Episode 3 could have been titled “Hot & Heavy.” Anne and Ann really take their relationship to the next level in every sense during this episode, which is chock full of “rising action.” They are spending more and more time together. Petting has turned into kissing, and kissing into … well … suffice it to say that Miss Lister (Suranne Jones) has begun spending an awful lot of time at Crow’s Nest, Miss Walker’s (Sophie Rundle) abode.
If we learned anything from Downton Abbey, it’s that servants are people too. Which means they’re busybodies and incorrigible gossips. Which means that they are doubtless beginning to notice the rendezvous Anne and Ann are having with increasing frequency. The toffs may be a bit thick, but even they are beginning to put 2 and 2 together!
Perhaps that is the reason we see Miss Lister lead Miss Walker to a nice little cottage in the woods of her estate. At first, I was totally getting Hansel and Gretel vibes, but it turns out its just a quiet place to shack up. Eventually, however, Miss Walker’s doting cousin Eliza Priestley (Rose Cavaliero) arrives at Crow’s Nest to see Miss Walker, only to be told that she’s visiting with Miss Lister. Unable to contain her curiosity, Mrs. Priestley confirms her suspicions by demanding James (Saul Marron) the footman (presumably not the butler, right?) grant her entry into Anne and Ann’s room. She bursts in just as a breathy Anne and Ann jump up from the sofa and beginning telling a weak story about “Miss Lister was tending to me – I’m unwell – *cough* *cough*” Mrs. Priestley vociferously defended Miss Lister in Episode 1, but here she forbids Anne to call her by her given name – “Don’t you Eliza me!” – and we’d be right to suspect this isn’t the end of her newfound antagonism.
Separately, Anne and Marian (played by Gemma Whelan – a.k.a. Yara Greyjoy of the Iron Islands – Game of Thrones!) have a dust-up and Marian storms off to stay with friends for 3 weeks. Crazy idea, isn’t it, to imagine a time when people thought it was ok to drop by unannounced and stay for three weeks? Anyway, we knew they didn’t like each other very much, but we learn more about Marian’s grievances this episode – she thinks she’s entitled to half of the estate, but the sisters’ Uncle James cut everyone but Anne out of the will – and Marian, for one, resents that immensely!
Marian has a half-baked idea that she’ll get married and have a son, who would then inherit as the childless Anne’s heir. Anne mocks Marian, reminding her that she is not getting any younger. Later, Marian confides to the sister’s Aunt Anne (Gemma Jones) that there is a certain Mr. Abbott who may be interested in asking for Marian’s hand. Aunt Anne is skeptical, as she vaguely understands that the prospective suitor is in trade. She quickly narcs to Anne, despite promising to keep Marian’s confidence, and both Aunt Anne and niece Anne heap scorn on the idea of someone so lowborn as to engage in trade being worthy of a Lister. In others words, Anne and her aunt are plainly content with the notion of Marian becoming an “old maid.”
Frankly, I feel quite sorry for Marian. While she is quite resentful of Anne, it’s not entirely without cause. Personally, many of her complaints about Anne make sense. Whether she’s genuinely concerned or not, she has valid arguments that Anne’s behaviors are unduly burdensome to the servants (staying out too late, tracking mud into Shibden Hall). We also learn that Anne’s side of the Lister clan hails from East Yorkshire, where they were rather poor. Indeed, it was Anne who ingratiated herself with her Aunt Anne and Uncle James when she was a teenager, ostensibly changing the “lesser Listers'” fortunes forever.
There’s a lot going on in this episode, like I said. Servant James Booth (Thomas Howes) makes a marriage proposal to the beautiful but pregnant and soon-to-be-disgraced Eugenie (Albane Courtois). I could write quite a bit about just this situation, and how it’s meant to be perceived in a modern television show.
Also, Miss Lister continues her investigation of the carriage accident that maimed the Hardcastle boy. James, the footman at Crow’s Nest, provides a big break in the case: one of his fellow servants could have sworn it was none other than Christopher Rawson (Vincent Franklin) driving the carriage. That’s been pretty obvious from the start to the viewer, but it’s big for Miss Lister. Remember when Rawson complained to his clerk about the carriage he had to send back?
Speaking of the ratchet Rawsons, the best scene in the show involves Miss Lister’s continued negotiations with the brothers over selling them the coal they’re already stealing. As Rawson tells his younger brother Jeremiah (Shaun Dooley) later, Anne runs circles around the seasoned coal merchant. She has done her research and swats away Jeremiah’s assertion that £150 per acre is a fair price for her coal. No indeed, Miss Lister has the actual value, as she reckons it, down to the pence and shillings! She goes through her math with Jeremiah in a wonderful and comical scene. There’s a lot of archaic back-and-forth about ha’pence and thruppence that, while it didn’t mean much to me, was awesome!
Finally, a scene with the Sam Sowden (Anthony Flanagan) and his son Thomas (Tom Lewis) is absolutely the most shocking and visceral of the episode. Recall that we last saw Sowden “hog-tied” in Episode 2. Well, it gets much worse for the Sowden patriarch – now he’s “hog-fed.” In short, Thomas finally addresses his father’s cruelty in order to protect his mother and siblings. It’s a shocking scene – but Thomas slits his father’s throat for a reason. Anne had intimated she’d be evicting the family from their farm – possibly plunging them into poverty. Rather than let Sam go see with Miss Lister to be evicted, he makes Sam disappear. We’ll have to wait until Episode 4 to see whether Thomas faces any repercussions.
Bottom-line 9/10 This was an action-packed and rewarding episode on all fronts.