Moonfleet part 2 review
Despite impressive set pieces, Moonfleet's concluding chapter fails to make much impact...
This review contains spoilers.
Previously on Moonfleet... Pistols! Smuggling! Hangings! Brandy! Nudity! More pistols! There, you're all caught up now. And you do need to keep up, as Sky One's buckswashling drama moves like a runaway brandy barrel. It means it's never dull, but it does feel rushed at the expense of some of the more dramatic beats. There's no chance to savour any of the few emotions present.
Moonfleet feels like it's going through the motions; rattling from one set piece to another rapidly but mechanically. That's probably because Elzevir Block and John Trenchard don't feel like characters in control of their own fate, but puppets with the twin hands of good luck and misfortune thrust up them. Something happens, to which Ray Winstone responds with a growl and Aneurin Barnard affects the facial expression of a hungry kitten, then something else happens. Repeat. It's no surprise then that the one point at which the duo take matters into their own hands – retrieving a diamond – is the most exciting part of the episode.
But we're ahead of ourselves. Recovering from his wounds, Barnard's John Trenchard suffers visions of Blackbeard's ghost and a well-edited montage of plot-relevant activities. Across both episodes John hallucinates so often that you start to wonder if there's a tumour pressing against his brain. Once fully recovered, and with the code to Blackbeard's 'tray-sure' decyphered, John and Elzevir embark on a heist to steal Blackbeard's diamond from its hiding place in a well at Carisbrooke Castle. But how to go about it...?
'Ye 18th Century Guide to Purloining a Diamonde':
Step the First: Identify thy 'mark': the Turnkey of the castle.
Step the Second: Feign a chance encounter with the randy rogue and his lowered breeches at the local knocking shop (take heed of toothless crones) and beg favour of work at the castle.
Step the Third: After feigning labour, use the guiles of a lady of the night to distract the Turnkey with sexual favours whilst your associate ventures forth into the well to acquire the riches.
It's a genuinely tense scene that results in John surprisingly killing Turnkey (don't worry, he'll be reincarnated as Simon's dad in The Inbetweeners), and he's alarmingly 'whatevs' about it, given that a short time ago he was begging Elzevir not to kill Mohune. It's either bad writing or John Trenchard is a massive coward who only cares about lives being taken if it adversely affects his chance of having sex. You suspect it's a mixture of both.
Meanwhile, fed up of waiting for her love to return, Grace Mohune does like many young ladies with aspirations and heads to London where she is taken under her Aunt Lydia's wing with the purpose of being married off to the nearest respiring male with a wallet. It is exactly half as interesting as that last sentence made it sound and not so much a subplot as a dramatic distraction while the scenery of John and Elzevir's lives change.
Travelling to The Hague, John and Elzevir seek out Aldobrand the diamond merchant (Omid Djalili, giving a refreshingly restrained comedy-free performance). Instead of buying the diamond, he takes it and then accuses them of trying to rob him. Wait, whut? Before you can shout 'Blackbeard's balls!' the pair are clapped in irons and sent off to a genuinely unpleasant prison and then transported off to the colonies. Habeas Corpus? What Habeas Corpus?
The prison ship hits a storm and becomes stricken right off the coast of Moonfleet. Insert your own 'How Convenient!' GIF of choice. It's a dramatic expedience in the novel that's akin to the plane you're on having to make an emergency landing in a street that's just two rows down from your own house. See what we said about them being puppets to fortune? Just as it feels like a complete cop-out in the book, so it does here. There's just not enough dramatic heft to keep the plot floating above credulity.
Elzevir is drowned, John lives and starts a new life with Grace. And as he throws the diamond that's just been posted to him back into the sea, you almost expect Elzevir's ghost to appear, on the beach, Return of the Jedi style, to nod sagely and whisper 'Go on my son!'.
It's an end which leaves you with the feeling that the dramatic tide of Moonfleet has washed in and out again without ever getting more than your feet wet. It's been a paddle instead of an immersion into an exciting cutthroat tempest. Chances are the only lasting impression Moonfleet will leave on you is the shock of Blackbeard's skellington popping up at the end to provide a lump of smoking hot nightmare fuel for you and any kiddies who've had the patience to watch until the end. Poor blighters. That's what you get for taking an interest in smuggling.
Read Rob's review of part one, here.
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