Freshly freed from the hellish bonds of an abusive marriage, Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes) decides to reclaim her life and once rumors of a mysterious sea creature reach her, she heads to Essex to investigate the exact nature of the reptile she is accompanying her son and hers Servant Martha (Hayley Squires). On site, the young paleontology enthusiast is amazed to discover what is largely highlighted apotheotic aesthetics to the series’ credit, the melancholy and picturesque beauty of the village of Alwinter, where she meets the vicar William Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) and his wife Stella (Clémence Poésy).
A moving encounter for this man of faith whose sudden desire is in stark contrast to his religious morality. But don’t let the poor guy throw stones at himself, which the young woman obviously has an attraction to nobody seems to be able to survive. From the amiable Martha to the vicar, past the wasteful surgeon Luke Garett (Frank Dillane), Cora’s entourage seems trapped in her decidedly unrelenting charm for no particular reason.
The interpersonal relationships of each character therefore seem to be the real driving force behind it The Essex Serpentwhich despite a rhythm for the less effective, ultimately lacking a plot strong enough to support the narrative. Gothic mystery, social-realist drama, pseudo-feminist testament and melodrama at the same time, The Essex Serpent struggles for an identity of its own. Far too many narrative frames are occupied in this way and then abandoned again with little thought other than to overshadow the unfolding, albeit uncertain, of a shaky alchemy between the leading duo.
The viewer will therefore no doubt have some difficulty grasping the ins and outs of the irrepressible desire the characters feel for one another without too much introduction. Actors of an organic tension made from scratch by their cast members respective (solid but tasteless) and without real scripting supportWill and Cora develop such a physical attraction to each other that it’s difficult to engage your audience or address even the slightest issue.
In the background of this awkward romance The Essex Serpent does not easily respond to a conflict that contradicts the religious beliefs embodied by Will and the rationality espoused by Cora. A dichotomy that is initially found through the characters, but also in the parallel editing of the series that represents them both a narrative and a visual dualityand multiplies the flashbacks, forward leaps, and other temporal simultaneities between London and Alwinter.
However, the ideological dispute between the two main characters will feed less a debate than an exchange. While Cora tries to understand the snake’s exact nature, and likes to imagine that it might be a “living fossil” that escaped evolution, the pastor prefers to view it as a manifestation of relative fears about the inevitable changes in the world Time . Radically different views that will, however, lead them to learn from each other.
Talking about the meaning of life early in the morning
If Cora and Will manage to find their way around relatively quickly, it is nevertheless based on the latter’s arrival in the small town of Alwinter a deep and irreconcilable disagreement between the character and the customs of the village. While Will somehow tries to stem the growing anxiety of his parishioners, the character of Claire Danes tries to open her narrow mind to other considerations by offering to teach his scientific knowledge at the village school.
The latter, however, are overwhelmed by the weight of inexhaustible superstitions so ingrained in the collective unconscious that they overwhelm bodies and cause one sudden general frenzy. judgment clouded by a religious extremism and a blind conservatismthe villagers of Alwinter then refuse to listen to reason, convinced that the mythical serpent has returned to the county to better feast on its sins.
Cuter than this character, you die
Giving in to paranoia, the denizens of Alwinter seize wood, torches, and nets to build dams and barricades as so many physical manifestations of their inner reluctance to see the beast (and thus the unknown) as anything else demon incarnation. The hysteria reaches its peak when another body is discovered near the swamp. A mad fever rages as Clio Barnard’s cinematographic device, through cut and convulsive staging, portrays the torments of a mass neurosis momentarily soothed by the flow of blood from a sacrificial goat.
Simultaneously sea creature, divine punishment and ubiquitous entity, the beast terrifies children, invades church pews and appears to roam dangerously beneath the surface of the misty waters of Essex. The snake, however, seems less responsive to an abstract physicality than to a symbol, a powerful metaphor to model in a single image everything that is inevitable in life: regret, sadness, sadness and fear.
“Exiled to the country, they said. It will be restful, they said.”
The snake becomes the mirror onto which the characters project their own wounds the reflection of an elusive human conditionand incidentally implies that despite the industrial revolution and man’s incredible progress, the latter is above all part of nature and remains even more imperfect.
Among the two protagonists’ awkward romantic outbursts and the various subplots that were released from the main narrative without too many qualms, The Essex Serpent can be considered as A ghost story. Ghosts created from scratch, not for lack of faith or knowledge, but out of fears and doubts, taking advantage of the turbulent waters of the unknown to better worm their way into hearts and minds.
After launching with two episodes on May 13, 2022, The Essex Serpent will unveil a new episode every Friday on Apple TV+