Jamaica Inn episode 3 review

Review Becky Lea 23 Apr 2014 - 22:00

It's all coming to a head in this, the final episode of Jamaica Inn. Here's our review...

This review contains spoilers.

Mary faces the wrath of her uncle Joss and is dragged on a wrecking mission to steal from a ship incoming from France. Barely escaping with her life, she is locked in the inn by Patience whilst they plan to flee from the mysterious man in charge of operations. Meanwhile, Jem languishes in prison and is offered his freedom in exchange for testifying against his brother. As the net closes in around Joss, Jem is forced to take action in order to stop the mysterious man in black getting to Mary.

The final episode opens with a stunning sequence of the moment in which Mary is forced to look on as her uncle’s wrecking crew lure an incoming ship onto the rocks. It continues in the same disquieting, understated fashion that has categorised the series as the sound of the waves drowns out the protests of both Mary and the sailors. The calm way in which the wreckers go about killing off the ship’s crew is a quietly horrific scene, brought into sharp relief when Joss attempts to force Mary to join in. Presenting the violence of the situation in such a cold manner makes it all the more affecting and it sets the tone for the rest of the episode.

A similar approach is taken in the climactic scenes as Davey forces Mary to follow up high above the moors, pursued by Jem and Hannah. Dispensing with the score, director Philippa Lowthorpe allows the winds to become the soundtrack, increasing the shock of the gunshots ringing out. It ramps up the tension considerably and Ben Daniels’ chillingly unhinged performance as the duplicitous Francis Davey builds well with the mounting sense of dread. It brings back the Gothic atmosphere of the first episode with the rocky landscape proving every bit as hostile as the dark shadowy corners of the inn itself.

It is also in the latter half of this episode where Jessica Brown Findlay’s performance as Mary really excels, finding the depth to her character that had previously been only alluded to. Her confrontation with Davey as well as her frustrated despair towards Joss show the strength of Mary in the face of adversity and Brown Findlay gives her the quiet dignity that makes her such a compelling character.

Elsewhere, the decision to scale back the action and work on developing the characters in the second episode proved to be a good one. Joanne Whalley’s Patience, given much more of a character to work with, has served as a warning to the audience and Mary of the effects of such a life. A quiet examination of the effects of an abusive relationship, Whalley transformed her into not just a figure of tragedy, but one of conflict, trying desperately to save her husband, despite what he does to her. In doing so, the emotional impact of her death was far greater, dying, trapped in the inn she had been trying so hard to escape.

It also makes Joss a more sympathetic character, despite the actions we have seen him undertake throughout. A bullying figure, he’s also cowardly and spends the large majority of his final hours skulking in Jamaica Inn, paranoid about the mysterious figure he believes (correctly) to be on the way to kill him. Sean Harris has been consistently strong throughout, mining both the physically imposing aspects of Joss as well as his vulnerability.

Much like the second episode, the pacing is a little uneven. Following the wreckers’ scene, the pace slows considerably as the mystery surrounding Joss’ puppet master deepens. However, with a glimpse of Davey on the cliff, the eagle-eyed viewer will have figured that particular plot point out. The mid-section of the episode loses the dramatic momentum that had been established in the opening scenes and it takes the narrative a while to build it back up. With Mary’s discovery of Davey’s involvement, it ramps up once again, taking a turn for the macabre that finishes the episode on a high note.

Despite not quite living up to the promise of its first episode, Jamaica Inn has largely captured the unsettling quality of du Maurier’s novel well. Pacing has been a notable issue, but the performances and the stunning visuals have elevated what has been a solid adaptation.

Our review of episode two is here.

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