The Essex Serpent Episodes 1 & 2: Review, Recap and Ending Explained
The Essex Serpent (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2 Review, Recap & Ending Explained: Apple TV+ is bringing their A-game these days, taking the fight to all other bigwigs of the online streaming services. With hits like ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘CODA,’ one could say that they are not far behind. And if the words from my colleagues are something to go by, then they have already delivered two winners in the form of ‘Severance’ and ‘Pachinko’ this year already, at the very least.
So, an adaptation of a successful gothic mystery novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry, as Apple TV plus’s latest offering, is bound to be a source of intrigue. The production, which was to begin by late 2020, was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the departure of Keira Knightley due to familial reasons. Her shoes were filled by Claire Danes, and Tom Hiddleston joined the cast couple of weeks later. The show finally hit the streaming service in the second week of May this year, with the first two episodes being released this Friday.
The Essex Serpent Episodes 1 & 2 Recap:
In this set-in-Victorian-era story, Claire Danes star as Cora Seaborne, aptly named as she spent her early years at the coasts. She is currently living in London with her young son Frank, a companion named Martha (Hayley Squires), and an extremely ill husband. The show does not take much prodding to make Cora ‘free’ of marital shackles. Widowed, she takes a commanding control of her life, control that eluded her most of her life.
She decides to take off to Essex, where a rumor has started to circulate about a mysterious serpentine water beast (The newspaper called it Sea Dragon), correlating that with a girl being missing. As a naturalist by passion but never allowed to pursue it, Cora is heavily intrigued by the rumor. Her hope and enthusiasm for finding a creature, which has escaped natural evolution, are not shared by her son or Martha. Nor by a young and promising surgeon, Luke Garrett (Frank Dillane), whom Cora has started to see after her husband’s death.
Undaunted by her doubts, Cora, along with Frank and Martha, reaches Essex. The vista change from Victorian London filled with meticulous detailing of that time to that of obscured marshy meadows immediately changes the show’s tone. This is where Cora meets Will Ransome (Hiddleston), the vicar of the local church. Cora and Will do not immediately get along but gradually develop a friendship. There are enough seeds planted for both possibilities of this friendship turning sour or becoming more than a friendship. Either way, this could mean trouble for both Will and Cora, along with Stella Ransome (Clemence Poesy), Will’s wife.
The two episodes focus on Cora probing the locals about the beast, referred to as ‘The Serpent’. This raises the eyebrows of many. Cora’s academic interest in the beast clashes with the locals’ belief of the Serpent being something of a devil, plunged into the waters of Essex to take the ‘Sinful’ away. The continued lack of return of the missing girl raises the tension in the locality. The show does well to subtly provide some premonitions of Cora’s possible conflict with the locals. Although sympathetic to Cora’s cause, Will does not believe in the existence of any serpent-like creature and tries to protect the sanity and sanctity of his parish. The first episode ends with the locals, along with Cora, finding the dead body of the missing girl.
In the second episode, what at first seemed to be a sub-plot, also starts to take quite a lot of screen-time. It is the parallel story of Luke, with his colleague and friend, Spencer (Jamael Westman), trying to do a successful open-heart surgery at a time when the London medical society was not quite open to the idea of it. Pun intended. Martha, coming back to London for a couple of errands, accompanies Luke and Spencer. She witnesses the first successful open-heart surgery, operated by Luke. Martha, a socialist, empathizes with the patient’s family, an Indian family living on the bare minimum at a shady slum-like colony in London.
The episode ends with Cora trying to organize a science class (paleontology, to be precise, with her fossils) with the local children. This class includes Naomi ( Lily-Rose Aslandogdu), sister of the at-first-missing-but-now-dead girl. During the chaos brought by the topic of the Serpent, a jar of liquid smashes, and all the children point toward Naomi, saying that she did that. Disturbed by the rising accusations, Naomi gets into a fit, and the children drop on the floor one by one. Whether they died or fainted, that is for the next episode.