This review contains spoilers.
1.6 Lost And Found
So many potential plot directions had been set up for the finale of The Frankenstein Chronicles. The mysteries of missing children, stitched corpses, suspicious surgeons and untrustworthy politicians had stretched so coiled-tendon tense that the final snap promised an electrified punch. That the hit didn’t really ever come, leaving us flinching and “…huh?” was confusing, unfulfilling… and ballsy as hell.
This is how ITV mystery-thrillers are supposed to go – weird murder/murders, good casting, red herring, red herring, red herring, wrong person framed, good guy turns out to be bad guy, showdown in last ten minutes, hero wins/dies, credits roll, audience satisfied: can move on with lives. Lost And Found didn’t get the memo – instead, blowing its Big Bad reveal early on, jettisoning the tension, then just kinda… following the protagonist around until the credits. And it was fantastic.
Just think of all that potential denied. We’d been teased (and teased, and teased) with reanimated creatures galvanised into life to be revealed at last – maybe they’d descend on John Marlott, Joseph Nightingale, and Flora No-Last-Name-That’s-Not-a-Good-Sign in a bloody showdown by the Hackney marshes? Nope, no zombie hoard this week. Mary Shelley, scarpering out of London sharpish after being dragged half to death in the tabloids, showed a flicker of excitement when hearing reanimation was possible and totally happening in the capital in last week’s ep. That was promising – would she enter the melee with a flintlock to help our heroes here at the end? No. Sir William Garnet, heavily hinted as the villain of the series – he’d saunter in and explain his evil plot to Marlott at gun point, sic Billy the Childsnatcher on him, rig something to blow, right? He didn’t show up at all. All those things could have happened, but who would have predicted how we would actually spend the episode while the time ticked down?
There was some satiation of expectations, sure. Marlott died, as Sean Bean characters do – Sean Bean performances being just too darn good for this cruel world we live in. And the reanimation element was never going to be wasted, not when there’s an opportunity to bring him back; we knew that. Apparent good guy Sir Daniel Hervey had his heel-turn (genre rules dictating that should happen in the last ten minutes, but it came closer to the first. Also, while we’re on this point, Nightingale should have been seemingly mortally wounded, Marlott should have struggled with Hervey for a knife, win, rescue Nightingale – you get it). Herv even slapped an underling like a bad guy should, giving Marlott some nefarious side-eye while he was at it. That’s what you’d want and expect. But that was it in terms of giving the audience what we’ve been given over and over again and ready ourselves for as a result – nothing else was sacred, even the sanctity of Marlott’s dead pig race evidence was ripped away. The dead pig floated to Greenwich, but guess what – the super-villain headquarters wasn’t in Greenwich at all. It was opposite Greenwich. Can we ever trust a dead pig race again?
Instead of big final fights and revelations, the episode bravely went with just…yeah, showing Marlott’s afterlife unfold in an unhurried way – Brother Hervey calling him ‘his Adam’, trying to feed him, showing him some kindness. Sister Hervey being given a roped n’ stitched undead Sean Bean as a wedding gift (better than a toaster – also, this ticks off the ‘at least one completely nuts element per instalment’ requirement that I assume the production/writing team set for themselves during the creation process), with the suggestion they’d carry on a relationship in secret. Then a closing montage set to Gothy organ music of Marlott escaping the Hervey compound, and walking out and away from where we can watch him.
I still can’t figure out whether the ending was a squib that didn’t go off, or a shot at something deeper than series like this are usually allowed to aim for. Or if it was even intended as a clever/cruel bait-switch for the viewers – I like that idea the best, but the actual intention doesn’t matter. The finale was surprising, and weird, and the cast was great throughout. How many other shows could have made disappointment so satisfying?
Read Phoebe-Jane’s review of the previous episode, The Frankenstein Murders, here.