New series with Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston

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Apple TV has released the highly anticipated adaptation of Sarah Perry’s bestseller, The Essex Serpent, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston. The six-part drama was adapted by Anna Symon and directed by Clio Barnard. This is a textured and moody series with a slow, creeping pace hinting at a very intriguing tale of myth, religion and longing.

Set in late 19th century England, The Essex Serpent follows Cora Seaborne (played by Claire Danes), a paleontology-loving widow, who moves from her home in London, after the death of her husband, to a seaside village in Essex with her son Frankie and fellow socialite Martha (played by Hayley Squires). After hearing about a mythical creature, a giant serpent, Cora wants to delve into this mystery. She meets the local vicar, Will Ransom (played by Tom Hiddleston), who is skeptical of the snake’s existence.

The Essex Serpent is a gripping series with nuanced performances from its two leads, as the mystery of the serpent unleashes an unlikely bond between Cora and local vicar Will.

The opening of the series foreshadows what is to come. In the dark estuary that winds through the misty marshes, a young woman washes herself, asks forgiveness for her sins from a man she calls a snake. Her sister watches and runs away the second she sees her being attacked by something in the water. The symbol of the snake is specified from the start, and its abundance of metaphors, whether from religion, folklore or Greek mythology, such as sexuality, original sin, death, rebirth, is disseminated throughout the series.

News of this giant snake reaches recently widowed Cora in London. Through the use of flashbacks in the guise of nightmares that plague Cora, the series slowly reveals that Cora is not a grieving widow, but a modern-thinking woman, freed from the clutches of an abusive husband. It feels like her husband has kept her imprisoned both mentally and physically in their London home, as Cora tells Luke Garrett (played by Frank Dillane), a heart surgeon who she quickly bonds with. friendship in London, that now that her husband is dead, she can do what she loves.

In Aldwinter, Cora finds an intellectual adversary in Will, as they struggle between faith and reason. The man of belief is skeptical of the existence of the snake, he categorically thinks there is no snake. Whereas the modern city woman, who tells this local vicar that she doesn’t believe in God, believes in the existence of the creature. The story opposes thinking and believing, questioning the meaning of both. For local man Cracknell, the village outcast because he doesn’t go to church, the distinction is clear. The serpent is not a matter of belief for him, he tells her, suggesting that if there is indeed a serpent, it is certainly not the embodiment of the devil, as the villagers are determined to believe. However, this distinction is murky for Cora, as she tells Will, she herself is unsure of the difference between thinking and believing. For Cora, science also requires faith.

The attraction and growing tension between Cora and Will, already married to Stella (played by Clémence Poésy), will appeal to audiences, as their two characters are inevitably drawn to each other. Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston play convincingly with their on-screen chemistry. Claire Danes’ performance as Cora is particularly captivating, in her sense of wonder when her character speaks about the science she is passionate about, and in her seething fragility in the face of the trauma of her past with her abusive husband.

There is a heaviness to this series, in the heavy-textured winter clothes that everyone wears, in the dense and foggy atmosphere, the dark and gloomy interiors. Clio Barnard has here created a gothic and tactile atmosphere to the story of Sarah Perry.

The Essex Serpent has been on Apple TV+ since May 13, with a new episode every week.

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