critic biting his tail on Apple TV +

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Freshly freed from the infernal chains of an abusive marriage, Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes) decides to reclaim her life and, as soon as the voices of a mysterious sea creature reach them, she travels to Essex to investigate the exact nature of the accompanied reptile. by her son and his servant Martha (Hayley Squires). On the spot, the young paleontology enthusiast discovers with amazement largely highlighted by apotheotic aesthetics to the benefit of the series, the melancholy and picturesque beauty of the village of Alwinter, where he meets Vicar William Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) and his wife, Stella (Clémence Poésy).

A moving encounter for this man of faith, whose sudden desire largely contrasts with his religious morality. But that the poor fellow does not throw himself at himself, the young woman obviously arouses an attraction for which no one seems able to survive. From the lovable Martha to the vicar, passing through the prodigal surgeon Luke Garett (Frank Dillane), Cora’s entourage seems so, for no particular reason, trapped in her decidedly inexorable charm of her.

Let it go

The interpersonal relationships shared by each of the characters therefore seem to be the real driving force The Essex snakethat, despite a pace for the less effective, ultimately it lacks a strong enough plot to support the narrative. Gothic mystery, socio-realistic drama, pseudo-feminist testament and melodrama at the same time, The Essex snake struggle to establish its own identity. Too many narrative frames are thus engaged and then abandoned with no other consideration than that of not overshadowing the unfolding, however uncertain, of a shaky alchemy between the two protagonists.

The viewer will therefore undoubtedly encounter a certain difficulty in grasping the pros and cons of the irrepressible desire that the characters feel for each other, without too many preambles. Actors of an organic tension made from scratch by their artists respective (solid, but tasteless) e without real script supportWill and Cora thus develop a physical attraction for each other that makes it difficult to invest his audience or even raise the slightest problem.

The Essex snake: photo Tom Hiddlestonerotic substitute

Science, baby!

Against the backdrop of this clumsy love story, The Essex snake it responds not without difficulty to a conflict that is opposed to the religious faith embodied by Will, to the rationality represented by Cora. A dichotomy that is initially found through the characters, but also in the parallel montage used by the series, which depicts a narrative and visual dualityand multiplies the flashbacks, leaps forward and other temporal simultaneities between London and Alwinter.

However, the ideological dispute between the two protagonists will fuel less a debate than an exchange. While Cora tries to understand the exact nature of the snake, and likes to imagine that it may be a “living fossil” that has escaped evolution, the shepherd prefers to see it as a manifestation of anxieties about the inevitable changes of the times. Radically distinct points of view that will still push them to try to learn from each other.

The Essex snake: photo Tom Hiddleston, Claire DanesTalk about the meaning of life early in the morning

If Cora and Will manage to get along quickly enough, the latter’s arrival in the town of Alwinter is still the basis. a profound and irreconcilable disagreement between the character and the village customs. While Will somehow tries to contain his parishioners ‘growing anxiety, Claire Danes’ character tries to open their narrow minds to other considerations by offering to impart her scientific knowledge at the village school.

However, the latter will be overwhelmed by the weight of inexhaustible superstitions, so anchored in the collective unconscious as to invest the bodies and cause a sudden general frenzy. Discernment clouded by a religious extremism is one blind conservatismthe villagers of Alwinter therefore refuse to listen to reason, convinced that the mythical snake has returned to the county to better feast on their sins.

The Essex snake: photo Clémence PoésySweeter than this character, you die

Elevator Square

Giving in to paranoia, the inhabitants of Alwinter seize wood, torches and nets to build dams and barricades, as so many physical manifestations of their inner reluctance to regard the beast (and, by extension, the unknown) as something else. incarnation of the demon. The hysteria reaches its climax when another corpse is discovered near the swamp. A raging fever rages as Clio Barnard’s cinematic device paints the pangs of mass neurosis through frenzied editing and staging, briefly appeased by the blood flow of a sacrificial goat.

At the same time a sea creature, divine punishment and an omnipresent entity, the beast terrifies children, invades church pews and appears to prowl dangerously beneath the surface of the misty waters of Essex. However, the snake seems to respond less to an abstract physicality than to a symbol, of a vast metaphor modeling in a single image all that is inevitable in life: regret, pain, grief and fear.

The Essex snake: photo Tom Hiddleston“Exile in the countryside, they said. It will be restful, they said.”

Mirror on which the characters project their wounds, the snake becomes the reflection of an elusive human conditionand implies in passing that, despite the industrial revolution and the incredible progress made by man, the latter is above all part of nature and remains a fortiori imperfect.

Thus, under the awkwardly romantic outbursts of the two protagonists, and the various subplots discarded without too many scruples from the main narrative, The Essex snake can be regarded as a ghost story. Ghosts created from scratch not out of lack of faith or knowledge, but out of fears and doubts, taking advantage of the troubled waters of the unknown to better insinuate themselves into hearts and minds.

After launching with two episodes on May 13, 2022, The Essex Serpent will unveil a new episode every Friday on Apple TV +.

The Essex Snake: Poster (2)

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