seems they have taken a very broad concept, Victorian ghost stories, and done little to educate themselves about how to deconstruct it as they did with their previous works. Instead we get very heavyhanded commentary which often feels misguided or ill-informed.

What was a rather lack lustre, narratively ponderous, series becomes offensive in its depiction of mental health through symbolism of being haunting by the past.

The Living And The Dead Episode 3

BBC Episode 3 Description: “The farm and its future are under threat. Can Nathan and Charlotte save their crops and expose the dark secrets of a disturbed young man before he does any more damage?”



Credits
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Peter Hare: Robert Emms
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Agnes Thatcher : Pooky Quesnel
Clarity Winlove:Katy Michael
Jack Langtree: Joel Gilman
Bathsheba Thatcher: Amber Fernee
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
John Roebuck: Steve Oram
Martha Enderby: Fiona O’Shaughnessy
Writer: Simon Tyrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Alice Troughton


Victim(s) of the Episode: Peter Hare, due to persecution, and by extension his mother Maud. Clarity Winlove in the past due to similar persecution.



Synopsis

Nathan’s walking through the hay fields. The boys from last episode fade into the field, the modern-day red coat woman is flashed on-screen. Charlotte catches up to him and talks of the harvest. Banter. Backlit by the sunrise and kissing. Trailer shot accomplished.

Peter Hare dreams of being told he must make the sacrifice before waking. The voice tells him to ‘do it’ as he looms over his mother, Maud Hare, who awakes.

The workers are stood in a row awaiting Charlotte’s tasting of a single a grain and if she will declare if they’re to start the harvest today. She says tomorrow so the foreman, Gideon, tells them to all go. So she has gone from an urban house wife to knowing the intricacies of harvesting techniques which would take others a lifetime to develop? By this point she is a mary sue or as its more commonly called the protagonist of a romance novel. Or a pale shadow of Bathsheba Everdene. Your choice.

Charlie’s mother has packed up and is leaving after his death. Her three daughters sit silently on the cart. She says that he, the smart doctor, obviously knows their minds better than they do after he says it would be better for them if they stayed. She leaves in tears and the littlest girl has her doll wave and says ‘bye bye’. At least they are not ignoring that character’s have their own will but I feel there was more of a story that could have been told with them only for them to be gone now they’ve served their purpose.

The disturbed young man Peter goes for a swim. He sees a corpse and so goes and tells Nathan the ord of the manor authority figure. Nathan then himself goes for a swim to investigate. He doesn’t see the ghost/delusion. Peter, in front of Nathan, tells the voices in his head to shut up. Nathan notes maybe he needs help. Peter excuses himself and leaves as Nathan looks, bare-chested, into the distance. For the ladies. We get it – you’re marketing this towards a female audience you don’t need to be so heavy-handed about it.

Later all the fish in the lake/pond are dead so Nathan and Charlotte go back inside. She has her photo equipment and they talk of the mill’s history. Then he gets all soppy over a dandelion seed floating on his hand. Then as she sets her equipment up they make out.

The workers are down the pub complaining they’ll not be paid until next week and don’t like it. The reverend Denning sticks up for the Applebys toasting ‘the new and the old’. GET IT NEW AND OLD/LIVING AND DEAD/GABRIEL AND (SPOILER). Nathan visits the Peter’s mother Maude. Maude says the school master said he could go to university on a bursary but she thought it ‘better he learn a trade’. Nathan reckons Peter poisoned the mill pond. Nice leaping to conclusions with no evidence there Mr Protagonist. Then makes comments that he’s sure his, and his wife’s minds are fine… Peter says he’s glad it’s only dead fish and not dead people Nathan sees. FORESHADOWING. Charlotte develops her photos as Nathan bursts into her room. She sees a woman in her photograph but blames the bromide process having inadequacies.

They’re unlikable protagonists really as they seem so apathetic. They boss people around and stick their nose into things that are not their concern. But whatever – they own the land and by extension the people who work it in accord with feudalism traditions it seems. Are they landowners then to the level people pay rent and taxes to them?

Peter is told by the voices in his head to sacrifice his mother’s blood or else the harvest will fail. Very old school pagan view there. Wonder if they’ll indicate where he got these beliefs from as either way he had to have learnt it from somewhere as it is quite an old testament kind of idea.

Nathan is in his study at night and sees bugs on his copy book thus foreshadowing the next day’s events.

Next morning and Peter crosses paths with the Gideon, the foreman, who is suspicious of what he is doing up at that time of day.

Nathan has been up all night and written nothing. Black devil insects destroyed the harvest just as they did back in ’62. Foreman Gideon says Peter cursed the harvest. Again blaming him without proof. Wife declares they have an infestation and it’s not a curse nor are they devils. I’m quite sure the workers didn’t literally think they were devils. (Again it makes me less sympathetic to the character before the big conflict later in the series… ) So she says they’ll harvest the insects one by one then harvest the wheat. No magical answers here, just hard graft.

Peter says he hears voices. The woman under the water. What she told him about the sacrifice. Nathan says he doesn’t have to do that but doesn’t stop him either when he runs off and gets a sickle!?

Charlotte reads her farming books, instead of consult with at least Gideon about what to do, to see if there isn’t an answer and gets frustrated.

Nathan asks boy’s mother and she doesn’t remember it as she’s too young. She refutes it when Nathan said her son will become aggressive. He tells her to lock her bedroom door. He knows what will happen but lets her walk off!?

Charlotte creates a wonder solution ‘with science’! She is going to set some flammable incense off and needlessly tells the workers to ‘beware the crops catching fire’. You mean the workers who are not setting something on fire in the middle of the field and have been toiling away? She tells the workers to plant the others. I get the impression this stuff is actually similar to DDT and more hazardous than just accepting the crop failed.

Peter meets that actor Jack Langtree who reminds me of that actor who always plays west country rural workers. Clearly Peter has been like this before. The foreman Gideon, who it also passes is Jack’s uncle, says ‘the mistress has broken the spell so lets not have anymore of this okay’ to Peter still apparently believing he had a hand in the failed crops. Then Jack doused Peter in water ‘like a drowned rat’. So Peter is persecuted then by the others still.

The harvest is finished and Nathan asks Peter how he is then talks of insects ‘crawling into our minds’. Nice. Subtle. Not likely to spark him off whatsoever. Psychology 101 qualification don’t forget. Invites Peter to the Appleby house and hows him a photo of his mother as a child and Peter notices the lake woman in the photo. She was a healer who disappeared in the village. Charlotte asks if he is concerned about Peter but Nathan says ‘you can never be sure of what people are capable of’. Nice bit of prejudice there then, Peter is a worker with capabilities above his station being born intelligent and needs to be put back in his place and made to conform via persecution. No wonder he is so screwed up from living in this community. The writers might have had a point but by allowing Nathan to make such comments it makes him complicit and a far less sympathetic figure. (Again in the lead up to the part of the series where we are expected to be sympathetic to him).

Then at night Nathan sees the ghost woman as Charlotte lying next to him awakes and realises the harvest will be ruined by the sudden storm. He seems rattled by his experience just now. People toil in the field under the heavy rainfall. There’s some ominous Enya style music. ‘the devil wants to drown us all’. Peter has the voice tell him to do the sacrifice so they don’t blame him for the rain. His mother, Maude, had locked her door heeding Nathan’s advice from earlier. They discuss Clarity Winlove a.k.a. the drowned ghost woman. Maude denies knowing her. She adds terrified that though he might not love her she loves him. Peter calls her a liar and walks away.

Charlotte tells everyone to go home to rest and pray for better weather. Bossy boots Bathesheba wannabe. Jack and Gideon talk. Jack wants to end it ‘the old way’ but the Gideon is unsure. IS IT A DROWNING? IT’S A DROWNING ISN’T IT?

Nathan considers the events just a case of bad luck. They saved a quarter of the harvest. Nathan says maybe he brought the curse with him. Maybe its her Charlotte adds. YES LETS HAVE A PITY PARTY THAT’LL MAKE US GOOD PROTAGONISTS. She lists how she wasn’t born there, brought the machine and judged the reaping wrong. He says its lunatic talk, monomaniacal, the devil. The misfortunes nothing to do with her, there is no curse. She goes to change her wet cloths. He stares at the photo of Peter’s mother as a child and the healer woman.

He asks, the following day, if Maude knows Clarity Winlove. She denies it but then says Clarity went to America to see a distant cousin. Apparently that’s the ‘official’ story. Jack came looking for Peter and Nathan realises that Jack is going to attack Peter.

Jack find Peter in the old mill. He thinks that’s where Peter does his spells and such. Peter tries to run but he captures him easily.

Peter’s mother bangs on the Applebys’ door saying its her fault not her sons.

Jack ties Peter up to drown him as the ghost tells Peter that’s what was done to her. ‘You’ll reap what you sow’ and claims Peter is a witch as he floats in the pond so weighs him down before running off. Peter’s mother finds him face down. Nathan and his wife arrive and try to pump his lungs which works. His mother immediately goes to cut her wrist as payment for what she did years ago. She drowned Clarity due to the poor harvest just as Jack was going to drown Peter. She saw a potion Clarity had given her mother to put in her father’s meal to aid fertility. She knew what Clarity was but claimed she was a witch and had the others tie her in chains and drown her. Again she goes to cut herself but Peter runs up and tells her she must forgive herself.

Nathan looks pensively at the ghost of Clarity, stood in the doorway of the mill, as the others leave for home. He calls out to her to show herself saying she sat by his wife and touched her womb. ‘Was it a blessing or was it a curse?’ he demands before leaving and going to the pub to confront Jack.

Jack Langtree thought Peter was dead but Nathan assures him he isn’t otherwise he would hang Jack for murder. Jack says there’s something wrong here as he was trying to rid them, the community, of evil. Nathan tells him to go and never return to his land as he is banished. Jack defiantly claims he was going anyway and that the place is damned, calling on the others to deny it, ever since Nathan returned.

Charlotte urinated on some flowers to see if she is pregnant. Gwen says she think she is. Charlotte doesn’t want Nathan to know until she is sure.

The workers are gathered in the field as the last of the grain is gathered and Charlotte recites a rhyme before everyone celebrates in the night. Reverend Denning says it has been a strange summer. Foreman Gideon apologises to Peter for what his nephew Jack did. Nathan intrudes on the conversation and asks what Peter thinks. ‘water under the bridge’ and Nathan tells Gideon to get himself a drink.

Then Nathan and his wife dance as everyone around them sings. Nathan says he feels so alive. SO SO ALIVE. NOTHING WRONG CAN HAPPEN NOW.

Then of course we need a cliffhanger mysterious stinger to keep you watching the rest of the series at this halfway point. Cut to a wet child holding a toy wooden yacht watching them. This won’t be covered in the next episode so it’s a random tease of Gabriel who was stated to have drowned in the lake.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03z7h8b/player


Review

There is a theme of anti-intellectualism by the common folk in today’s episode. Poor, poor, landowners being put upon by their indentured serf workforce. It is a good episode in that capacity but the series long arc regarding the Applebys takes away time from developing what would have been a far more evocative narrative.

Wait Peter didn’t die? But he isn’t seen anywhere in the rest of the series and [spoilers which you would expect his reaction to]. What happened to him? I don’t think it is explained and I spent the rest of the series under the impression he was dead.

The ending part reminds me of ‘How Green Was My Valley’ as it seems the leads have no concept what they perceive is a very rose-tinted view of the community. The workers are not celebrating their own work, not they are celebrating their masters the Applebys.

There is nothing very supernatural here really as they present Peter as delusional throughout never as someone being haunted. It also becomes jarring as we are never shown Peter seeking isolation or other things which would imply secretive behaviour. He is a misfit but otherwise seems to keep in line until the events of this episode which amount to Gideon seeing him out early one day. PErhaps the creators thought what was presented was enough but I feel an extra scene with him talking to himself in front of other village folk, not just Nathan which might have been a one-off event, would make us understand the persecution more. Presenting irrational persecution as purely irrational, giving no reason for people to single Peter out until now, doesn’t make sense in and of itself.

As a counter point we are presented with Gwen’s hedge witch behaviour (which is how she defines herself later in the series).I have to wonder if the village folk know of it or if it is kept secret (aside from Nathan and Charlotte knowing of it). If they killed Clarity for her abilities wouldn’t they also want to kill Gwen? Admittedly maybe Clarity’s ability was miraculous while Gwen’s are herbal, thus traditional and ‘good’ in the minds of the village folk, but still there seems to be double standards. We never really learn much about Gwen during the series either – she just appears in one scene after the Appleby’s arrival and she is already Charlotte’s righthand woman. Do they protect her from persecution? It makes no really sense in the narrative as everything else seems fair game for challenging by the Applebys’ modern perspective in criticising their workforce.


 

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Has anyone been watching this? It seems to not know which audience it wants to aim for and thus tries to be something to everyone but ends up nothing to anyone.

A delay on uploading as I was busy. The BBC apparently have stopped uploading preview clips to YouTube and their embed function on their own series page just gives the link not an embedded video. They also stopped doing episode specific galleries (correction they are just delayed by a fortnight or so which is fine as the images will be up prior to an international audience seeing the series but for Brits its a disservice). They must already have given up on promoting the series seriously for the British audience a third of the way into it’s run which is a shame as someone probably took promotion photos and everything and now won’t see the fruits of their labour… or maybe there will be a tie-in book with all of it in. Probably not but it used to be a given the BBC would do that with many series. I like the production design I just feel it’s scripts are not focused on depicting things effectively.