The Essex Serpent Review

By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review is spoiler-free.

Adapted from Sarah Perry’s award-winning novel of the same name, The Essex Serpent transports you to Victorian England and thrusts you into an eerie gothic romance steeped in folklore and mystery.

The gothic romance elements are at the core of the story and characters, and while this isn’t a genre that immediately sticks out as having a wide appeal, there are plenty of other elements to draw you in, if gothic romance isn’t your thing! The Essex Serpent is a well-executed period piece full of historical aspects as well as the addition of folk-horror and thriller elements, resulting in a satisfying genre mash-up of a miniseries. In terms of the story, and having no prior knowledge of the book, I had an initial idea of what ‘the serpent’ was after the first episode and I turned out to be proven right. This however did not take away any enjoyment of the series, as this is just a small part of a much wider story spanning multiple genres – there are a lot of things to get your teeth into! I also found myself hooked with each passing week thanks to the ramping up of the tension and ending on a tantalising cliff-hanger.

As for the performances, Claire Danes (Cora Seaborne) and Tom Hiddleston (Will Ransome) lead the way – both bringing their A-game into proceedings. Their individual performances were fantastic, but it is their wonderful and compelling chemistry that really sells them to the audience. Clemence Poesy (Stella Ransome) is a haunting figure throughout the series and her incredible, yet subtle, performance is well worthy of a mention! Frank Dillane (Luke Garrett) and Hayley Squires (Martha) go beyond their ‘supporting roles’ remits and leave a lasting impression on the story thanks to their talented portrayals. I also want to give special mention to Lily-Rose Aslandogdu (Naomi Banks) and Gerard Kearns (Henry Banks) who were both excellent, especially given the fact they had to deal with so much trauma throughout the series.

Clio Barnard, who serves as the series director and executive producer, takes a firm grip on the wheel, driving the show from strength to strength, and is supported by David Raedeker’s outstanding cinematography. The chilling visuals are elevated further thanks to a thrilling and emotive score from Dustin O’Halloran and Herdis Stefansottir. The visuals and audio aspects in The Essex Serpent are just as good as the performances from the cast!

If there is one downside to The Essex Serpent, I would argue that there is a slight pacing issue in a handful of the middle episodes that causes a little disruption to the flow of the overall series. It’s noticeable, but not in a way that hurts the show too much – and let’s face it, most shows or movies have that middle dip!

Danes and Hiddleston spearhead a phenomenal cast in this unsettling adaption of Sarah Perry’s gothic romance folk-horror The Essex Serpent. With stunning visuals and an emotional score, The Essex Serpent is a mystery that is well worth exploring!

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