Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Last week’s thoroughly decent episode of Marchlands ended with an utterly unconvincing jump moment, but still moved the show cautiously forward. It lost the desire to over explain, and instead, focused on an intriguing, interlinked ghost story.
This week, each of the three couples have children very much on the mind. For Ruth and Paul have to come to terms with the fact that they’re going to struggle to conceive. Helen and Eddie, meanwhile, are having problems with the kids that they’ve got. While Nisha and Mark? Well, their daughter arrives, and trouble soon follows.
Let’s do them in order, then. Having the toughest time this week were Ruth and Paul, facing the fact that Paul’s the reason they’re having trouble conceiving. Set against an era where much remained repressed, this was handled nicely, and both Jodie Whittaker and Jamie Thomas King put in fine performances here.
It’s a catalyst for tensions bubbling up between the two over who blames who for the death of their daughter, Alice, and the ensuing row sends Ruth into the arms of another man. Only the appearance of Alice’s chain prevents things going further, and potentially throwing an extra twist into the fertility story. At least for now.
In the 80s, it’s the change in Eddie Maynard that’s the main evolution of the story here. Concerned by the interest of social services in his children, he begins to suspect that his daughter, Amy, is telling the truth about the ghostly figure she’s been sensing. Helen, his wife, doesn’t buy it, which potentially puts an obstacle between their relationship. But thrown into the mix, too, is their son, Scott. We’ve not seen much of him thus far, but he too, by the end of the episode, is dragged in. We’ll come to that, later.
Meanwhile, Nisha goes into labour, and present-day Ruth is there at hand at the key moment. Mark arrives in time, the baby is born, and the couple name the baby – could you see this coming? – Alice! What can possibly go wrong there?
In fact, this episode of Marchlands happily raids the spooky story store cupboard for some of its moments. There’s a bathroom with running taps! A music box! Creepy mirrors with letters written on them! Strange noises from the pipes! And a slightly more prominent role for the incidental music which, sadly, continues to do Marchlands few favours.
The cumulative effect of the rest of the work, though, is still positive. The passing of props between the different generations of the story might be a little obvious, but it’s an effective shorthand, and the evolution of the thinking of Eddie may yet be pivotal.
Certainly Amy is talking even more accurately about Alice, and the shot we see of them together is a million times more effective than the cheap hand trick of last episode. Even better, the scene with Scott and Amy in the same shot at the end of the episode was very effective, and really quite creepy.
We’re over the half-way point now, and Marchlands really does have a handle on the Alice appearances now.
It’s still not doing much with Alice herself, mind. And we’re no closer to the exact circumstances of her demise. Who was to blame? And why is Alice haunting everyone? That’s for future episodes.
For now, there’s another element thrown into the mix, and that’s with the comparably undercooked modern day story. For Nisha is discovering more of Mark’s past, specifically with Olive, and Mark is simply struggling to keep himself afloat. The show’s given itself a few more threads right there.
A solid episode, in all, of a perfectly functional spooky drama that’s gradually working out how to spook a little bit better. It’s not over ambitious, granted, but it’s perfectly effective.
Read our review of episode 2 here.
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