Now Streaming: THE ESSEX SERPENT, Slithering Into Suspicion

Clare Danes and Tom Hiddleston lead an investigation into fear and mistrust, debuting globally on Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)
Now Streaming: THE ESSEX SERPENT, Slithering Into Suspicion

A widow, a vicar and a mythical beast slither into a marshland.

The Essex Serpent
The first three episodes debut globally Friday, May 13 on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut every Friday.

Ignorance breeds mistrust and suspicion in a village located in the marshlands of Eastern England, sometime around the end of the 19th century.

Local residents have been spooked by the sighting of a legendary sea creature, blamed for the disappearance of a young woman. Thus, it's really no surprise that a wave of uneasy suspicion grips the village when Cora Seaborne (Clare Danes), a visitor from London, arrives with her son and Martha (Hayley Squires), her housemaid and close companion.

Recently widowed, Cora is eager to shake off the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband by diving back into her love of paleontology. Her curiosity piqued by newspaper reports of a mythical beast resurfacing in the village, she forms a wary friendship with vicar Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) and his family, including his wife Stella (Clémence Poésy), who are practically the only ones in the village willing to speak with her.

Back in London, the supremely confident Dr. Luke Garrett (Frank Dillane) had attended to Cora's husband, and now he arrives in the village to help, though his eye is clearly on Cora. For her part, Cora finds herself drawn to Will, even though he is married, and he may be drawn to her.

What may sound like a romantic soap opera plays as an urgent, if melodramatic, investigation into changing cultural mores and slowly evolving views on the importance of medicine and science in overturning deeply-held beliefs that are rooted in rumor. The village residents act as one in responding to the threat perceived by Cora's avoidance of tradition, a threat that is whipped up by village priest Matthew Evansford (Michael Jibson), preying upon their most unsettling fears.

Adapted by Anna Symon (Deep Water), Mrs. Wilson) from a novel by Sarah Perry and first published in 2016, all six episodes are directed by Clio Bernard (Ali & Ava) with a clear sense of command, purpose, mood, atmosphere and rhythm. Symon wrote or co-wrote several of the episodes, which develop into rounded character portraits, especially of Cora, Will, and Luke, people whose lives reflect the times in which they lived, sometimes to the good, and sometimes to the bad and/or appalling.

The show joins other Apple TV+ series that have adapted novels successfully into limited series, such as Lisey's Story, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey and Shining Girls. The limited-series format has allowed the shows breathing space to develop their characters and elaborate on the worlds in which they live. The streaming service's overall batting average has been quite high, in my estimation.

Shaped by forces beyond their control, people do not always do as we -- or they -- might wish. Slowly yet deliberately, The Essex Serpent paints a picture of a world that is long gone -- and good riddance.

Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.

The Essex Serpent

  • Claire Danes
  • Tom Hiddleston
  • Clémence Poésy
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Apple TV+Clare DanesThe Essex SerpentTom HiddlestonUKUSClaire DanesClémence PoésyDrama

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