So we have reached the half-way point of the series and things, I must say, have been getting better for the series. Tensions are rising in the village, more work is being done to the zoo, more animals are arriving and the Amelia Clarkson finally has something to do aside from moping around on screen and getting drunk.
What I must say for this series is that it does really well in giving the limelight to several characters at the same time as, while some series are made on the basis of having a leading person and those who are subordinate to he/she, this series somehow skirts away from that, at least in the main.
While George is getting the bear enclosure ready, June at her grandmother’s instigation is sent off to school and, in her absence, means Mew is left in charge of feeding the animals, a task she clearly does not look forward to while June faces the realities of how the Upton’s children see her and treat her.
While this is going on, the people of Upton are rising up against the zoo, fearing wild animals roaming free and all their diseases that they will bring. All the doom and gloom aspects basically, paying no heed to George’s forward thinking ideas.
All the while the Reverend Webb while outwardly saying he’s impartial (although in the same way Hitler was impartial on the Sudetenland), is doing his utmost behind the scenes to see that Oakfield, a house that could have been his, be turn into a zoological garden.
To get off the mark, I must say it is finally gratifying to see some ability emanating from Clarkson’s position. Before she had been a third wheel that needed to be carted off so that the rest of the cast could get on with their jobs, but now that she started to become a necessary cog in the zoo’s creation, she has finally found some function in her being there.
You get a sense of some humanity beneath the once glum exterior. She reacts as we would all react to having a squirrel monkey named Mortimer pee on you, but still gets on with the job in hand like feeding the birds, tortoise, bears, etc. You know the usual things.
But it is the dual aspect of the growing relationship between herself and the son of chief zoo antagonist Camilla Radler (Hayley Carmichael) Archie Radler (Tom Hardman) and her father that have helped her become a more rounded character.
Archie’s interest in Mew, as well as the zoo, has had a humanising effect on Mew, getting her to embrace the zoo’s animals a bit more as well as grow up personally. Yet this is compounded by her realisation of her father’s dedication to the zoo, as he helps her to feed the bears and she turns the van’s headlights on after she notices him still digging the trench for the bear enclosure well into the night. These things have really helped and, while it may just be a blip, I do hope Clarkson’s acting and character continue to improve.
June finally also gets a storyline which is not solely centred on caring for the animals, and that is the wild and dangerous life of the playground. June is ill adapted for school life, especially as the children’s view of her had been corrupted by the parents’ view of the Mottershead’s plan to build a zoo. I felt most sorry for June, with the children calling her feral and a gypsy, as well as not understanding her love of animals, no matter what they are.
June coming home sullen and refusing to tell her grandmother of the bullying is personally reminiscent and, because of it, strikes me as good acting on Honor’s part, especially how she acts out on one occasion in response to the constant bullying.
Congrats must be given to Hugh Skinner as Dr Barnaby Ford as, while his parts are small, they generally bring much light-hearted amusement, as they did when he examined a bear with much glee. His role in this episode was also brief, but provided much satisfaction ending with a touch of humour that just tops it off nicely.
Final kudos must also be given to Stephen Campbell Moore as the mischievous Reverend Webb in trying to get the zoo closed before opening as, although preaching impartiality, he must certainly be making some prayers to see George’s enterprise fail. His character is so subtly slimy that you can see the effect he has on George with him thinking that most people are “against us” in his venture.
This episode ends in a bittersweet fashion with the pattering of tiny feet and the clomping of large paws. I’ll try not to say too much for fear of taking away your enjoyment, but the two scenes are slammed straight beside one another to allow for maximum joy and then apprehension. I hope Episode 4 builds on this because it’s going in the right direction in all departments at last.
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