How a lot you take pleasure in The Essex Serpent, an Apple TV Plus adaptation of Sarah Perry’s 2016 novel, would possibly rely upon how a lot you take pleasure in seeing Tom Hiddleston brooding in a misty area whereas carrying cozy wool sweaters. For a lot of folks, that may in all probability be sufficient of a hook. (It was for me.) But fortunately, the six-episode sequence provides a lot greater than great hair blowing within the wind — it’s a tense and heartfelt exploration of grief and perception and the way a lot these two issues can mess with you. The great sweaters are simply a bonus.
The present primarily follows two characters. One is Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a current widow and a budding pure historical past scholar who has fairly the fixation with sea serpents. She spends her spare time researching them by way of previous books, maps, and newspaper clippings. When rumors pop up that a serpent has been terrorizing a small fishing village in Essex, she — alongside with her younger son (Caspar Griffiths) and buddy / housekeeper (Hayley Squires) — boards a practice from London to research.
What she finds when she arrives isn’t a serpent — no less than not initially, no spoilers there — however somewhat a city steadily going mad with worry. A lacking little one has everybody on edge, blaming the legendary creature, which, many consider, is attacking probably the most sinful of the bunch. As unhealthy issues proceed to occur to just about everybody, the tragedies are inevitably blamed on the beast. One of the primary folks Cora meets on the town is Will Ransome (Hiddleston), a native pastor and one of the few individuals who doesn’t suppose the serpent is a unhealthy omen from God.
Initially, The Essex Serpent leans fairly closely on some well-worn tropes. When Cora and Will first meet, they don’t know who one another is, and regardless that she helps him rescue a goat from sure doom, he’s nonetheless a huge jerk. Later, once they’re correctly launched so he may help with her analysis, it’s the basic rom-com second the place she has the shock realization that “Oh, that’s the person who was so rude to me earlier.” It’s not probably the most authentic technique to have two characters meet, however no less than the present shortly strikes previous it. It helps that Danes and Hiddleston have an antagonistic chemistry that’s a lot of enjoyable to look at play out, even with the acquainted setup.
The different, far more fascinating topic the present leans on is the religion vs. science debate. Cora’s want to seek out a logical rationalization for the serpent — she spends a lot of time placing on good outfits to go digging for fossils — is available in direct battle with most individuals on the town, who turn into more and more satisfied that it’s the work of a vengeful deity. What makes the dynamic notably fascinating in The Essex Serpent is Will, who is caught within the center. He’s a man of religion who can also’t settle for the supernatural explanations for every thing affecting the city, leaving him questioning fairly a bit about his beliefs and the way a lot he may help the group he serves.
To add much more drama into the proceedings, the present finally ends up being far more about interpersonal relationships than existential ones (although the serpent and faith nonetheless stay key parts all through). The Essex Serpent places a lot of very lovely folks in a very grim location after which helps you to watch them strive actually exhausting to not be overtly sexy for one another. Cora is lastly experiencing one thing near freedom now that her abusive marriage is over, and she or he finally ends up caught between Will (who is not solely a pastor but in addition married with two youngsters) and Luke (Frank Dillane), a charming younger physician who additionally occurs to be a pioneering drive behind the at-the-time nascent area of open-heart surgical procedure.
Much of the present hinges on watching the three of them navigate this awkward dynamic whereas being too British and well mannered to only come out and say how they really feel. This is balanced with all of the aforementioned struggles like discovering a legendary sea serpent or perfecting a radical sort of surgical procedure. It’s a gradual burn of a present, which doesn’t reveal its true intentions till a few episodes in. But as soon as it finds its footing, The Essex Serpent turns into a drama that treats its topics with a refreshing sort of honesty that makes all of them the extra fascinating. Falling out and in of love is all the time messy, however particularly when the world round you is additionally a full mess. The Essex Serpent captures that completely. And at six episodes lengthy, it does so with out overstaying its welcome.
Really, it’s a present concerning the lovely chaos that comes from battle, whether or not that’s between science and religion, love and hate, or placing a bunch of fairly folks in a grim and miserable little city. In that method, the comfy sweater is a metaphor for The Essex Serpent as a complete: its drab and well-worn exterior hides one thing far more intriguing beneath.
The Essex Serpent begins streaming on Apple TV Plus on May thirteenth.