Oh Crimson Field! I do so want to like you but you keep fidgeting about like an unformed teenage brain: too many half formed ideas, not enough commitment and a scant regard for accuracy. I’ll be glad when it’s over and I can get off the schmaltzy Sunday TV merry go round.
To start with a quick recap. Episode four was more promising (episode FOUR you say? It’s taken that long?) opening in sombre mood with a mass funeral. We weren’t told who the dead were, which may reflect the frequency of such ceremonies and certainly reflects the massive numbers of dead each day. Did nurses attend these ceremonies? I’d like to know.
There were some plus points: mentions of picking up the clap in the local town; absinthe; superstitions; black humour, hints at empire – all realistic. There’s Oona Chaplin’s beauty, and she can act, although where did that Cockernee accent come from that slipped out when she stormed out of the car heading for town? Kitty had been summonsed to meet a mysterious man in a nearby hotel; she must go rather than go on a date with handsome Captain Gillan. She hitches a lift and appears to have been stood up when in lurks an older man who turns out to be her husband.
There’s a new thread – as if there weren’t enough already – marital cruelty. Kitty’s ‘wronged’ husband (in his eyes only), played by the noble Sam West, plays an intensely cruel trick on her, pretending that their daughter is in the hotel. He’s a nasty bit of work and we instantly understand why she ran away, even at the cost of losing her daughter. Unfortunately, it’s a clichéd story, a wasted opportunity to bring some real depth to the series, maybe by addressing inequality in marriage. Luckily Kitty seems to get over it all in the blink of an eye, so that’s alright then.
While I was optimistic at the start of this episode, my main criticism remains the quantity of story lines, some of them are important and interesting issues that deserve attention. It would be so much more satisfying if say, Kitty, Matron Carter and one other storyline were at the centre. If each character’s circumstance were explored properly we’d have a gripping, relevant, and timely TV series. It’s an interesting enough time in history to let a few strands of truth speak for themselves. But The Crimson Field is a sound-bite version of World War I; I am disappointed with it. As one of my Twitter friends said: ‘I’m hoping no one thinks it was really like that’.