If you’ve been following this production of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, then you would know that there has been no attempt to lighten thing up a bit. The book is ceaselessly grim – Tess called her son (who dies, of course) “Sorrow” for goodness sake – and this TV version is precisely the same – and in that sense it’s a pretty good adaptation. Last week, at least, Tess found the love of her life, the aptly named Angel, and this episode actually started with their wedding. Too good to last? Naturally.
When Tess and Angel arrive at their new home, there is a slight shadow over the marriage (surprise), as the two had admitted to each other that they both had a confession to make, but had decided to wait until after the wedding to make it known. Now it is time to speak its name, and Angel decides to go first. He says that he “loves goodness and hates impurity” (Tess flinches), but he did actually spend two nights with A Woman Of Loose Morals when he was young, lost, and confused.
Tess’s face lights up, and forgives him instantly. “You seem almost pleased” he says; “I am – because now you can forgive me” she answers. It’s a heartbreaking moment – Tess is absolutely convinced that the rules are the same for men and women. They are not, and he takes the news of her ‘seduction’ hard. He instantly becomes pious and indignant, especially when she says that, while it was against her wishes, she did feel beholden to Alec as he had helped her family. “So your virtue was his reward?!” he asks. Eventually, he calms, and sadly admits that she “was more sinned against than sinning, I’m sure”. But in reality it changes nothing – the marriage is effectively over.
This scene is certainly the best of the series so far, as it put the great, subdued acting skills of Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne to the fore. Both Tess and Angel are complicated characters – essentially good, but fatally flawed thanks to a mixture of naivety, and unfair but entrenched beliefs – and this is displayed wonderfully by the young actors.
With Angel gone, Tess’s life goes from sad to almost unbearable, and all of the foundations are laid for the dramatic and tragic finale that it is to come next week. Hardship is heaped upon hardship, and the return of “reformed Alec” (who, for all his newfound Godliness, still warns Tess “I will have you”) only makes things worse. I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but do not expect a happy ending…Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip