Skip to main content

Happiness and peace are the reward of the believer.

Children of the Stones
5: Charmed Circle


The fifth episode ups the ante further, as two central characters (Margaret and Sandra) fall under the spell of Hendrick. Indeed, the serial is building towards the climax from this point on. There’s no longer the need for subterfuge, even if outright discussion and accusation between the opposing parties is saved for the finale.

HendrickPoor old Dai. Still, there’s no escaping one’s destiny is there?


But Adam is rightly beginning to lose his cool with Hendrick, whose smooth superiority leaves him casting doubt on matters they both know he has answers to. So the disappearance of Dai’s body, replaced by a number of stones; Hendrick makes cryptic remarks, and dismisses the idea that he is dead (and, sort of, he is right, as Matthew attempts to explain to Adam that “He’s just not here any more”).


The threads in this episode are more concentrated; Adam and Matthew reacting to the circumstances of Margaret and Sandra. For the former, this revolves around Matthew’s newfound talent for psychometry. He’s lucky he has such a laidback father who seems willing to let him dabble in the occult and arcane, get into danger, and who treats him as an equal in every way other than his revolting tastes in sandwich filling.


The first example of this is the rather inspired (this whole show is inspired, which makes it more difficult to single aspects out for praise) piece of time loop invention with Dai’s amulet. Occasionally the series places a reveal that we think must have happened earlier, as it isn’t that dramatic (the news that there 55 people in the painting, just as there are in the village; the realisation that it may be some kind of prophecy has been keyed in to the viewer since the visions in the first episode). 



Revealing an exact match between the fragments of the amulet left by Dai’s body and the fragments of the amulet left next to the Barber Surgeon centuries before is the kind of fancy genius that rejects any clear, rigorous analysis but is greeted with pleasure by the most impressionable parts of the brain. It makes more sense the less closely you look at it.


Demin’s psychically receptive performance isn’t perhaps the most enthralling of possessed states, and the word soup he comes forth with lacks sufficient jumble to allow a truly poetic deduction of its meaning, but the “bright shining visitor” as reference to the supernova is a nice turn of phrase. Later, Matthew will enter this altered state again as he tunes in to Sandra’s experiences at Hendrick’s, through holding her scarf.

HendrickVery perceptive, that son of yours. Perceptive and formidable.


The dinner deal at Hendrick’s provides a volume of additional information and confirmations. It also introduces us to a rather nattily designed set; Hendrick’s “dining room” where he serves his guests to the supernova.


Before this, we’re introduced to Link, his butler (the always superb John Woodnutt). There’s a conversation between the two that invites a gay reading of their relationship. Hendrick references the lateness of his guests, commenting that women are delightful creatures but punctuality is not one of their virtues. When Link responds (below) there’s a brief cut to Hendrick that is full of unspoken meaning.


LinkThere’s much to be said for the celibate lifestyle.
HendrickAnd yet I have my children.
LinkThe best of both worlds.

It’s surely significant that the conclusion sees the two men reunite as before, to go forward together again.


The episode repeats several times the prioritisation of the guests at Hendrick’s table; they must be processed in order of precedence to the village. The writers are careful to provide sufficient foreshadowing that we understand why Adam and Matthew are allowed to walk free as they are. So too with the use of atomic clocks, to ensure the precise moment at which the guests give themselves. It sets up the cleverness of the Adam and Matthew’s escape plan in the finale in such a way that we do not question it.

HendrickA hymn of celebration.
MargaretCelebration? What are they celebrating?
HendrickDeliverance from the past. And their entry into the future now.


Cuthbertson is utterly in command during the dinner scenes, which grow increasingly eerie, as the background noise of the villagers chanting outside becomes a constant. His conversation with Margaret is very clearly a sufferance, and he most definitely looks on her as a mere inquisitive child. Just as a parent expects obedience from a child beyond the point of having to explain things, he informs her that she doesn’t need to understand (the connection between the table and the circle). It is only necessary “that you believe me when I tell you; all works towards good”. He takes the role of priest, but he is equal parts parent and politician. Cuthbertson gets some wit in too. He has a nice line about the mason who worked on the room going out of business “ages ago”. But mostly there is an establishing of the formidable status of Adam, and particularly Matthew – as Hendrick earlier recognised – whose insights enable Margaret and Sandra to explain the workings of the room to Hendrick before he can inform them (of the table, and the bishop’s stone underneath, and how the house is at the centre of the circle).


Hendrick: Bon appetite – my children.

A particularly chilling line, one step short of something Hannibal Lector would come out with. What makes this episode particularly strong is that the writers are willing to turn two of the lead characters. We don’t really expect this, and it lends the sense that there may be no escape for our main protagonists.


HendrickHappiness and peace are the reward of the believer.

Hendrick also utters some incantatory words, to the effect that the new additions will complete the circle, and be at one with nature and the elements. The opening of the roof and the brilliant white light that floods the room is appropriately full-on as it reflects the same imagery as the painting. 



I suppose one might snipe that the sacrifice of the Margaret and Sandra is a cop-out, since a reset button is pressed in the last episode. But that would only really be fair if it was a total reset. What Burnham and Ray do is filtered through a veil of pervading unease.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I think my mother put a curse on us.

Hereditary (2018)
(SPOILERS) Well, the Hereditary trailer's a very fine trailer, there's no doubt about that. The movie as a whole? Ari Aster's debut follows in the line of a number of recent lauded-to-the-heavens (or hells) horror movies that haven't quite lived up to their hype (The Babadook, for example). In Hereditary's case, there’s no doubting Ari Aster's talent as a director. Instead, I'd question his aptitude for horror.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.