After last week’s uneasy agreement between the brothers, we saw Johnny (Hans Matheson) assuming his responsibilities, taking keys and ruffling feathers, even before the credits rolled.
There was scant time to enjoy his elevated status though, as the spectre of Red Killeen’s death threatened to overwhelm events. His body, buried below the grave of the explosion victims, was supposed to be in a perfect hiding place but was now set to be exposed by plans to quarry local stone.
Concealing her panic and fearing for her son, Killeen’s accidental killer, Annie Quaintain held her composure though the exhumation. She did not come under direct suspicion, but the shadow of doubt was cast on her boarding house when the body was discovered provided a delicious standoff between two of the show’s stars; Jessica Raine, desperate yet defiant as Annie, and Clarke Peters’ morally dubious Coates playing the honest cop with an agenda… plus Samuel Bottomley who convinces as the ticking time bomb of guilt, young George.
Amid the investigation a trio of smaller stories contributed to the rising tensions. One saw wide-eyed manservant Easter (Elliot Barnes-Worrell) financially rewarded for his efforts in the grim task of exhumation and encouraged to sample the town’s more lurid distractions by Coates, who views his work at the Blackwood house as slavery.
The second had pushy barmaid Alma charmed into a tryst with a promise. Of course, the cad did not arrive to elope and she cut a forlorn figure waiting amid the picturesque Yorkshire scenery. Although Alma has primarily been a figure of fun, Nataile Garvin brought real depth to these scenes and we genuinely felt for her as she realised she had been duped.
Thirdly, there were ramifications for the Blackwoods as the truth of Johnny’s affair with his brother’s fiancée, now sister-in-law, came to Charles’ ears from the loose lips of maid Epiphany. Also a buffoonish figure at times, Daniel Rigby impressively showed a dispassionate, colder side to Charles; after his thrill at the promise of a full relationship was dashed by the revelation, he dealt bluntly with her and chose to have his brother hunted down.
Although the terrain has been slow going at times, at least the stage is now set for an almighty face-off between the two brothers as the longer running plots begin to pan out.
Annie has a tendency to state the bleeding obvious at times, but will Johnny survive the accusations without access to her wise counsel? And can he be honest about his reasons for running, as it was not just to protect young George as he would have her believe?
The other iron in the fire is Coates’ involvement in Red Killeen’s actions at the start. Despite being bribed away, we hope to see Mark Addy’s bombastic Inspector Bamford return somewhere in the final two episodes.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 11 February 2016 on ITV.
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