The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 2 recap – “Matters of the Heart”

By Adam Lock
Published: May 13, 2022
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Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 2 - Matters of the Heart


Cora continues to investigate the cause of the local girl’s death while the town becomes gripped by hysteria. It’s a slow and stumbling affair that may be beautifully shot but lacks real drama.

This recap of the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 2, “Matters of the Heart” contains spoilers.

Episode two of The Essex Serpent is again directed by Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant), known for her British, kitchen-sink style of filmmaking. She brings that gritty realism to this world of religious unrest and magical sea creatures, with a stunning eye for cinematography. It’s a great partnership of home-grown, authentic sensibilities and a kind of ethereal gothic nature, which makes for something uniquely different. Unfortunately for all its positives chapter two lacks any real drama and dips into the contentious territory of the absurd.

The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 2 recap

After the discovery of Gracie Banks’ rotting corpse on the marshes in the closing of the premiere, the locals prepare for another attack with netted fencing and speared traps. Rumors spread like wildfire throughout the neighbourhood and the flying serpent causes pandemonium amongst its god-fearing community. Cora tries to calm the townsfolk with kindness and science, but they seem to distrust the foreigner at every turn. Vicar Will Ransome starts to distance himself from the unruly mob and questions his own faith as the fable takes hold.

Cora moves in to a picturesque cottage by the coast and begins to investigate the strange goings on to many of the locals’ dismay. It’s another beautifully shot episode, with raw landscapes and period-accurate slum streets, all providing a real visual treat. Even the opening credits feel like the novel’s front cover brought to life. There is some exquisite filmmaking taking place, it’s just a shame the plotting is so slowly paced. Back in London and Doctor Luke performs a successful heart operation, whilst socialist Martha decides to write to a politician about poor housing standards.

Will and Cora’s relationship grows, with the two intellectuals spending more intimate time together. He even presents her with a lobster fossil as a souvenir. The vicar seems open to more scientific ideology, being well read and logical in his processing. There’s an unspoken tension between the duo too, with Will probing at Cora’s abusive past and an unmistakable fluttering of romance in the air. It would be regrettable if the two are involved in a sordid affair, but I wouldn’t be surprised either.

The ending

The narrative plods along, until a rather ridiculous finale takes shape. Cora asks to speak with the local children, in the hopes of teaching them about science and history. Will’s manic assistant, Matthew Evansford is on hand to steer the conversation away from any blasphemy or evolutionary debate, yet the talk of the sea beast sends the kids into a frenzy. The children chant and shake as if possessed and stomp in unison. Naomi has some type of epileptic fit, whilst the adults look on in utter disbelief. Again, this may fit with the inclinations of the time, but it just comes across as jarring, almost laughable. “Matters of the Heart”, it would seem only really deals with the medical side of the heart, not any emotional leanings. Hopefully the show can revert back to the realism of the opener or at least explain all this madness in believable terms. This is a well-made drama, although one that is starting to lose my interest.

What did you think of the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 2? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Apple TV+.

Apple TV+, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
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