Well it’s the penultimate episode so it’s pretty damn obvious that things are going to happen for our main protagonists that’ll happen for the next episode, but this episode ranks as good, if not a little bit better than the last episode.
So here we go with the obligatory overview. The commander of a Sikh regiment, Major Jocelyn Ballard (Peter Sullivan), arrives at the hospital and it soon transpires that he would rather be with his men than at rest within the calm sanctuary of the wards. It is only when Matron Grace Carter (Hermione Norris) reveals her knowledge of the Punjabi language, does the Major appear to calm. Yet there is more to both stories than merely the Punjabi language, with unanswered questions and a lingering soldier, Private Gorman (Jason Maza), making the situation more complicated and dangerous.
While all this is happening, Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones) is still waiting for her letter to her German husband to come back from the German lines, but her contact Jaco Tillens (Daniel Betts) appears to be in trouble, with events leading to much direr consequences. Also Flora Marshall (Alice St. Clair) decides to rouse the men’s spirits (as well as celebrate the volunteer nurses’ three months of being at the hospital) by organising some entertainment. But as the pressure mounts, Flora becomes more anxious of ruining the show.
To be fair, though Marshall remains adorable and naïve as ever, though there are hints that she can be manipulative when she needs to be, her plotline isn’t as interesting as the rest of the episode so I won’t spend too much time on it. I will say however that props are deserved for finally making Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham), who we “discover” is the Right Honourable Rosalie Berwick from a parcel, is made a more likeable and three dimensional character rather than merely a miniature version of Sister Quayle (Kerry Fox) as well as having all three volunteer nurses sharing the most amount of screen time together since episode one.
Moving on, I’ll quickly go over what is going to be next episode’s drama, Sister Livesey’s story line. In Episode 3, Livesey treats French civilian Jaco’s apparently mute daughter Mathilde Tillens (Abigail Eames) and soon discovers a German book on Jaco’s person and that Mathilde is not mute, but a German speaker due to her now deceased mother being German. Assured that it’s just poetry and that he is not a spy, Jaco offers to get a letter sent to the German lines through some old contacts. Livesey gratefully obliges and this leads us up to this episode.
Still waiting for the letter to arrive, Livesey meets Jaco and Mathilde in the middle of the night to see what news there is on her husband. Jaco can only give his apologies, stating that it didn’t work and that they now must leave for friends in London as it is no longer safe in France. Leaving on good terms, Jaco is beaten by Frenchmen while trying to leave for London the next day. Mathilde, told to get Nurse Jones, can only get Nurse Kathryn Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin) and an orderly Corporal Peter Foley (Jack Gordon) to come and help her dad.
Beaten, but alive, Jaco mistakes Trevelyan for Livesey, telling her to go to the house tonight. Although Chaplin is horrified by the revelation that Livesey’s husband s German, saying she’ll be crucified if she’s caught, she lets her go. Livesey then motorbikes down to the house, searching for a letter, but she finds something more.
Suranne Jones once again puts in a solid performance and, while there was a little too much crying for my liking, it all flowed naturally with her storyline for the episode. Daniel Betts and Abigail Eames, whilst having little screen time, play their parts well, especially when one considers that one of them does not speak.
I would have liked Abigail to have said some German, or to have looked like she was crying after going to the hospital after knowing her dad was being beaten up, but then again she has meant to been silent for years due to the war so it may have been too far to hope for.
The storyline had conviction in what it was setting out to achieve and, while perhaps not the best storyline of the series so far, despite its quite interesting ending, has the potential to be much more for the final episode.
So now we come to the meat of this episode, Carter and Ballard’s storyline. I found it was decent of the writers to acknowledge that many Sikh’s fought for the British in the First World War, as many people from Britain’s colonies also fought for the British. The lack of screen time for any Sikh was a little bothersome, as a black soldier, although brain damaged, and his father, got some (if limited) screen time in the second episode. Then again, although the focus is on Ballard trying to get back to the front to lead his men as his subordinate cannot speak a single word of Punjabi, the crux of the storyline is not one of race, but aptly rather one of a medical matter.
Sullivan plays the one-eyed, irritable Major with a great deal of finesse. Finesse along with flipping tables when his orders aren’t respected and subtly keeping his bullets as well as his pistol from Carter’s clinical clutches. His screen time with Norris has an air of authenticity as, while a couple of words of Punjabi are spoken, you almost get the feeling that there is a much stronger connection between these two characters than other fleeting characters in this show have produced.
The conclusion of this storyline is brilliant, with chivalry, honour, and an unhealthy dose of stubbornness, taking precedent in a veritable shoot off against the linger sniper Private Gorman. It made for slightly uncomfortable watching and, without wishing to spoil, I was silently cheering on Ballard and being impressed at how well he performed against the near able-bodied soldier.
The background we get on Carter is also gratifying for the viewer, showing that she is not solely being nun-styled nurse, but also had a troubled childhood in India with her father and had something that was more “passing acquaintance”. But I shall say no more for fear of having to say spoilers in all my reviews forthwith. By showing that Carter, like everyone else on this show so far, has a past allows the viewers to further appreciate Norris’ acting as well as greater character development for an already strong character.
This episode while perhaps not the greatest as a whole, although the Carter/Ballard storyline was greatly interesting to watch, was still entertaining and leaves off for the final chapter of this series in great, if slightly predictable, style. This series may have had a slight up and down in quality, it has still produced good drama in even its weaker episodes and I am definitely looking forward to the finale, as I hope all my readers are.
Thank you again for reading my posts and I hope you enjoyed them. I’ll just have a few shout out before I go. Firstly, go and watch In the Flesh. The second series has just come out on BBC Three and it is brilliant. The first series is only three episodes long and I’m sure you can find it online somewhere so get watching for a slightly alternative take on that old favourite, zombies.
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