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

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.