This was the stuff of nightmares, but in a good way, you understand- this 2018 (how have I never heard of this?) miniseries currently airing here in the UK on BBC2 (and available to watch in its entirety on iPlayer) is absolutely terrific stuff. Its a claustrophobic, moody, tense and incredibly disturbing period horror which spins a supernatural take on a real historic tragedy. I devoured the whole thing over three days and while its not perfect (it slides downhill slightly over the last two episodes) it remains superior drama in my eyes. Absolutely recommended, albeit I must admit, it cast a disturbing shadow on some of my dreams for a few nights- perhaps bingeing the show wasn’t such a good idea after all. Its not often a tv show can give me nightmares, but this actually did. Its not that the series is especially terrifying but it is genuinely, absolutely relentless in how its dark mood and feeling of horror gradually gnaws at you. This is horror with a capital ‘H’.
The cast in particular is top-notch: Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ciarán Hinds, Clive Russell… these are some of my favourite actors and they are are on very fine form in this- perhaps inspired by the remarkable premise, the performances form a solid foundation for the series and aided by the excellent production design its all very convincing: so much so that any miss-steps in the script are easily forgiven and quickly forgotten.
I absolutely adored the convincing sense of time and place, a tangible sensation of being in that place, that moment. The atmosphere of growing doom and characters being caught in something out of their control – and knowing that the whole thing is based upon real events (ignoring the supernatural element that is perfectly fine albeit actually superfluous, as it turns out), I don’t think I’ve quite enjoyed a drama as much as this since Chernobyl. I was actually familiar with the historical events that the series is based upon and I was pleasantly surprised by how the series was true to most of the historically-accepted events, how sincere and respectful it was, how authentic it seemed. It could have spun the real-life tragedy into a trashy exploitation yarn, but its much more than that. Its very, very good indeed. Barring that finale it could have been a masterpiece- as it is, its not far off.
Everything Jared Harris touches in television seems to turn to gold, doesn’t it. A phenomenal actor, is there anything he cannot do? I think he’d be enthralling just reading a shopping list.