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Marchlands, “Episode 3” (1.03)

In 1987, Mark and Olive discuss the meningitis that led to her deafness.

A review of the third episode of the supernatural character thriller, written by Stephen Greenhorn and directed by James Kent, after the jump…

“What if Amy’s real?” – Eddie Maynard

Recap: In 1968, the results of a fertility test send Paul and Ruth into a tailspin. In 1987, Eddie learns the truth about Alice, which doesn’t convince Helen of anything. In 2010, Nisha discovers the truth about Olive.

Three episodes in (out of, apparently, five), and the fireworks are beginning to go off. Eddie and Helen discover the truth about Alice, and argue about whether it means anything. Nisha finally begins seeing the chasm between them that has been there since we’ve met them, only exacerbated by his close proximity to old flame Olive. And Ruth, who has been so connected to keeping her marriage to Paul alive, almost leaves him altogether when he accuses her, as many others have, of being to blame for Alice’s death.

I have to say, as white-bread-nice as he is, I’m becoming less and less impressed by Mark. He moves his pregnant lawyer wife out into his old stomping grounds, then uses that as an opportunity to stalk his ex-girlfriend. There’s been constant hints that he’s not a fan of her taking charge in things or ordering him around. Even the scene implying that work is about to collapse around him didn’t build much sympathy, I found.

I have more sympathy for the other two seeming antagonists of the episode, Paul and Helen. Unlike Mark, who is merely allowing himself to tempt temptation, Paul and Helen have good reason. Paul has been raised in a world where Ruth’s attempts to educate herself are the height of selfishness, and the fight comes just as his own worth as a man has been totally thrown into question. Meanwhile, Helen is looking at their situation realistically: Alice being a ghost is pretty ridiculous, especially for a no-nonsense woman of the 80’s, and even if she is, there’s no solution for Amy in that equation.

Shelley Conn did some great work here, particularly in the moment where she knew she should ask about Olive, and gets halfway there, before being distracted about the baby. Jodie Whittaker and Jamie Thomas King have been doing stellar work throughout, but both really brought their all for this episode. The fight, and Ruth’s stay with the students, were excellent. Also, the chemistry between Mark and Olive is palpable in both times.

Now, if my information’s correct, there’s only two more episodes left in either the season or the series; I’ve yet to confirm whether this is intended as a limited-run or a full-on series. I’d say there’s room for more, especially as I see there being legs in plenty of the characters and stories as presented. I’m at a loss when I try to see how they can wrap everything up satisfactorily in two more parts.

We’ve got ASKOR and Scott’s seizures now, on top of the mystery of what happened at the track with Alice and her grandfather. There’s also the question of who left Ruth the necklace, what happens to Amy, where Nisha’s plot is going… There’s plenty left to come, here, so I’m curious to see how it all wraps up.

Ruth (Jodie Whittaker) is pained upon being accused of neglectful parenting.

A review of the second episode of this creepy Brit drama, written by Stephen Greenhorn and directed by James Kent, after the jump…

Recap: In 1968, Ruth and Paul Bowen are ordered to conceive another baby in order to honour their contract with God – their marriage. In 1987, the Maynards begin to look into reasons behind the existence of ‘Alice’, and are advised it may be psychiatric, while a teenage Mark begins a flirtation with the deaf Olive. In 2010, after Nisha complains that she is feeling a bit alone in the house, Mark hires a housekeeper to help out without asking – a housekeeper who, it turns out, is an older Ruth Bowen…

Following very much in tone with the premiere, the second week of Marchlands moves quite slowly, preferring to spend time lingering over its characters rather than overdosing on mythology. The connections between the times continue, with Mark showing up in 1987 and Ruth in 2010, and the spaces between the times are causing some intriguing tension. My main question of the moment isn’t, “What happened to Alice?”, bur rather, “What happened to Amy Maynard?” We begin to see that story play out here, with hints that she’s doomed to be burdened with a psychiatric diagnoses, but I’m very curious about her ultimate fate.

We also get some additional information about the circumstances of Alice’s disappearence – Robert, Paul’s father, was looking after her, and left her alone briefly when the dog ran off. If Alice was a good girl who wouldn’t wander off, like Ruth insists, then whatever occurred happened in those minutes. That is, if Robert is a trustworthy source after all. His guilt could stem from this, or could stem from something even worse. I don’t feel that’s what the show is hinting, but it’s hardly off the table.

More interesting than the mythology, though, are the expansions on these characters. The struggles of the Maynards were played wonderfully by Alex Kingston and Dean Andrews; Helen’s reaction to the problem is to try and solve it by reading all the books and figuring it out, while Eddie merely wants to pretend that nothing’s wrong. The dynamic between Nisha and Mark also intrigues, as they argue while pretending like they’re not arguing. In fact, twice in this episode, men go behind their wives’ backs and establish something, and force them to accept it: Mark, in hiring Ruth, and Paul, in pushing Ruth to meet with Father Boyle. Funny that in both 1968 and progressive 2010, the husbands are comfortable in superseding their wives’ right to an opinion if they think it’s for the greater good. Meanwhile, both have ulterior motives; Paul has been bullied into it by his awful mother, while Mark is wounded by Nisha’s mother’s unheard criticisms.

Mothers, in fact, are a big theme in this series so far. You don’t just have our three female leads, who are all mothers at different points in their children’s lives, but Paul’s mother Evelyn, Olive’s mother, and even interjections from Nisha’s invisible mother via the phone. Of all of them, the only one who seems to struggle for control in her life is Ruth, who is constantly spoken over by her mother-in-law, and even she has a great independent spirit the rest try to deflate.They are constantly pushing to stay in control and fix the problems in their lives, even if they are like Evelyn, whose preferred version of making things better is ignoring grief and moving forward. Fathers, too, are a theme, but the running thread through them is more a sense of helplessness and being lost: Paul withdraws within himself after Alice’s death, Eddie just wants to ignore the problems with Amy and have her be his little girl, and Mark, even being the only mobile one, seems to constantly feel outmatched by his ever-prepared lawyer wife. Robert, too, seems to drift in and out of scenes more than walk firmly on the ground.

Mad Men is often praised as a great look at how damaging norms of previous generations worked in daily life, and though I don’t know how strict to detail Marchlands is, it feels very much like its also putting up a reflection to some ugly attitudes, particularly in the 1968 era. The baldness by which Evelyn, the policeman and the priest intercede in Ruth and Paul’s lives, dictating how to deal with their grief and tossing Ruth’s night classes back into her face, is horrifying from a present-day perspective. It’s clear that these people understand just how things are, but having never been a great proponent of how things were back then, it effects me quite a bit to see someone as smart and resourceful as Ruth bend under the thumb of a society that wants her to be quiet and follow orders.

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