Now that I’ve accepted the fact that they’re not trying to capture the wit of the book (the only amusing thing in this week’s episode was William suddenly sporting a thick moustache – and actually it looked pretty good), I’m enjoying this series more and more. This week’s instalment was very claustrophobic, taking place mainly in the Rackham house, and for the most part consisted of characters going up and down stairs, but it contained some of the most gripping drama I expect I’ll see on TV this year (the fact that Mad Men’s not going to be on at all this year may have something to do with that, although I have high hopes for the new series of Dr Who, and will once again be covering that for the site).
Plot-wise there was even less going on this week than in the first two – Sugar moved into William’s house as his daughter’s governess, and Agnes got worse and worse until plans were made to have her committed, and Sugar took decisive action to save Agnes from her fate (whether this was the right decision or not remains to be seen). But that didn’t really matter, instead it was more a portrait of a group of people stuck in a very sad situation, and nobody was actually to blame – not even Dr Curlew, who may be creepy and is very-likely to be a molester but did seem to have Agnes best interests in mind, or at least William’s, when suggesting that she be taken to an asylum. The sex scene between William and his sedated wife was horrifying, but I think the programme did do its best to make him as sympathetic as possible – I certainly got the impression that he was a man devoted to his wife but had been worn down by eight years (or more) of her behaviour. And between his pleading that Sugar assure him that he was ‘not a monster’ and his getting mugged on one of the few occasions when he did leave the house, it’s not like he got through the episode unscathed. In fact the only character to come out of the episode particularly badly was Miss Cleave, the member of staff previously in charge of looking after Sophie, the Rackham’s daughter, who was barely even in the programme and yet still managed to make a very bad impression, probably down to her referring to Sophie, in the child’s earshot, that she was merely a ‘well meaning thing… not stupid but easily distracted’.
Once again, the episode looked fantastic. It may have taken place mostly indoors, or at night, so there were no opportunities for breathtaking visuals like the lavender fields in the previous episode, but it was all nicely shot – in particular the repeated shots of Sugar opening the shutters to Sophie’s bedroom reminded me of the Vilhelm Hammershøi painting in the National Gallery. While I could have done without the use of jump cuts again (mostly they seem to be used in the bedroom scenes), I was pleased to note that they’ve dropped the technique of people staring creepily at the camera – the closest that we got to it was there being a few close ups of wealthier types deliberately looking past the camera at the start of the episode, but both Sugar and William’s brief trips to the slums were notable for the lack of eye contact. The music was also quite interesting – the weird synthesised vocals buried in the mix during the scene where Agnes tried to crawl her way out of her room (an image which in itself brought back oddly disturbing memories of Ring) made me think that the composer, Cristobal Tapia de Veer, had been listening to a lot of M83, although, after listening to some of it on the web, unfortunately this influence doesn’t seem to spread to his other work. The episode also had quite an interesting structure to it, with Sugar and Agnes in many ways swapping positions over the episode – at the start Sugar prepared to leave behind the streets of London once and for all by packing her things and cutting her hair (so that it resembled a weird cornish pasty when it was done up) and she didn’t do any work on her novel throughout the episode, while Agnes decided to become a writer so the world could know about her dreams of ‘the convent’ and by the end of the episode was also cutting her hair and packing her bags to leave the house and get out into the city. Oh, and Sugar seemed to be the one who had a bad turn of health towards the end – presumably all the vomiting she was doing means that she’s pregnant.
Although I’ve not covered quite a few plot strands (such as most things relating to Sophie), I’m going to leave this review here, just so it has more chance of being uploaded in time for the next episode, what with the excessive amount of bank holidays coming up that might get in the way. Also I’m getting the impression that I’m the only person watching this show. But, as ever, I’d be more than happy to discuss other details in the comments section.
See you next week, for both the final episode, and for Doctor Who. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit it all in, but I’m looking forward to it!