The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 5 recap – “Break Things”

By Adam Lock
Published: June 3, 2022
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Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 5 - Break Things


Emotions are high in another busy episode, with Stella’s diagnosis and Cora’s continued love triangle theatrics. This show keeps hinting at enthralling drama but can’t sustain that excitement for its entirety.

This recap of the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 5, “Break Things,” contains spoilers.

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After an eventful birthday bash, Cora returns to London broken-hearted and forlorn thanks to an ill-advised love triangle and the collective hatred of an entire, highly superstitious town. In the penultimate instalment, Cora’s two love interests cross paths with her once more and as the episode title suggests, all these fragile ties are destroyed. Director Clio Barnard delivers another slow burner with an exciting finale.

The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 5 recap

Chapter five opens with an atmospheric British downpour as the villagers of Aldwinter search for the missing Naomi. Will’s wife Stella is now coughing up blood and packs for London, hoping the good doctor Garrett can help her out. It would appear the vicar and his family are journeying to Cora’s neighborhood, to meet again, a lot sooner than planned. Stella’s secretive illness mirrors the Victorian attitudes of the time, whilst Will’s reluctance to travel speaks volumes about his scandalous affair. In “Break Things” this torrid adultery is finally addressed by the married couple themselves, yet not how you would expect.

Meanwhile, in London, Cora has locked herself away, refusing to eat, still pining for the married vicar. Martha (played by the amazing Hayley Squires) attempts to reinvigorate the depressed widow by creating some buzz around her fossil find. The archaeological society writes to her and inspects this impressive discovery in person, but they want more from Cora. They suggest she returns to Essex to unearth more of these prehistoric dinosaur bones, but Cora is clearly shunned from that community, now and forever. Angered by this disappointment, she argues with servant Martha, who then storms off. Emotions are high and the cast all seem close to breaking point.

The ending

Stella meets with Dr. Garrett, who diagnoses the woman with tuberculosis. Luke is in his element here, working precisely and diligently. He butts heads with the god-fearing vicar once more as the two men argue over Stella’s treatment options. In the end, she decides against the risky surgery, with Clemence Poesy (of Harry Potter and In Bruges fame) providing a captivating performance as the scorned wife, coming to grips with her own mortality. The Ransomes return to dreary Essex after an awkward encounter with Cora at the Natural History Museum.

The Essex Serpent repeats its leisurely pace of earlier installments after that explosive highpoint witnessed in episode four. This slower stylistic choice makes an unfortunate reappearance. It’s frustrating, because “Everything Is Blue” was such a rip-roaring hit, hinting at a much more promising series buried beneath. Yet the filmmakers thankfully manage to bring that suspense to the closing moments. With three intercutting acts of violence, each from the perspective of our main trio: Cora, Will, and Luke. This exciting end again suggests a better show desperate to break free of these period conventions. Cora ransacks her house, Luke is stabbed and Will curses a fire. This drama has dipped its toes into the gothic and horror genre before, but I do wish it would fully submerge in those more tantalizing waters. Hopefully, it’s saving the theatrics for the finale.

What did you think of the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent season 1, episode 5? Comment below.

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

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