The Woman in the Wall Season 1, Episode 5 Recap – Who is Ignatius McCullen?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 18, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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The Woman in the Wall Season 1, Episode 5 - Ex Gratia
The Woman in the Wall Season 1, Episode 5 - "Ex Gratia" (Credit - BBC)




The penultimate episode of The Woman in the Wall is the best yet, with a moving human centre and plenty of unexpected twists and turns.

Episode 5 of The Woman in the Wall is, I think, the best in the series. It’s packed with the biggest reveals – including an explanation for why Aoife Cassidy isn’t behind Lorna’s living room wall anymore, and who the real string-pulling Big Bad is – and the most human, emotional moments too. There remains everything to play for in the finale, but if this is the show’s high point, then it’s already one of the better dramas of the entire year.

The events unfolded here along essentially two parallel narrative tracks, which naturally intersected towards the end. On the one hand you have Colman and Lorna, now having formed an unlikely partnership after Colman’s reveal in Episode 4 that he has a death certificate very much like Agnes’s – and that thus, if he’s alive, she might be too. These two continue to unofficially investigate the House of the Sacred Shepherd.

Meanwhile, Niamh and the rest of the Magdalene Laundry survivor’s group seem to be on the cusp of success. Thanks to the lobbying of James Coyle, the state is willing to officially class the convent as a laundry, which will result in substantial reparations for the survivors.

What they don’t realize, though, is that the small print prohibits any subsequent legal action being taken against them in the future.

What was the House of the Sacred Shepherd doing with the children?

Through records of charitable “donations” made to the agency around the time of the adoptions, Lorna and Colman figured out that the House of the Sacred Shepherd was selling the children they had ripped from the young mothers in the laundries.

The agency was trafficking children for over a decade. Colman was one of the children trafficked, and it seems like Agnes was too.

With this information, Colman once again confronts his adoptive mother, who confirms she made a donation around that time. The only documentation she has from the period is the card of a man from the agency whom Father Percy introduced her to – Ignatius J McCullen.

The Woman in the Wall Season 1, Episode 5 – “Ex Gratia” (Credit – BBC)

Ignatius McCullen

After some more investigation, Colman discovers that Ignatius McCullen now goes by James Coyle. This is why Coyle has been working as a lobbyist for the survivor’s group. He wants the last remaining vestiges of the laundry to sign away their rights to ever take legal action against the House of the Sacred Shepherd. He has been duping them all along.

This is also why he cautioned Niamh in the previous episode not to keep working with Lorna. He suggested it would tarnish their efforts, but what he really meant was that she was getting too close to the truth.

What happens at the end of Episode 5?

With all these major reveals coming left and right, it’s easy to forget about the show’s first and most essential mystery – is Aoife dead, and if so, did Lorna kill her? As it turns out, she probably isn’t.

Lorna learns late in the episode that Aoife has a medical condition that can cause her to appear dead, though she tends to come back around after a while – a phenomenon that, to the god-fearing, appears rather miraculous.

This would mean that Aoife was never dead in the first place, and explain how she managed to get out from behind Lorna’s wall. But where is she now? Why hasn’t she presented herself? These questions, and perhaps more, will presumably be answered in the finale.

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