Well we’re over halfway now and now, as you could probably guess from the title, things are being revealed and are getting more interesting. I’m just going to say right now that there may be unintentional spoilers here so if you don’t want spoilers, read my last three reviews. Or watch the last three episodes of The Crimson Field. Or better yet, do both!
So, once again, we must wander down that well-trodden road where benignity seems to reside perpetually that is the obligatory episode summary.
The episode opens with the funeral of several British soldiers, with nurses and soldiers attending the service. It is here we meet a group of Liverpudlians who are part of a Pals Battalion. They all come from the same street and, unlike many others, have survived with only scratches and trench fever to show for it. Styling themselves as the “Lucky 13”, their belief that they’ll be alright if they stick together is infectious (no pun intended for a hospital drama), especially with fellow Liverpudlian Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones). However, these soldiers luckiness is soon to be put to the test, for themselves and for Livesey.
Not only this, but the past of Volunteer Nurse Kathryn Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin) is coming back to haunt her. In the midst of her relationship with the innovative surgeon Captain Thomas Gillan (Richard Rankin) is finally developing beyond mere flirtation, Trevelyan receives a letter which could put her back in contact with her daughter; she is allowed leave to meet the man who can help her finally… or is it all just a bit too perfect? Also a familiar face returns to the hospital from the front, making tensions rise and bodies flail.
Well that must be the longest I’ve spent explaining an episode. I spent two paragraphs on explaining and I didn’t drop any spoilers for people who have been keeping up with the series as you should have been.
The “Lucky 13”, with the main focus being on Private Wilfred ‘Dad’ Tyrell (Lee Ingleby), Private Raymond ‘Peacock’ Deeley (David Warmsley) and Private Charlie ‘Baby’ Dawlish (Dan Parr) surprised me. The direction it took is predictable as, and this is no spoiler before you start saying it is, Livesey discovers that ‘Dad’ has poor lungs and would never have gotten to the front had he not pushed a half crown across the recruitment desk. Despite desperate pleas to remain with his lads, he is rejected and dejectedly returns to his lads to tell them he failed the medical with much anguish, particularly ‘Peacock’.
Ingleby and Warmsley are brilliant in showing the desperation of those in the Pals Battalions wishes to stick together and live through the war together. While the notion of being “lucky” may seem a bit contrived, it is a really good tool to show how men from the same street, jobs, football clubs, etc., joined up together to fight for King and Country. While the idea that men would fight better with people that they grew up together with was haphazard, Ingleby and Warmsley really do show how Pals joined up together, served together and, in the case of many, would die together. Although we don’t see any of the Pals die, we know this to be a sad, but true fact.
So to avoid spoiling the rest of this storyline, I’ll move on quickly so you’ll have to watch the episode what happens to ‘Dad’. Aren’t I devious?
Charlie ‘Baby’ Dawlish is the subject of two storylines, a sweet one where he continually tries to pluck up the courage to talk about his feelings to Flora Marshall (Alice St Clair) whose character seems to be so watchable and, dare I say it, loveable despite her lack of screen time which is a credit to St Clair for what could have otherwise been a bland and ludicrous character. St Clair also completely dominates the closing scenes of the episode, waving off the troops bound for the front with positive words, but with a face that seems knowledgeable of their impending doom, which is great development of the character and great acting by St Clair. However, Dawlish’s other storyline is somewhat darker, showing to the extents to which he’ll help his Pals.
Without wanting to spoil any more than I’ve inferred, I’ll just say that he carries it off with aplomb. After only seeing him bumbling in conversation with Marshall, Dawlish becomes much more assertive as, when push comes to shove, he will use any information to get what he sees to be necessary, even it means damaging another person’s reputation with massive ramifications for the person concerned.
Now the final storyline here is that of a familiar face returning to the field hospital. I shamefully did give this character proper detail, wishing to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve not seen episode one and you’re reading this review for episode four then it’s entirely your fault. Lance Corporal Lawrence Prentiss (Karl Davis) returns to the field hospital much worse than his last time there, now completely unable to control his spasms unless under sedation and no longer able to be soothed by the sound of music as he had been able to previously.
Lt Col Roland Brett (Kevin Doyle) is furious at this as, countermanding his superior, he ordered that Prentiss be sent home, telling Quayle (Kerry Fox) to give Prentiss his Blighty ticket to get home before he is sent back to the front. But Quayle doesn’t do it. She keeps the ticket. And now she’s been caught. And, though an excuse that’s so poor it should have had its own Live Aid, she gets away with it. But now the tensions between Brett, Carter (Hermione Norris) and Quayle begin to rise and Carter and Norris coming as near to blows as their characters allow.
Fox and Norris are the highlight of this storyline with past bitterness coming to the surface with such conviction that one feels that their apparent loathing for one another was almost real. Fox, an actress I have not given enough credit in my reviews so far, plays the antagonist so well. Fox does her villainy in small ways that build up over time into much greater acts that leave you loathing her character, but loving her acting and her screen time with Norris is sublime to watch, with all her remorse and jealousy finally taking the form of words against her past protégé.
I shall leave you here with that review with just this last thought as; although the storyline
I most want to talk about, it is also the one I least want to spoil. Suffice it to say that Oona Chaplin’s acting is magnificent; being so confrontational, uplifting and heart-breaking that it leaves you with greater respect for her character as well as her acting abilities. Also, another actor I have yet to comment on properly, Alex Wyndham
Portraying Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne, a supporting surgeon who has been trying to get on Trevelyan’s good side since her arrival at the hospital, Hesketh-Thorne plays the nonchalant and whimsical surgeon with effortless grace, as he has done with the previous episodes. Yet the new string to his bow is that he has now come to the fore, with great effect, as not only the jovial sidekick but a loyal and protective friend. And I shall say no more and let you watch the episode to find out what I exactly mean.
Thank you for reading my preposterously long review and I hope you’ve been enjoying them as much as I’ve enjoyed watching and writing about this series. Please like, comment and share and, if you feel brave enough, follow my blog to get regular articles from your Chronic Chronicler!
P.S: Just a quick comment on Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham). I know she has the ability to act, and I understand her now being under Quayle’s wing, but she really needs to get some decent screen time soon as she is fast becoming a near superfluous character in comparison to Chaplin and St Clair.