This review contains spoilers.
We start the final episode of Requiem with one final flashback: little Carys Morgan is being driven away from the bad people who want to hurt her, to start a new life with the woman whom she comes to think of as her mother. It’s the confirmation we’ve been expecting: driven, selfish cellist Matilda Gray is Carys, all grown up. Finally it seems we’re going to get the answers we’ve all been waiting for.
But after a strong start in which events moved along quickly to manoeuvre the key players to the right conclusions, the resolution of Requiem seemed to lose its way. Perhaps it was asking too much for so many elements to be tied together successfully; in the end, what we got was a drama that lacked a much-needed emotional conclusion, and a thriller that didn’t quite deliver on the climactic scares it promised. I came away feeling that a number of opportunities, so carefully put in place, had been missed, and the biggest one was the establishment of a real evil.
Horror is all about how dark things can get. How dark did Requiem really dare to go? Was anybody revealed to be a very frightening person, with a soul as black as night? The main baddies, who comprised a cult that aimed to finish the act of summoning a powerful spirit they described as an archangel, either turned out to have benign motivations, or weak ones. For instance, Stephen Kendrick (Brendan Coyle) was revealed to be making an attempt to help his son, and poor lacklustre Nick (James Frecheville) really didn’t want to be there in the first place. They were an unimpressive bunch of minions.
The real problem lay with the enigmatic Sylvia Walsh (Tara Fitzgerald) who led the way in the summoning. There had been a few scenes with her earlier on, but none of these really explained why she had decided to become a devotee of Jonathan Dee and what she was hoping for by summoning a powerful force without any means of controlling it. A bit more of Sylvia early on might have gone a long way to solving these problems; as it was, I felt uninterested in her squabbling with the other members of her cult during the key scene, and didn’t really care about their comeuppance.
Hal the accompanist (Joel Fry), after a great episode last week, was also wasted. He turned up naked, eating a dead sheep (so who was killing all the earlier sheep?), and somehow knew that it was too late to aid Matilda so therefore did nothing at all. This was far from the only element that went unexplained, but it might be the one that irks me the most; Hal finding the backbone to act in episode five was a great moment, and I wanted to see him dive into action in the final sequences – he didn’t necessarily need to be successful, but setting him in action and then putting him in real peril would have been a great way to maintain tension.
So this final episode was a disappointment in lots of ways, but there were some strong elements that have been present throughout the series, and first and foremost for me has been the characterisation of Matilda. All her choices, her growing selfishness and driven desire to find out the truth, culminated in her decision to confront the cult and then come face to face with the powerful spirit that had, apparently, been waiting within her all along. I really enjoyed Lydia Wilson’s performance throughout, and the best moments of the series focused in on her experiencing heightened emotions as spooky stuff happened.
For spooky stuff did happen, and it was of the classic kind: an old house, a shower scene, a spirit guide channelling a deep voice, a car crash, wandering about in the woods, a dank basement, and a cave system all played their part, along with wonderful use of sound to build tension. There’s nothing new in these scares, but I found them deeply enjoyable for that reason. Requiem was determined to retread old ground in the horror department, and do it well, from the weird credits onwards.
If only it had managed to find a more considered, rewarding resolution. As it stands, it leaves many stones unturned, and one could argue that there’s room for a second series – and yet, if there was, I’m not sure how many people would feel the urge to watch it. It’s difficult not to feel cheated by the lack of real bite in the finale. From weak villains to unexplained events, and not delivering on the need for a climactic confrontation, the lasting impression is not one of the thrills and chills it did so well at times, but of the way it petered out. For all its good performances and scary happenings, the fault lies perhaps in the writing, which couldn’t bring the plot elements together within the time it had left.
Never mind – I’ll try to keep my mind on those set pieces. It has put me in the mood to rewatch some old British horror films which make the most of their scary houses and dark woods. We can say that, at least, Requiem managed that – to remind us all of how great classic horror on screen can be. Even if it didn’t quite get there itself.
Read Aliya’s review of the previous episode here.