Marchlands episode 2 review

ITV's ghostly drama Marchlands continues to quietly impress, save for one or two moments of daftness...

Warning: this review contains spoilers

Hmmm. The brightest spots of last week’s Marchlands opener were Dean Andrews and Alex Kingston, seemingly having a whale of time being stuck in the 1980s. Yet, the show knocked them down to earth in double quick time this week, by introducing the potential of a tumour for the daughter. The tone for this more sombre episode was soon set.

Again, the show couldn’t lose its ability to hit you twice with the same thing. When Nisha found Alice’s scrawlings hiding away, for instance, it was necessary for her to read them out, too. Marchlands really can trust us a little more than it seems willing to do.

However, some of the criticisms of last week have tempered. Inevitably, the episode was a little less packed, for starters, but that’s the benefit of having the first instalment out of the way. Secondly, the signifying music, which was giving everything away this time last week, had been helpfully pared down. I, for one, appreciated that an awful lot.

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And Marchlands started building, too. In 1968, Ruth and Paul are attempting to thaw the ice of their relationship, with some help from the local vicar. He gives some pointed thoughts, namely that they need to get themselves back to the duty of marriage before they can consider more children. We also learn the role of Ruth’s father, Robert, in the death of Alice, the little girl that’s at the heart of the show’s ghost story.

Ultimately, the pair of them do get to end up in bed together, but whether that leads to more children is unclear at this stage. I’d guess not.

Back to Alice, though, for she has a part to play in the aforementioned tumour, too. Because, as Helen and Eddie (Kingston and Andrews) discover, their daughter doesn’t have anything physically wrong with her. Instead, it’s all in her head. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, in the modern day, in the least developed relationship of the week, Nisha and Mark fall foul of the golden rule of any ghost-related drama: old ladies are to be avoided at all costs. So, when Mark hires a Nora Batty-a-like to come in and help in the house and give Nisha some company, it doesn’t take long to work out that things might go a little odd. And when she’s later revealed to be Ruth, that suspicion is absolutely confirmed.

From that point on, things really do go odd, as Marchlands begins to ramp up the ghost story elements a little further, relatively effectively too. Granted, it relies on a few old horror clichés – the bath, mirrors, and empty swings – but they string together quite well. And the central concept of the young girl permeating the lives of three families is strong enough glue to hold it all together.

Sadly, it does damage a really quite intriguing episode with a terrible final moment, a payoff that might need to happen, but has been so clumsily executed, it debases the whole build up to it.

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Given how solidly the show had been playing with proverbial cloaks and mirrors up until this point, it’s a real disappointment that, when it came to (literally) play its hand, it did it in a manner that wouldn’t look out of place in a Scary Movie sequel.

Still, there’s still quite a lot to like here, and hopefully, Marchlands can build on the predominantly good work it did in episode two. There’s a sense of two steps forward, one step back about the episode. But there’s still more than enough worth tuning in for next week.

Read our review of the series opener here.

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