how much do you enjoy the essex snake, an Apple TV Plus adaptation of Sarah Perry’s 2016 novel, might depend on how much you enjoy watching Tom Hiddleston brood in a misty field while wearing cozy fleece sweaters. For a lot of people, that will probably be hook enough. (It was for me). But thankfully, the six-episode series offers much more than beautiful hair blowing in the wind: it’s a tense and heartfelt exploration of pain and belief and how much those two things can affect you. Big sweaters are just a bonus.
The show mainly follows two characters. One is Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a recent widow and budding natural history scholar who has a major fixation on sea serpents. She spends her spare time researching them through old books, maps, and newspaper clippings. When rumors surface that a snake has been terrorizing a small fishing village in Essex, she, along with her young son (Caspar Griffiths) and friend/housekeeper (Hayley Squires), board a train from London to investigate.
What he finds when he arrives isn’t a snake, at least not initially – no spoilers there – but rather a city gone berserk with fear. A missing boy has everyone on edge, blaming the mythical creature that many believe is attacking the most sinful of the group. As bad things continue to happen to almost everyone, tragedies are inevitably blamed on the beast. One of the first people Cora meets in town is Will Ransome (Hiddleston), a local pastor and one of the few people who It is not he thinks the snake is a bad omen from God.
Initially, the essex snake it leans heavily on some well-worn tropes. When Cora and Will first meet, they have no idea who they are, and even though she helps him rescue a goat from certain doom, he’s still one big jerk. Later, when she introduces herself to them properly so he can help her with her investigation, it’s the classic rom-com moment where she realizes with a shock that “Oh, that’s the person who was so rude to me before.” “. It’s not the most original way for two characters to meet, but at least the show gets over it quickly. It helps that Danes and Hiddleston have antagonistic chemistry that’s a lot of fun to watch, even with the family setting.
The other, much more interesting, theme on which the show is based is faith vs. scientific debate. Cora’s desire to find a logical explanation for the snake (she spends a lot of time putting on nice clothes to dig for fossils) comes into direct conflict with most of the townspeople, who become increasingly convinced that it is the work of the snake. a vengeful deity. What makes dynamics particularly interesting in the essex snake it’s Will, who’s caught in the middle. He is a man of faith who also cannot accept supernatural explanations for everything that affects the town, which leaves him questioning a lot about his beliefs and how much he can help the community he serves.
To add even more drama to the proceedings, the show ends up being much more about interpersonal relationships than existential (although the snake and religion remain key elements throughout). the essex snake it puts a lot of very beautiful people in a very dark place and then lets you see them try really hard not to be openly horny with each other. Cora is finally experiencing something close to freedom now that her abusive marriage is over, and she ends up caught between Will (who is not only a pastor, but also married with two children) and Luke (Frank Dillane), a charming young doctor. who also happens to be a pioneering force behind the nascent field of open heart surgery at the time.
Much of the show hinges on watching the three of them navigate this awkward dynamic while being too British and polite to simply say how they feel. This is balanced out by all of the aforementioned struggles, like finding a mythical sea serpent or perfecting some kind of radical surgery. It’s a slow-burning show, not revealing its true intentions until a few episodes. But once you find your footing, the essex snake becomes a drama that treats its subjects with a refreshing honesty that makes them all the more interesting. Falling in and out of love is always complicated, but especially when the world around you is also a complete mess. the essex snake captures that perfectly. And at six episodes long, she does so without over-welcoming him.
Really, it’s a show about the beautiful chaos that arises from conflict, whether it’s between science and faith, love and hate, or putting a bunch of pretty people in a bleak, depressing little town. In that way, the cozy sweater is a metaphor for the essex snake as a whole: its drab, worn exterior hides something much more intriguing underneath.
the essex snake begins streaming on Apple TV Plus on May 13.