Review: “Garrow’s Law”, BBC1: Episode 2 – Could the Real Monster please stand up?
A new broom sweeps clean, so I didn’t dare to hope for episode two of “Garrow’s Law” to be quite on par with it’s stellar premiere. And I was right – it was actually better!
William Garrow (Andrew Buchan), now a celebrated Old Bailey barrister, is encouraged by John Southouse (Alun Armstrong) to defend Renwick Williams, accused of being the infamous Monster who has carried out a series of stabbings on young ladies across London. As a result, Garrow’s popularity diminishes with the public and the press. Even he describes Williams as a ‘lecherous libertine’ and his defence is not easy. Garrow’s growing friendship with Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) does not go unnoticed by her husband, Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves).
Customs, morals, standards and laws may change – but human nature doesn’t. The case of the “monster” in episode two of “Garrow’s Law” proves that once again. Whenever a heinous crime is committed, media and public are quick to put a dehumanising label on the perpetrator: “monster” or “beast” are very popular. Crimes, however, are committed by human beings – people just like you and I. An uncomfortable thought, belonging to the same subspecies with murderers, isn’t it? Who knows what we might be capable of, depending on the circumstances? Also Mr. Garrow finds affinity of nature in the most unexpected and unpleasant places, and it’s a good thing that Lady Sarah, who is the voice of his conscience, pushes him in the right direction. She may do so with gloved hands, but she’s very firm at pointing out that Garrow’s willingness to defend the accused is his duty and will make the difference between a trial and a lynching. Whether her assumption is correct remains to be seen…
Mr. Garrow is crossing the blade with John Julius Angerstein (Nicholas Day), publisher of the “Gazette”, the 18th-century equivalent of the Daily Mail and mouthpiece of the “decent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens of London”, voicing the public’s rage and self-righteous indignation. All is fair in politics and the sale of newspapers, so the truth is of no great importance in court, and Sir Arthur has his own reasons to wish for Mr. Garrow’s downfall. The public on the gallery, witnessing the trial, harrasses the accused’s mother, trims its sail to the wind, cheers for a witness one moment and boos her the next, and if these fine gentlefolks would live today, you’d find their outbursts on the comment pages of every newspaper and in the BBC’s own “Have Your Say” section.
There’s not one dull moment in this episode; new facts, obscure old laws and withheld information, in combination with the accused’s difficult and self-destructive character don’t help Garrow with his job. There are many highlights, but his interrogation of one of the “monster’s” victims is one of mynew favourite scenes on British television. I’m guilty of loud cheering in front of the telly, your Honour.
At the end of the day, guilt or innocence of the accused libertine aren’t of importance to court and public; if he’s not guilty of that crime, then he’s certainly guilty of some other or might commit one in future. So why not get him off the streets when given the opportunity? Saving his neck isn’t an easy task for Mr. Garrow, and he might be heading for a Pyrrhic victory.
Great acting all around; I have to mention here Joel Gillman as Renwick Williams and Carry Kelly as his mother Agnes. Andrew Buchan and Alun Armstrong give their characters’ interactions a wonderful dynamic, and Aidan McArdle (Silvester) and Michael Culkin (Judge Buller) are perfectly perfidious villains. “Garrow’s Law” is, without a doubt, one of the best period dramas the BBC has produced in ages.
And yes, Mr. Garrow gets more dashing by the episode. Where are my sal volatile and my fan…
You can catch up with the episodes of “Garrow’s Law” on the BBC’s iPlayer. You’ll also find character profiles and additional information there. Don’t forget to check the historical backhistory of the case of “the monster” by Mark Pallis, Legal & Historical Consultant of “Garrow’s Law”.