The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – What does Lorna find in her house?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 28, 2023 (Last updated: March 20, 2024)
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The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 Recap - What does Lorna find in her house?


The Woman in the Wall explores a very serious topic in sometimes inconsistent or off-putting ways, but it’s nonetheless an impressively engaging bit of television.

This recap of The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 contains spoilers.

You can say something about The Woman in the Wall that you can’t often say, which is that it’s quite unlike most other TV shows.

Of course, this is both to its advantage and to its detriment. It’s a slightly surreal and surprisingly funny gothic mystery with that classic “Is she crazy?” hook, but it’s also about horrifically traumatizing real-life subject matter that it sometimes feels slightly off-putting to see given this kind of bizarre, off-kilter treatment.

Still, in the capable hands of Ruth Wilson (His Dark Materials), playing the frazzled lead in a script by Joe Murtaugh, the six-part BBC drama at least gets off to an auspicious start.

The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

Wilson plays Lorna Brady, a woman who was sent to a Magdalene laundry for being pregnant at the age of 15.

What were Magdalene Laundries?

Magdalene Laundries were Roman Catholic institutions that blighted Ireland from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. Under the guise of “training facilities” where women would be taught essential ladylike skills under the watchful gaze of God’s children, girls and women were sent there to be, essentially, abused servants.

The mother and baby homes attached to these facilities would snatch children from new mothers and thrust them, still screaming, into the “care” of the Catholic church, in most cases never to be seen or heard from by their birth mother again. Wilson’s Lorna suffered this fate, and many other women in her (fictional) community of Kilkinure experienced similar torments at the hands of the clergy.

The threshold for being considered deviant enough to be sent to these places was so extraordinarily low that young pregnancy was one of the more “severe” misdemeanors. Simply being pretty was deemed an offense by men of the cloth who worried that any sufficiently attractive girl would grow up into a temptress preying on married men.

This isn’t ancient history. The last of these laundries closed in the mid-90s, six years after I was born.

What does Lorna find in her house?

Lorna never really recovered from the loss of her child, whose fate is totally unknown to her. Her trauma manifests in various ways, but perhaps most notably in fugue states that blur reality and fantasy. She’s prone, we learn, to acts of vandalism at the very least, especially when under the influence of her psyche, but is she capable of murder? That’s one of the central dramatic questions introduced in the premiere episode.

The matter comes up because Lorna wakes up after one of her episodes, brought about by a failed meeting with someone mysterious who left her a note claiming to know what happened to her child, with a woman’s dead body in her home, and no knowledge of how she got there – or how she was killed.

Why is Detective Akande in Kilkinure?

While we don’t know how, it seems inevitable that this is connected to the murder of Father Percy Sheehan, an aging Dublin priest whose death attracts the attention of Detective Colman Akande (Daryl McCormack). Sheehan was Akande’s childhood priest, by all accounts a kindly father figure, but when his car is found abandoned in Kilkinure and Akande is assigned to investigate, he quickly begins to discover that Sheehan’s involvement with the laundries might reveal a significantly darker past.

Most of the premiere is devoted to fish-out-of-water drama – with Akande trying to do his job around small-town cops who don’t want the paperwork and tight-lipped locals who don’t want to reopen old wounds – as we begin to get a sense of the depth of Lorna’s potential instability. This is where the show’s gothic elements come into play, but they feel like a logical thematic outgrowth rather than a formal quirk. Generational trauma and institutional abuses constitute the show’s real purpose, with the whodunit and genre flourishes just being a well-constructed framework for those underlying subjects to be unpacked.

The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 Ending Explained

At the end of the episode, Lorna encloses the corpse in her living room wall.

Of course, at this point, there are plenty of what-ifs. Does she suspect she committed murder and is trying to protect herself? If she operating according to her own delusions and imaginings? Will her own investigation into the situation, which she’ll surely try to conduct now, expose or exonerate her?

Likewise, Lorna has become an obvious person of interest to Akande, so their investigations will dovetail. There are still five episodes left and plenty that can go wrong, but thus far The Woman in the Wall seems like an impressive outing.

You can stream The Woman in the Wall Season 1 Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer.

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