Part two of this three-part adaptation the Jane Austen classic Sense and Sensibility did not involve a lot of laughs. While last week we had Fanny (Claire Skinner) and Mr Dashwood (Mark Gatiss) as light relief, this week we simply had lingering looks, tears and potential heartbreak for both Elinor and Marianne.
Not that it started that way. At a dance with the Middletons, it is clear that the relationship between Marianne and the dubious Willoughby has developed hugely since we last saw them, and the romantic Marianne is exquisitely happy as a result. But the openness with which she favours Willoughby seems a little improper to her more traditional sister, and a small rift in their previously blissful relationship opens up. It is clear, too, that because Elinor is not in floods of tears that Edward has not come to visit, Marianne thinks she just doesn’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.
Dominic Cooper, who plays Willoughby, is absolutely fantastic. With his easy manners (what an 18th century expression!), intimate knowledge of romantic poetry and the offer of a white horse, it is easy to see to why Marianne is attracted to him, but Cooper makes sure that we are aware that there is something deeply unlikable about him too – though Marianne completely fails to notice it.
Every moment she spends alone with Willoughby is absolute agony for the audience, and the director John Alexander (The Shadow In The North, Life On Mars) sees to it that our pain is stretched out for as long as possible, with pregnant pauses and slow-motion camera work. When Willoughby is called to London, we’re pretty sure that he’s not just going for business, and sure enough, we soon see him at the side of another beautiful – if somewhat severe – young lady.
As for Elinor, she is having as little luck as her sister. Even when Edward finally comes to visit the Dashwoods, he is surly and down, and trying to get rid of his anger with a spot of log-chopping in the rain. He’s sporting a ring containing a lock of hair, too, and it’s not Elinor’s. We soon come to realise that his standoffishness is down to the fact that he’s actually already engaged…
As I have already said, Dominic Cooper was definitely the star of this part, but Dan Stevens upped his game too – he seemed much more at home being grumpy than cheery – and I was only disappointed that Fanny’s reappearance was so very short. After the near-perfection of Cranford, Sense and Sensibility does seem a little workmanlike, but the acting is of such a quality that it’s still an enjoyable watch.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip