Marchlands episode 4 review

For a penultimate episode, the ghost count is kept quite low in the latest Marchlands. Here’s our review…

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Last week, we concluded that Marchlands was a show that was settled, slowly cranking through the gears, and confidently moving its pieces into place. And with this being the penultimate episode, we were looking for some kind of payoff to it all to start creeping in.

But that’s not what really happened.

In fact, what the episode actually did was to pare down the ghost story backdrop a little, and to focus on the relationship dramas that have been bubbling up. This is frustrating, in a way, as we’re still no closer to finding out what really happened to Alice, and what’s driving her to haunt everyone. But still, her influence is driving a wedge between every couple in the show, and that’s what we got to explore.

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Paul and Ruth, inevitably, are at the core of it. When we saw Ruth last week, she was in the arms of another man. Turns out, that man has been bragging, and thus everyone knows what’s happened now, at least to a point. Paul included, and he’s not happy. His father, though, ever the wise fellow, advises him to take Ruth and leave Marchlands, hinting at an undercurrent we’ve not yet seen in his mother. This was, to be honest, all a bit soap opera-y, but decent soap opera nonetheless.

In the 80s, meanwhile, Eddie Maynard is, by now, totally convinced that his daughter is telling the truth about Alice, even if nobody has noticed that his son, too, is starting to crack. Dean Andrews got to take centre stage to hold the 80s narrative together (and got the one big jump of the episode, when Alice suddenly appeared to brilliant effect), and as usual, he’s on good form. This time, he’s calling in a priest, much to the eventual dismay of his wife, Helen. And it’s their row that sends daughter Amy scurrying out of the house, seemingly at Alice’s behest.

Yet, the bulk of the story progression this week, and the big revelation, took place in the modern day.

New mum Nisha is struggling, not helped by hearing a music box play its tune through the baby monitor, only to discover that it’s not open when she gets to new Alice’s room. She’s also increasingly suspicious of Mark, with the couple seemingly growing ever-more-distant. And, just as in the 60s story, there’s a suspicion of an ongoing affair, in this case, between Mark and Olive.

However, it turns out that said affair took place 20 years earlier, and resulted in a child, one that lived for just over a day. This was delicately handled with real skill, and brought to the fore the character of Olive, who started off milling around in the background, but has come to be more and more pivotal. And lots of credit must go to Elizabeth Rider, whose turn as the modern-day Olive was just terrific. It seemed fitting, too, that she got to save Amy at the end, especially as we were teased it would be Alice. Unless Olive is Alice. That would be a twist and a half.

Come the close of the episode, no character is really in a particularly good place, although there’s no massive tease, as such, to lead us towards next week’s finale. And Marchlands appears to have left itself with a bit of work to do, here.

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Will Nisha and Mark stick it out, and what are the ramifications of Mark regarding the discovery of the son he never knew? Will Ruth and Paul do a runner? What exactly will hold Eddie and Helen together? And where will all this leave Amy?

I’m intrigued enough about the answers to these questions to find out more, and thus tune in for the finale. But I’m still surprised they went quite low-key here. It was a good episode, but the pressure is on now to come up without a genuinely satisfying ending.

Read our review of episode 3 here.

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