OK. Lets play a little game. Replace Glyde and Fosco with another two names, just for fun. Try Fred Waterford from The Handmaid's Tale if you like, or Donald Trump if you're currently slack-jawed at the state of American politics. Maybe try out the names of some men a little closer to home – it's always possible you know a couple who fit this description.
We haven't always been so enamoured with the series. You may remember from our review of episode one that the show got off to banal and disappointing start. We'd been promised formidable female anger by the star (and our current crush) Jessie Buckley, who had been talking about the #metoo update that Wilkie Collins' Victorian novel had been given by scriptwriter Fiona Seres. Unfortunately, none of this was on display in the first episode.
The only thing we cared about in the first episode was the gooey love story been the attractive artist, Walter Hartright (Ben Hardy – you'll likely only recognise him if you're a serious East Enders fan) and the 'angelic' Laura Fairlie, who goes to the beach to see colours in the wind, like a measly Pocahontas with synesthesia. It was even difficult to sympathise with Walter's obsession with the pyjama-clad Anne Catherick on Hampstead Heath, even though she'd just escaped from an insane asylum.
The first few episodes were saved by the acting – Ben Hardy's cherubic Victorian gent, Olivia Vinall's wet and whimpering Laura Fairlie and her skittish, emotionally disturbed Anne Catherick. Best of all was Jessie Buckley – fresh from the set of the indie film Beast – who played the heroine Marian Halcombe with verve and feeling, and the hilarious Charles Dance as the neglectful uncle Frederick Fairlie.
Soon though, the series heated up. Man after man placed their own self interest and greed above the needs of the two young women (apart from Walter, of course). Laura was married off to the wrinkled and bullish Sir Percival Glyde – because her dead father sold her and her dowry off to protect his own reputation. Laura's uncle Mr Fairlie signed over as much of Laura's money to Glyde as the law allowed. Glyde rapes, beats and demeans his wife, before attempting to bully Laura into signing over some more of her capital – supported in greed by the Christian vow all wives made to 'obey' their husbands. Oh, it's good stuff.
Time for the resistance: the brave and, we're told, revoltingly ugly Marian – all a bit weird, do they know we can see Jessie Buckley's face? – moves into the darkly decorated spaces of Blackwater Park with the unhappy couple. She finds herself being drugged every few scenes by mysterious powders dropped in her tea, so that Glyde and his sinister Italian friend Count Fosco can retreat into candle-lit rooms to discuss methods of murder. You'd think she'd learn to carry a hip flask. The two men conspire to have Laura locked-up in a mental asylum. Men, especially these men, have done it before, after all.
Sure, there are some very annoying plot holes. Why, for example, can no one be called upon to confirm Laura's identity when Glyde announces that she's the insane Anne Catherick? Did Laura have no childhood friends? No nannies who could confirm childhood stories about her only she knew? Really? Nonetheless, The Woman in White makes for a gripping watch: an emotionally engaging period drama and a rallying cry for the women's marches.
|What||The Woman in White, episodes four and five: season review|
|Where||BBC One, BBC One | MAP|
08 May 18 – 31 Aug 18, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM