Apple Tree Yard episodes 3 & 4 review

Apple Tree Yard concluded with strong performances and worthwhile critique of the legal system, but was it great drama?

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

Apple Tree Yard’s final episode aired last night to make room for next Sunday’s Bafta awards ceremony on BBC One. This time next year, might the thriller feature among the nominations?

Its performances absolutely deserve recognition. Emily Watson’s portrayal of Yvonne Carmichael has been detailed and nuanced. Mark Duggan too, who played husband Gary, is clearly much more than just a safe pair of acting hands. Alongside them, director Jessica Hobbs told a clear-headed and empathetic sad story.

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Best drama though? Not quite. Though the courtroom scenes made worthwhile points about the savagery and humiliation women, whether there as experts or defendants, can face on the dock, the last two episodes felt undermined by a central inconsistency. Namely: Dr Yvonne Carmichael isn’t naïve or stupid, so why did she think she could get away with lying about her affair?

Up until the courtroom, Yvonne’s actions had felt convincing. Embarking on the trysts, not reporting the rape—it was all explainable. But however much it might harm her case, her marriage or her family to admit to it, surely the affair was bound to be found out. Even if Mark kept schtum, there were the phones, files on her computer, outdoor kissing sessions in Embankment Gardens… Come on, Yvonne, you’re a scientist. You’d have to be an idiot to think you could keep that under wraps.

And the Yvonne we knew wasn’t an idiot. Which is why her insistence that she and Mark “knew” each other and that he wasn’t “a monster” but her “shining knight” felt unconvincingly callow. Love does strange things to people, but could lust really have transformed bright, sceptical Yvonne into a besotted prat?

By the by, I’m generally not a fan of complaints re. plausibility in TV shows—it’s so often a joyless, point-missing approach to take to fiction, the dull equivalent of complaining about regional accents straying out of the parish boundaries—but when a drama like this aspires to realism, these things chip away at its impact.

In its final moments, Apple Tree Yard offered up a revelation some are calling a twist: a pillow talk flashback revealed that Yvonne did instruct Mark to kill George Selway; she told Mark she wanted him to “smash [George’s] fucking face in”. To interpret that, as some have, as Yvonne having masterminded this whole thing start to finish seems dumber still. What we learned in that scene was that Mark couldn’t tell the difference between words said in earnest or to let off steam, not that Yvonne was the conniving spider at the centre of this web.

Mark’s empty characterisation added more dissatisfaction to episodes three and four. His plea keeping him from the stand, we never heard from him or got into his head. The novelty of a well-drawn female character being paired with a blank male cypher is a noteworthy reversal, but not a positive one. When it came down to it, the question of the relative madness or badness of Mark Costley (he proved that – if £100,000 is the going rate for bail I must remember to stay on the straight and narrow) was hard to muster much interest in.

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Classy performances aside, this series’ strength was its critique of the justice system, especially concerning sexual assault. Sweep away the flimsy thriller stuff and that’s what remains: a depressingly astute appraisal of the shortcomings in attitude and approach to survivors of rape. That makes it worthwhile, yes, but it doesn’t add up to greatness.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.