The penultimate episode has been launched and, while it did not reach the heights of the previous episode, it was the perfect way to set up the final clash between Upton residents, led by the Reverend Aaron Webb and Camilla Radler, against the Mottershead clan.
With the zoological venture looking like it has breathed its last after planning permission had been denied, George and Lizzie decide that they need to sell Adam, one of their black bears, to keep any hope of opening the zoo afloat.
Despite the family tension this causes, Frankie manages to give the family hope as, after giving George the petition signed by the residents of Upton, eventually sees George lodge an appeal against Chester City Council, although the situation appears bleak, with the appeal being needed to be seen by the Minister of Health and he’s on a nine month waiting list before even being considered.
But, as ever, Lady Katherine Longmore comes to the Mottershead’s aid as, by chance, she has a nephew working for the Minister of Health and, despite some trepidation on her part, takes George down to London in order to meet the Minister and to get his appeal to the head of the queue in order to save any chance of opening Chester Zoo.
This episode, to my utmost joy, once again teased us with the view of Billy and Frankie whose relationship certainly has seemed to have blossomed since the last episode. With Mew applying to become a typist at the city council (in order to bring money into the family which they plainly do not have) and to see Billy balancing a rose while waiting for Frankie, who bestows a kiss on the cheek when she arrives, is tastefully done. It does not distract from the main focus of the episode but allows us a sneak peek into what else is going on outside of the grand plan to open Chester Zoo.
Speaking of Mew, her relationship with Archie has also taken a bit of a turn, with Archie now coming into a position where Mew cannot boss him around but now must actively seek out his advice and tutorship. What with Mew being a, let’s be frank, terrible typist, she goes to Archie for help which, although wary of his mother’s hatred bordering on violent malice against the Mottershead family, he does out of affection.
While Mew has a fairly decent role in this episode, this is probably the first time that I’ve really paid much attention to Archie as a character. Prior to this he’s been mainly about humanising the previously eternal gormless expression that was Mew. Now, with Amelia Clarkson having got the hang of acting, Tom Hardman can let Archie develop.
One particular instance where he stands up for his withered bitch of a mother against George when he confronts her about the petition shows the inner strength Archie possesses which, perhaps until now, he was unaware of. His role has expanded outside of his relationship with Mew, with the horn-locking with his mother coming into play which, although has not resulted in a massive clash, made for interesting viewing.
Also, and quite quickly, I’ll just speak a little bit on Liz White. While Liz has been a independent character of her own, without smothering George like cling-film, Lizzie has finally broken free of her naïve impressions of the Reverend Webb and by God is it satisfying. Lizzie’s sense of betrayal by a man she thought she could trust is quite evident and Webb’s insulting manner towards George makes Lizzie all the more disgusted by the Reverend. White plays this beautifully alongside Campbell Moore and, while not the highlight scene of the episode, it was most gratifying in seeing Lizzie escape the lying clutches of the sinister Reverend.
But before I move on I will say right now that I’ll be skipping over Anne Reid and Peter Wight’s performances, as well as Honor Kneafsey’s, as I could find nothing new in their performances that deserved particular merit. That’s not to say their performances were lacking, they weren’t and they had some very good scenes, however there was nothing particularly new to talk about in their performances so I might as well say that their performances were enjoyable but nothing we hadn’t seen off them before.
Pressing on we come to the bones of this episode, being Lee Ingleby and Sophia Myles’ performances. Myles, after last week’s performance high, was quite entertaining as the outcast lady of leisure. She shows herself to be, although slightly inept as evidenced by the amusing cake scene, willing to make the best of the situation that she, and others around her, have put her in.
However, in contrast to the first episode, it is George who is pushing Lady Katherine on to go against the social norms and to defy her outcast status. George seems to have more of his old fire back in this episode which, while present in the previous episode, has not been burning so brightly before this episode. Ingleby’s performance keeps your eyes stuck on the screen and keeps you invested in the dream that is Chester Zoo.
This episode has been, in contrast to the previous episode, more about defeatism with the hopes of triumph rather than triumphalism ripped away by sudden loss. It has been a good ride in watching the Mottershead family coming within inches of achieving their dream and, despite the fact I know how it all ends, next week cannot be awaited for more eagerly than it is being now. Remember, the final episode is next Wednesday at 9:00 and you can catch up on this episode on BBC iPlayer.
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