A show I think will be hard to beat for story ,atmosphere and pure picturesque beauty.
The Living and the Dead has been totally tremendous and I have been raring to blog about it from the very first episode. Using supreme willpower I have avoided the IPlayer Binge to watch weekly to prolong my enjoyment and I can right here and now declare, if it does not win a BAFTA for screenplay or lead actor I will do something totally random like ram a pitchfork through the windscreen of the judging committee chairman’s BMW.
This is the story of a London psychiatrist Nathan and his vibrant photographer wife Charlotte , his second wife as it happens as his first wife and his young son died in tragic and mysterious circumstances forcing his exile from the family farm where he lived and now he and Charlotte have returned to see his ailing Mother and to help her run the place.
What follows is a ever building drama which melds an examination of rural traditions, superstitions, one’s faith in God and of course Spirits ;against a backdrop of huge industrial upheaval in agricultural techniques.
As lost and untethered spirits start taking a terrible toll on the local farm workers and Nathan attempts to thwart them at every vicious and tragic turn this gradually unravelling story is actually that of a man unable to move past his losses to keep his mind and life in the present. Nathan Appleby begins to suspect that a malevolent force is the architect of all this accumulated misery.
Each of the six episodes ratchets up the tension until the final episode when everything becomes clear and yet is completely upturned and mad as a box of frogs! Utterly utterly brilliant stuff.
This is also the series where I feel Colin Morgan (one of the most talented young actors of his generation in my opinion) finally gets to show the full depth and breadth of his acting prowess. I am pleased to see Sam Donovan has taken his “Humans” star and really given him something with some heft to get to grips with. From the bubbly jovial, slightly ungainly doctor at series opening to the clearly deranged man at series finale, everything from the cadence of his speech, his facial tics and grimaces reveal more than any line of dialogue could convey.
Playing against such a performance was going to be hard but Charlotte Spencer is a brilliant foil, almost swapping personas she starts out strident, brave and a risk taker. Passionate and unafraid the story brings her to a place of utter desolation and fragility that is played so delicately and beautifully that she leaves you breathless.
The supporting cast are a veritable list of the Great and Good of British character actors and another Sam Donovan alumni actress plays a particularly damaged and slightly dotty schoolteacher, Utopia’s very own Jessica Hyde herself , Fiona O’ Shaughnessy. She is just one of many familiar faces that round out the cast.
If all of this were not enough to recommend the show, the use of music inspired by old English Folk music has a particularly haunting quality and the theme music never fails to give me a bit of a shudder!
I am hoping and praying for a series two because the Denouement was just too intriguing to ever let those skeletons remain hidden.