So I think we can all certainly say The Crimson Field is definitely getting a second series and if it doesn’t, well then it has ended light but ended with many questions left and many stories to tell.
Before we get into this, I’ll just say that this review will, I repeat WILL, have spoilers in. It’s the very last episode and if you are not caught up on the series by now then why are you reading a review of the last episode? That aside let’s get into this review!
Let’s start with Kathryn Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin) and Thomas Gillan’s (Richard Rankin) relationship story-arc. It finally happens. They kiss. Now don’t you feel bad about not watching the episodes before I told you that? Well you shouldn’t really as, for those who’ve been watching it; you’ll know that their relationship has not always been brilliant to watch. In fact at times it plays out more of the boring screen time compared to the other story lines going on.
Chaplin still acts with great conviction but I feel her acting reached its zenith in Episode 4 when Elliot Vincent (Samuel West), her about to be divorced husband and father of her daughter, fools Trevelyan into believing her daughter in with him in France, before going on to abuse her, and is only saved by Miles Hesketh-Thorne (Alex Wyndham). That scene cemented Trevelyan’s and Hesketh-Thorne characters as deeply troubled for the former and gallant charmer of the latter.
But after that, she has faded into the background and, while this is needed for the other characters stories to grow, it feels like a wasted opportunity. But what is more wasted is the relationship with Gillan.
You can tell how much I think of Gillan’s character due to his frequent mentions in my reviews. If you didn’t get it, that was sarcasm. Gillan’s only interesting storyline involved his innovative new treatment on a patient in order to save his leg, and how he squares off against Major Gerard Yelland (Nicholas Burns), a poncy, know-nothing surgeon who is dismissive of both Gillan’s “contraptions” and his working class roots, asking him to throw the first punch if he likes, and comes out as the awesome victor without a single blow being exchanged. That scene, although unmentioned in my Episode 3 review for good reasons, was still the only high point in his appearance in this series. Apart from that, he was about as interesting as toast under the ocean.
Now while hints of Trevelyan and Gillan’s relationship had been building, it had only really gone beyond mild flirtation in Episode 4, but then Gillan had become dismissive of her in Episode 5, only for them to get together in this episode. It all feels a bit rushed, only realistically taking up half the series and, while the possibility of conflict next series with Hesketh-Thorne seeing their kiss and looking dashed sad, it still appears to have been lacking for what could have been brilliance. But then again, there is always next series if there is one.
Now let’s move onto Volunteer number two, Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham). Berwick get lucky this episode with not one, but two small storylines to justify her part in this series. Firstly, after finding a new report on Trevelyan’s divorce in the paper sent to her from her sister, she acts high and mighty towards Trevelyan, due to the brow beating she gave her in the first episode on Berwick escaping her life when Trevelyan was doing the exact same thing.
But while this is going on Berwick has to deal with a patient, Private Greville Parry (Paul Hilton), who has clearly suffered from his time at the front wanders away from the hospital to go and get the men back who he claims he can still hear calling. It is while Berwick tries to retrieve Parry that, for some psychological reason I guess, Parry strips. Berwick finally has to confront her fear of the male body (or at least the lower extremities); finally becoming more of a nurse in the style of Livesey than the wet blanket she has been for most this series.
Probably because of this breakthrough she puts to rest her feud with Trevelyan, saying her sister probably sent it her to “shock” her, showing how she is no longer shocked by what she used to be shocked by before the war. It’s a nice bit of character development, although somewhat predictable again, that really needed to happen as otherwise she would have been written off as the most pointless nurse in the entire series.
Moving onto Flora Marshall who, on helping the wounded from a truck, discovers a soldier whose has been burnt by bacon fat when a shell goes off near him whose name is Private James ‘Jimmy’ Foley (Billy Cook) and, wondering on the off chance if he’s related to Orderly Corporal Peter Foley (Jack Gordon). Storming off he does what anyone would in that situation, mess with his feet while in bed and affectionately calling him names like “soppy bollocks” before getting own to the business of catching up.
While Jimmy is concerned why no-one talks about Peter anymore, most likely due to his homosexuality, Peter finds out that Jimmy’s injury is no accident and that he is doing it to get a free ticket home. Initially disgusted, with Marshall comforting Jimmy, Peter eventually makes it up to Jimmy in the only way that brothers can. That involving breaking his leg in such a way that he has to be sent home. Brotherly love right there.
I must admit seeing this side of a character seemingly only identified through his sexuality is a right move for the character that one hopes to see more of in the possible next series. Also the closing part of this story, with Marshall admitting she is eighteen, having to be twenty-three to join up, got her family to lie about her age after being in her room for two days. Although Peter knows this already, she reasons that now Peter knows her secret, he knows that she will keep his.
Marshall, though not as fully developed as I would have liked, has been a character I have enjoyed watching. Although naïve and childish at times, she has really grown up in the past six episodes. She sums it up best herself by saying: “Obviously, I’m completely spoiled, but I do always use it for good”.
This sort of sums her up as a young do-gooder and, although from a wealthy background and ditsy, she does try to do good for her better man. Even her reason for going out was why can’t there be a girl nurse if there are boy soldiers. This refers to the recruitment officers turning a blind eye to underage recruits in order to get more pay and more men for the army, with the youngest known soldier in the British Army, Sidney Lewis, being only twelve years old at the times of joining up, fighting in the Battle of the Somme and being awarded a Victory Medal. Yet for the youngest we must look further afield to the Serbian Army who had Momčilo Gavrić, an eight year old in their ranks. And he was even promoted to a Sergeant.
But now we get to the bit we’ve all been waiting for. Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones), her escaped lover Anton Erhlich (Stephan Luca), and her trail for aiding the enemy presided over by the standard blinkered military man Colonel Charles Purbright (Adam James). We get to see why Erhlich is on the German side, having to go to see his sick father in the weeks before the war and getting conscripted as a consequence. We see him give the ring to Livesey, saying that she should answer on his return, expecting a short trip rather than for war to break out. We see Livesey tried, while her former colleagues condemn her, with Marshall being particularly vocal about it much to Trevelyan’s shock, somehow making Marshall an oxymoron with her pretty much accepting Peter Foley’s homosexuality, a deviant form of sex as seen in those days, yet completely against Livesey seeing her German lover.
Then the news that Edith Cavell, a British nurse in Belgium who took care of Allied and German troops indiscriminately, citing that “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”, was tried and executed by German firing squad for assisting in the escape of some 200 Allied troops from German-occupied Belgium. With Cavell gone, the British Army now can use Cavell’s death as a precedent to have Livesey executed. She’s marched out to be taken away when, surprise surprise, Erhlich returns to save his lover. Then, refusing to spy for the British on Livesey’s say so, they are taken to their respective prisons, having one last kiss before their immediate incarceration.
Well what can I say about that? It was lovely, it made my most cynical heart feel a tinge of happiness when Erhlich rode up to Livesey to save her, and it was all so damn predictable. Not to say that it wasn’t lovely, it really was, but you could see where it was going in the same way you saw Barack Obama was just going to win the 2008 election or Conchita Wurst winning the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest for Austria. We all knew it would happen, but it was still a good feeling all the same.
But am I finished now? No, there is still one more story left to tell, and it’s quite important. While Livesey’s trial is going on the nurse of darkness, Sister Margaret Quayle (Kerry Fox), returns after a few weeks leave to think over whether she can follow Matron Grace Carter’s (Hermione Norris) leadership. She’s apparently now completely obedient to Carter… for all of three seconds when the equally conniving, black-marketeering quartermaster Reggie Soper (Jeremy Swift) keeps telling her that she should be Matron and she could get rid of the man who put Carter into the position of Matron, Lieutenant Colonel Roland Brett (Kevin Doyle).
How can she do this, well she’s kept the Blighty ticket Brett gave to Quayle to give to the shell-shocked Lance Corporal Prentiss in Episode 1 which was strictly against his superior’s orders. With this weapon she goes to the trial with Carter, who by now has found out her scheme, and… doesn’t use it. She redeems Brett’s reputation to Purbright and, the point of it all, has Carter over a barrel. While she saved Brett and Carter’s skins, she now has leverage and is back feeling all high and mighty once more. I haven’t said this enough, but kudos to Fox, and even Swift, for giving us two wholly hateable characters who I will look forward to hating in the possible future series to come.
But now it’s over. And what have we learned? Well we’ve learned that, although this is a war drama with nurses, there seems to be not a lot of actual nursing going on. While we’ll see nurses going about their business, and the occasional medical malady, the realities of nursing have been played down somewhat for drama, especially of the romantic kind.
But it’s still great fun to watch and makes poignant points in certain areas, although it would have been great if they got more attention paid to them, i.e.: black soldiers and actually having a Sikh soldier brought in as part of the wounded when their white commanding officer came in. But then again, maybe they are saving up for series two? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
But in the end it was a great watch, if a little predictable in where the plot was going and up and down in story arcs, but still a joy to write about. But also, and most importantly, it shed some light on perhaps a forgotten part on First World War history to the public. I hope you have enjoyed all six of my reviews (if you haven’t I urge to enjoy them all now in one go) and, if you like to see more reviews and views please follow my blog. I do much more than TV series review, as this is my first one. I do films, books and games as well so please have a look around and see what you fancy. But don’t forget to like, comment and share around!
Oh, hello there! This is just a little message from Future Chronic Chronicler to say that there will be no series two of The Crimson Field. Just to say sorry about the misleading title but it was written with good and possibly justified expectatios of a second series.