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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. Burnham and Ray do is filtered through a veil of pervading unease.

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