The brooding Victorian drama hints at lots of romance and thrills to come. Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston bring their Hollywood stardom to the small screen in this engaging opener.
This recap of the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 1, contains spoilers.
The Essex Serpent is the latest offering from Apple TV+, starring Claire Danes (Homeland) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Set in Victorian Britain, this period drama, based upon the Sarah Perry penned novel, revolves around recently widowed Cora Seaborne as she hunts for a mythical sea monster in the foggy marshlands of Essex, England. This enticing premise is introduced in “The Blackwater,” an intriguing premiere that helps set the tone for this six-part series and teases many mysterious still to come.
The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 1 recap
Our historical setting is captured in a beautiful, otherworldly establishing shot as the camera towers over the misty marshes below. A girl repents her sinful ways in the muddy waters, whilst her sister Naomi watches on from the safety of the shore. Ripples in the water and the girl’s ghastly screams indicate a monster beneath the surface, rushing towards its next victim. Feeding into the fears of the era, the locals believe a flying serpent, possibly an analogy of the devil, has taken one of their own and is haunting the marshlands. Quickly the coastline becomes a circus of hearsay and rumors, with tourists flocking to witness the creature in person.
Contrasting with the rural home county landscape of Essex is the hustle and bustle of London, again presented with some striking location choices, which helps immerse the viewer further into this Victorian setting. Cora, played by Claire Danes, sits at her husband’s deathbed, with servant and confidant Martha (Hayley Squires) by her side. Mr. Seaborne refuses to be operated upon and swiftly dies. Wife Cora doesn’t shed a single tear and no one in the household seems particularly moved by his passing, which is all addressed later in the episode.
With her new found freedom, Cora decides to follow her passions and hunt down this infamous sea beast for herself, heading to the eastern coast. The series moves at a nice, steady pace as a possible love interest is introduced in doctor Luke Garrett and the lucky lady also meets vicar Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) whilst out exploring. It’s not quite a gothic piece, but the show has its own distinct feel and unique textures that make for an addictive new world to get lost in, much like the novel itself. Hiddleston’s practical vicar Will tries to calm the locals as hysteria sets in, but news of the missing girl Gracie’s possible discovery returns the community to a state of fevered bedlam.
Beautifully shot and considerately made, this adaptation may be slowly paced, yet it hints at lots of drama to follow. The gothic and occult tendencies add an extra originality to proceedings, as this feels like the type of show that hasn’t really been represented much before. Episode one makes for a promising start and a world I am eager to return to.
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You can watch this series with a subscription to Apple TV+.