Wednesday, 3 August 2016

TV Review: The Living and the Dead. The spooky, clever, topsy turveyparanormal thriller that has won my heart.

Forget all about that “Poldark “malarky, there has been a brand new Rural  Costume drama in town that knocks three hay bales and a tractor,out of that little bare chested brooder

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.


  1. Great review! I agree with each word. Colin Morgan is especially outstanding in this show and the whole series is amazing!

  2. Wonderful review I agree completely

  3. Wow I hope we can see this in the U.S. at some point, it sounds superb!!! Thanks, Emma!!

  4. Sounds like a great show, I hope that we can get it in the States soon as I would love to see it. You make it sound wonderful Emma!

  5. Well it certainly has a strong pedigree, which would be enough of an enticement, without knowing the story. Donovan created a show for the ages in Utopia, and while Humans took a while to gain it's footing, I'm looking forward to Series Two. Morgan showed his potential as Merlin and showed his own depth as Leo. Fiona O'Shaughnessy was BRILLIANT as Jessica Hyde! Is this a period piece Emma, and if so what's the era? Hopefully as with Humans we get word that it will air in the States!

  6. Industrial revolution.... 1870s .... And more