Well…that was a rollercoaster of emotions! A harrowing second episode focused a lot more on the war part rather than the romance of episode one and it was better for it. Steven cried so much in this episode I felt like I wanted to give him a hug. Isabelle (Clemence Poesy) I didn’t warm to. I was reserving judgment last week but this week she didn’t improve for me. She came across as manipulative and cruel, I never once got the impression she held the same affection for Steven as he did her! He should have met her sister Jeanee (Marie Josee Cruz) first, she was a lot nicer and obviously in love with him. From what I’ve heard of the book, that is explained a lot more. As for all the comments in the press of last week’s mumbling, I can’t say I noticed last week, but maybe its psychosomatic; it’s all I noticed this week as I struggled and had to listen hard several times even with headphones on, with Eddie Redmayne being the worst offender on that one…still, good job his looks make up for it.
After last week’s nearly left for dead, Steven Wraysford returned to the front line after refusing a desk job, even though he told Captain Gray: “This isn’t a war, this is an exploration of how far men can be degraded.” But knowing the troops are moving to Amiens, the location of his love affair with Isabelle (who it appears upped and left one day with no explanation because she was pregnant and saw Steven as a boy who didn’t understand or want a family). He couldn’t resist going back in the hope of seeing her again, which he of course did. He found Isabelle injured after a shell attack, although even with that scar, she still looked picture perfect, it wasn’t really worth the bother of the make-up!
Standout performance this episode by Joseph Mawle as Jack Firebrace, he certainly knew how to make me cry and I don’t cry at TV often. To watch his transition from joking around, to the devastation when he found out his son had died and subsequent breakdown in the bar when he asks “what’s it all for,” to his final scenes between him and Steven trapped in the tunnels after a German charge exploded leaving only them alive and Firebrace injured. With all hope lost the men confided their loves and children to each other in an emotional moment when Firebrace heartbreakingly said of his dead son: “He was the best of me… There is nothing more sir…. To love and be loved”. The claustrophobia of these scenes was very real, I was willing them to get out. The thought of them dying trapped made me feel a bit distressed, but luckily Steven found some charges that Firebrace told him how to set, unluckily for Firebrace, who said his last words as Steven says: “We’re getting out Jack!” “No, you are…John.” Firebrace said as he died. It was a powerful scene and Joseph Mawle gave a wonderful performance, in fact the better performance of the episode. The only chink: the moment was ruined when Joseph flickered his eyes and moved his mouth slightly when Steven closed Firebrace’s eyes. Let’s put it down to spasm, eh Joe!
At the end when he escaped the tunnel and exhausted tried to fight with two German soldiers who informed him with a outstretched hand the war was over and he collapsed relieved into a hug. He returned to the Jeanee and his daughter. I would have liked to have known what happened if he took his daughter? Did he stay? As I said earlier, I understand the novel does explain! If you want happy you’ll not get it here, I fear the episode may have strayed quite heavily away from the novel, but as a stand alone piece it was good quality drama and better than episode one, aside from I could have done with some English subtitles occasionally for Redmayne but it wasn’t bad enough to ruin the emotion of it!
This is a copy of my review for Simply TV