The Essex Serpent Review

13th May, 2022
The Essex Serpent Review

Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes find themselves at the center of the faith-versus-science debate that threatens to consume the English village Aldwinter – all while a slippery, unseen entity lurks beneath the surface in the new Victorian-era Apple TV+ limited series adapted from Sarah Perry’s 2016 bestseller.

The duo anchoring the story holds our gaze; however, the six-part series suffers from attempting to cover too much ground as it divides time between London and the rural Essex community. It’s overstuffed, yes, but director Clio Barnard isn’t afraid to shoot in the dirt, and the genre-blending period drama captures the evocative and sensual atmosphere of the source material. Mud, mist, and a whole lot of yearning are on the menu in this moody — and sometimes gloomy — meditation on progress. 

After spending her entire adulthood married to an abusive man, Cora Seaborne (Danes) is a recent widow with a newfound sense of freedom that allows her time to explore her natural history passions.

Recent sightings of the fabled Essex Serpent give her the perfect excuse to leave the confines of her London home, full of expensive art, that doubled as a gilded cage. For Cora, it is an archeological playground, but Aldwinter’s community is experiencing a nightmare come to life. Here, folklore and faith entwine, and fear is a unifying factor. Parish vicar Will Ransome (Hiddleston) attempts to quell the paranoia as he rejects fire and brimstone teachings, and the well-read theologian looks more like a hot farmer than a hot priest.