‘Marchlands’: Episode 2 review

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Having established the format in last week’s episode, the switching between the three families and the house they all inhabit in the varying eras (60s, 80s and present day) remains stylishly executed. There are some beautiful transitions and edits, but the art of the camerawork is rather subsumed by the lack of interest from the story.

We already know that a child from the titular house has died in mysterious circumstances and Episode 2 sees the origins of her death explored. The deceased’s mother, played by Jodie Whittaker (Venus), can’t quite come to terms with the situation, causing friction with her own family. Not helping matters for her is a curious intervention from the local priest who demands that she conceives again, as it is God’s will.

Fast-forward to the eighties where another family, headed by Alex Kingston (Doctor Who) and Dean Andrews (Ashes To Ashes), are dealing with a daughter who has unidentified mental issues (could be psychological, could be physical). The girl also claims to see dead people. Sound familiar?

Yup, there’s really very little that’s original about Marchlands, seemingly feeding/stealing off countless stock ghost stories, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if only Stephen Greenhorn’s script did something new with such familiar tropes. A drinking game could be made out of the traditional “scares”, such as creaking doors and floorboards, noises in empty houses and endless shots of an empty child’s swing. Drink would certainly help dull the pain of the tedious clichés.

Blame, for some part, also goes to the cast who seem as uninterested as the audience will be by now. Andrews, Whittaker and Kingston are all capable of much more engaging and life-filled performances than these monotone and predictably tame characters witnessed on screen.

If you make it through the opening half hour, however, you will be rewarded.

The 2010 couple, Mark and Nisha, do manage to conjure up intrigue as we learn that the former has a past in the village. This moves the plot on greatly as we are now presented with flashbacks to Mark, played by Elliot Cowan (Lost In Austen), in his youth. As past relationships emerge and secrets begin to unfold, could his past could have a major part to play in his future?

Following her accident in the previous episode, pregnant Nisha (played by the ever-likeable Shelley Conn), is stuck at home and in the need of some home help – enter television goddess Anne Reid (Upstairs Downstairs). The final five minutes or so demonstrates how Marchlands should operate, concentrating on mystery and proper chills, as opposed to dreary conversations in drab rooms.

Whether or not the audience will have stuck around until the end will remain to be seen, but the finale to Episode 2 is of genuine worth, with a final scare hinting that Marchlands may be about to finally up a gear.

Airs at 9pm on Thursday 10th February 2011 on ITV1.

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