critic biting his tail on Apple TV+

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Just freed from the infernal shackles of an abusive marriage, Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes) decides to reclaim her life and, once rumors of a mysterious sea creature reach her, she heads to Essex to investigate the exact nature of the reptile accompanying her. by her son and her servant Martha (Hayley Squires). On site, the young palaeontology enthusiast discovers with amazement largely marked by apothetic aesthetics benefiting the series, the melancholy and picturesque beauty of the village of Alwinter, where she meets the Reverend William Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) and his wife Stella (Clémence Poésy).

A touching encounter for this man of faith whose sudden desire stands in stark contrast to his religious morals. But don’t let the poor fellow throw stones at himself, because the young woman clearly arouses an attraction that… no one seems to be able to survive† From the lovable Martha to the Reverend, past the lost surgeon Luke Garett (Frank Dillane), Cora’s entourage seems, for no particular reason, to be caught up in her decidedly unrelenting charm.

Let it go

The interpersonal relationships shared by each of the characters therefore seem to be the real driving force behind The Essex Serpentwhich, despite a rhythm for the less effective, ultimately lacks a strong enough plot to support the story. At the same time gothic mystery, social-realistic drama, pseudo-feminist testament and melodrama, The Essex Serpent struggles to establish an identity of its own. Far too many narrative frames are thus involved and then abandoned without any consideration other than not to overshadow the unfolding, however uncertain, of a shaky alchemy between the leading duo.

The viewer will therefore undoubtedly have some difficulty in understanding the ins and outs of the unstoppable desire that the characters feel for each other, without too much introduction. Actors of an organic tension made from scratch by their artists respectively (firm, but tasteless) and without real script supportWill and Cora thus develop a physical attraction to each other that makes it difficult to invest his audience, or even raise the slightest issue.

The Essex Serpent: Photo Tom Hiddlestonerotic surrogate

Science, baby!

In the background of this awkward romance, The Essex Serpent does not respond effortlessly to a conflict that opposes the religious faith embodied by Will, against the rationality represented by Cora. A dichotomy initially found in the characters, but also in the parallel montage used throughout the series, which shows both a narrative and a visual dualityand multiplies the flashbacks, leaps forward and other temporal simultaneities between London and Alwinter.

However, the ideological dispute between the two main characters will feed less of a debate than an exchange† While Cora tries to understand the exact nature of the snake, and likes to imagine it could be a “living fossil” that has escaped evolution, the pastor prefers to see it as a manifestation of relative fears about the inevitable changes of the snake. time. † Radically different views that, however, prompt them to learn from each other.

The Essex Serpent: Photo Tom Hiddleston, Claire DanesTalking about the meaning of life in the early morning

If Cora and Will get along reasonably quickly, the latter’s arrival in the small town of Alwinter is at the heart of it. a deep and irreconcilable disagreement between the character and mores of the village. While Will somehow tries to tame the growing fear of his parishioners, Claire Danes’ character tries to open their narrow minds to other considerations, offering to pass on his scientific knowledge at the village school.

The latter, however, will be overtaken by the weight of inexhaustible superstitions, so entrenched in the collective unconscious that they envelop the bodies and create a sudden general frenzy† Discernment clouded by a religious extremism and a blind conservatismAlwinter’s villagers then refuse to listen to reason, convinced that the mythical serpent has returned to the county to be better indulged in their sins.

The Serpent of Essex : Photo Clémence PoésySweeter than this character, you die

Elevator Square

Giving in to paranoia, the inhabitants of Alwinter grab wood, torches and nets to build dams and barricades, as so many physical manifestations of their inner reluctance to view the beast (and by extension, the unknown) as something else. incarnation of the demon† The hysteria reaches its peak when another corpse is discovered near the swamp. A frenzied fever rages as Clio Barnard’s cinematographic apparatus, through editing and convulsive staging, imagines the pains of a mass neurosis, briefly appeased by the bloodstream of a sacrificial goat.

Simultaneously sea creature, divine punishment and ubiquitous entity, the beast terrifies children, invades pews and appears to prowl dangerously beneath the surface of Essex’s misty waters. However, the snake seems to respond less to an abstract physicality than to a symbol, of a huge metaphor modeling everything inevitable in life into one image: regret, sadness, grief, and fear.

The Essex Serpent: Photo Tom Hiddleston“Exile to the countryside, they said. It will be soothing, they said.’

Mirror on which the characters project their own wounds becomes the snake the reflection of an elusive human conditionand casually implies that, despite the industrial revolution and the incredible progress made by man, the latter is chiefly part of nature and a fortiori remains imperfect.

So, under the awkwardly romantic outbursts of the two protagonists and the various subplots that were unscrupulously dismissed from the main story, The Essex Serpent can be considered as a ghost story† Spirits created from scratch, not through lack of belief or knowledge, but through fears and doubts that take advantage of the murky waters of the unknown to better penetrate their hearts and minds.

After launching with two episodes on May 13, 2022, The Essex Serpent will unveil a new episode every Friday on Apple TV+

The Essex Serpent: Poster (2)

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