The Secret Of Crickley Hall 1.03 TV REVIEW
Writer: Joe Ahearne (based on the book by James Herbert)
Director: Joe Ahearne
THE ONE WHERE Gordon, aka Maurice, makes his move whilst Lilli gets some new information about Cam’s whereabouts. As Gabe sets out for London, past and future begin to mirror each other, with storms, tragedy, and Maurice stalking someone through the house…
VERDICT Anyone looking to catch their breath after last week’s surprising middle act is going to be disappointed. This episode hits the ground running and never stops, with the revelation about Cam coming in the first few minutes and casting a shadow over the entire first half. Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis have been consistently impressive throughout the series, but their work in this episode is extraordinary, especially the scenes where Gabe goes to identify the body. Every scene breaks your heart, but the best one is surely the phone call that leads him to London. We hear him but see Eve, trying to control her emotions even as he’s doing the same, and both barely managing to. These are people used to carrying their uncertainty and the shock of suddenly knowing for certain almost tears them apart.
In contrast, Gordon knows exactly what he’s doing and it gives his early scenes in this episode a malicious edge. His leading questioning of the couple is really unsettling to watch, but that pales in comparison to the scenes in which he’s pursuing the Caleigh children through Crickley Hall. Donald Sumpter uses everything from body language to tone of voice to show that Maurice is really just a child, and his petulant, almost pleading conversation with the girls is terrifying. This is a man who has been systematically abused for his entire life and has no concept of right or wrong, just the desperate need for peace and the willingness to do anything to achieve it. He’s a memorable, and broken, villain and even threatens to eclipse the monstrous Cribben.
The Cribben siblings’ last hurrah is exactly as unsettling as you might hope and the way the two time periods start to combine is beautifully handled. The sight of Gordon hearing the echo of Cribben screaming at him from when he was a boy is chilling, but Cribben’s dead eyed refusal to lose when Reverend Horace finally realises the truth is far worse. Likewise, Magda’s blank faced lies to Percy and utter horror when she realises what’s happened will give you goose bumps.
The episode even manages to give several other characters moments of real dramatic weight before it finishes. Ian De Caestecker plays Percy’s fury at being lied to and heartbroken realisation that Nancy must be dead so subtly you almost miss it, shutting the rage and grief away because there are more important things to do. Likewise Susan Lynch’s Lilly gets a couple of stunning moments here, especially her last conversations with Eve whilst Craig Parkinson shines in both Reverend Horace’s confrontation with Cribben and his final scene, with Percy’s mum. However, special mention has to be made of Maisie Williams, not only for the closing chase sequence but a moment of beautiful narrative shorthand with Tom Ellis. Loren sees Gabe leaving, asks where he’s going and he lies, and she sees it and just says, “I love you.” You get everything in those three words; her grief at the loss of her brother, her gratitude that her Dad loves her enough to keep it from her a little while longer and the fact she really does love him. Excuse me, I have something in my eye…
And we haven’t even got to the last ten minutes, which, again, pull out some stunning moments. Unfortunately one of them is stunning for the wrong reasons as Nancy’s ghost coming for Gordon is initially terrifying and then…well…a little meaty for someone who’s been down a well for decades. However, overlooking that you have some amazing moments, almost all of which involve Olivia Cooke; Nancy smiling at the older Percy as she leaves; Nancy asking Cribben to come with them; the moment when her body is finally removed and Percy holds her hand for a moment through the body bag. There are beautiful, carefully crafted lines, or looks or touches peppered throughout the series and they all come to a head in this final section. The end result is an hour that’s frequently as moving as it is horrifying.
The Secret of Crickley Hall has been a pleasure to watch. It’s not only fiercely well-acted by a great cast but the script, this episode especially, has been incredible. This is a ghost story, and a traditional one at that, that’s never felt old-fashioned or staid and has constantly taken surprising turns. Surely one of the best pieces of TV drama this year, it sets a new standard for the British TV ghost story.
CREEPIEST MOMENT There’s a bunch this time. However, nothing beats Loren and Cally, cowering by their mother’s unconscious form as Gordon walks in, pulls up a chair and sits down. The petulant, child-like way he says, “He only wants one of you”, as though that doesn’t make it as bad proves that whilst Cribben’s evil, Gordon’s a monster too.
UNANSWERED(ISH) QUESTIONS No payoff to Cam’s portentous “Goodbye, Mummy” or whether or not he and Eve have a psychic bond but that doesn’t actually hurt the episode. Also no indication of whether Nancy actually was dead when she went down the well, although she was certainly dead not long after.
THE CRICKLEY HALL FIGHT CLUB No extra cast members this week, so instead let’s look at the various fight scenes:
• Cribben bouncing Reverend Horace off the wall works beautifully, not just because he looks like he wants to put the Reverend through said wall but because this scene seesaws so beautifully between Reverend Horace’s worst hour and his finest. Top marks to Craig Parkinson’s look of shock when Douglas Henshall goes for him too.
• Gordon has clearly learnt a lot since the last time he had to hit someone, and the contemptuous way he opens the door, knocks Percy out and drops the poker before going back to his business shows how much of a threat he is. However, whilst it’s a slightly meatier THWACK! sound effect, it actually has much less effect than Nancy’s murder; after all, Percy’s up and about a few hours later. Although, in fairness, Gordon is getting on a bit by this stage…
• Finally, Stefan pulls a surprise win as Undefeated Crickley Hall Openweight Champion Of The World, with the beautifully-timed shove that puts Cribben over the banister. It’s a little neat certainly but a perfect payoff to the abuse he’s suffered and leads to that final, chilling image of Cribben, paralysed and drowning in his own tiny kingdom.
The series goes out on a real high, with some fantastic exchanges.
Gordon: “I'm sorry.”
Loren: “It's not your fault.”
Cally: “Yes it is!”
Cally Caleigh once again proving she’s the family’s unacknowledged genius.
Nancy: “We'll have our own children and we'll smother them with love. You'll make the most wonderful father.”
Percy: “You think cos Nancy's gone it's business as usual. I got news for you. I'm taking over where she left off.”
I can’t say enough good things about Ian De Caestecker this episode. He plays Percy as the great unacknowledged hero of Crickley Hall , a man broken by his own grief but desperate to save the orphans that Nancy died for.
Gordon: “He'd already suffered extreme hardship by the time he came here. Unlike the other orphans he knew what pain was. So he gave the Cribbens what they demanded. Total subservience.”
Likewise, Donald Sumpter is superb, especially in these early scenes. You know Gordon’s speaking from memory even though Gabe and Eve don’t and it’s really unsettling tom watch.
Percy: “She might have left me. She wouldn't have left those orphans.”
DI Michael: “No one hurt him.”
Line of the episode. Ian Burfield has less than 20 lines in the entire episode and the delivery on this, how gentle it is and how sad, is just shattering.
Gordon: “You've been through this before. You'll recover.”
GORDON: “I’d rather kill myself but he'd still be there, hurting me like the others. Forever.”
For Gordon, hell isn’t other people. It’s Augustus Cribben for the rest of eternity.
Lilli: “Think how blessed you are to have known his voice.”
Again, such a simple line but there’s so much wrapped up in it: Lilli’s grief at the loss of her own child, her sympathy for Eve and the fact that Eve, for all the horror she’s suffered, got lucky. It’s beautifully reflected in Cam’s gravestone inscription too.
Reverand Horace: “I'll be making amends for that for the rest of my life.”
Irene: “And the next one too.”
A strong contender for line of the week. Again there’s so much wrapped up here: Horace’s guilt at what he let happen, but clinging to his faith; Irene’s rage at what was going on and her crafty, deliberate belligerence to buy Percy time to get Stefan out of the back door.
Nancy: “They’re mine…come with us.”
After all the horror she’s suffered, Nancy is still able to forgive Cribben. The reveal of her arm being healed is so subtly done you almost miss it, as is the way Douglas Henshall shows you Cribben wrestling with wanting to say yes. Just for a second, there’s hope, and then he’s back, trapped forever in his house, and his routine, and his rage.
The Secret of Crickley Hall has finished airing on BBC One