Thanks for the comments on last week’s blog. They may have been held up in the commenting system thanks to the bank holidays, but I enjoyed reading them. It’s nice to know that I wasn’t just writing the blog for my own amusement and, more importantly, that people weren’t missing out on what might prove to be the best drama on TV this year.
Which has unfortunately now come to an end. But a very fitting and moving one, which actually managed to improve on the book’s in some ways (this might be because I was expecting it, so it didn’t feel so abrupt this time, but either way, it definitely moved me more than it did when on paper).
Although the first half of the episode felt somewhat subdued. The problem with Agnes being one of the most vibrant characters is that following her death it felt like a lot of the colour had drained out of the programme (much like it had out of Sugar’s face, as she spent the first half of the episode looking like death again), which wasn’t really such a major problem in the book where she was more of an obstacle to get out of the way. That being said, she did make something of an appearance, even if it was as a (needlessly?) gruesome corpse that had been pulled from the river. I couldn’t help but notice the lovely slight sepia tint on the sky in the scene, and that despite the fact that she was identified by her hair, the limp strands that were left on the corpse’s head didn’t look remarkable enough to be an identifying feature, but it was probably better to dwell on those trivial matters rather than focus too closely on her empty eye sockets.
And that wasn’t the only death this week, although the other one was much less graphic – as Mrs Castaway was revealed to have died off screen sometime prior (without Sugar’s knowledge). It’s odd to think that pretty much all of the pre-release material for the show featured Gillian Andersson so prominently, considering the fact that she mainly limped around in a couple of episodes then disappeared completely.
In the aftermath of Agnes’ death, there was sort of a quiet sort of dread in the Rackham household though, as Sugar grappled with the knowledge that she was pregnant with William’s child, and that he was proving to be less and less capable as a parent (another reappearance of that theme), and was becoming more desperate and isolated (you could tell that she was isolated even without the story as much of the action in the house involved her being shot alone, dwarfed by the large interiors of the house).
Of course quiet dread would be the appropriate response when you take William’s behaviour into consideration. At the start of the series, he may have been dim and dishonest but was at least open to new possibilities. Now that he could have what he initially seemed to want – a loving, intelligent (and physically responsive) partner – in his grasp, he turned away from it completely. And very oddly. Sticking Agnes’ face over Sugar in their ‘family’ portrait was text-book weird, then he turned his attentions to the incredibly dull Lady Bridgelow (one interesting thing I’ve noticed in the cutting down of the book to four hours of TV is that her character’s done very well out of it – she definitely didn’t leave such an impression on the page), who was essentially a more sane replacement for his deceased wife. Finally he turned Sugar out when he found out that she was pregnant with his child with callous indifference, although this was rather inevitable – Sugar was very much living on borrowed time in the Rackham household.
Not that she actually was actually pregnant when she was thrown out however, having suffered a miscarriage while escorting Sophie on a trip to the Rackham factory. I thought that it was handled well, not getting too lurid on the details, but making sure that the viewer felt how awful an experience it would have been, particularly when in the very public, and nightmarish (what with its Escher-esque maze of staircases), setting of the factory.
From then on, it was pretty much a heart-pounding race to the finish, or at least it felt like that to me. In particular Sugar’s protective snarl when she found out that she was to be separated from Sophie stood out as it revealed a completely changed character to the selfish and distant girl in episode one. And, although the ending was hardly surprising (even if you hadn’t read the book), it was still surprisingly urgent. I also thought that the adaptation did a good job of weaving in a couple of little clues from Faber’s companion book of short stories The Apple into the plot to hint at where the characters would go next (admittedly these may have been in the original book, and I just wasn’t looking for them at the time) – I won’t reveal what these clues were exactly here so as not to spoil it for anyone, but can do so in the comments section if anybody asks – so what seemed abrupt and inconclusive in the novel felt like the perfect ending on screen. I honestly had to take a good twenty minutes after the episode ended to recover, which is always a sign of good TV.
So that’s that then. I’m very glad that I saw it, and that they managed to not screw the story up when adapting it. I’m going to be at something of a loss for things to do on Wednesday evenings now – the programme scheduled in the same slot next week (Children’s Craniofacial Surgery!) doesn’t sound particularly appealing. I might just have to sit back down with the book and read it again, but before that I’d be very interested in reading what you all thought of it.