The Essex Serpent is a six parts mini series set in old Victorian England during a time when people are narrow minded and superstitious, and when medical science is still in its discovery stage. It offers an interesting mix of debate over the belief in religion, medical science, and the existence of monsters. Throw in a generous helping of good old fashion romance and some brilliant performances from its principal cast and we have a riveting and emotional series to grab your attention.
Tom Hiddleston is indeed a British treasure as he proves again and again his ability to take on any role with conviction and star presence. I honestly think he was at his worst as Loki, in the Thor Avengers series even though that was where he found his international fame. He is particularly good in these classic romantic English dramas. Here he plays a dashing if not a bit disorientated married pastor in Essex who finds himself falling in love with a recently widowed Claire Danes from London who goes about trying to discover a real life mythical serpent in the area based on local folk sightings. Their initial conflict in beliefs soon turns to affection even with the blessings of the paster’s wife who is conveniently dying of a illness. This looks and sounds a tad bad on paper but with excellent performances all round and a breathtaking Essex landscape, the tale of sea monsters, and romance takes on a life of its own. Hiddleston and Claire are complimented well by their supporting characters played by Frank Dillane as the out of luck doctor who fights for the love of Danes and Clemence Poesy as the pastor’s loving and self sacrificing wife. This is very much a feat thanks to the creative talent and sensitive direction by Clio Barnard.
The Essex Serpent is probably not everyone’s cup of tea and idea of television entertainment. This is not for the generation who grew up watching Marvel and Star Wars movies, although they would benefit from giving themselves a chance to appreciate this type of art form. It is for those who are still romantic at heart and for those who still enjoy enjoying good old fashioned English dramas.