Review: “Garrow’s Law” – Mr. Southouse and the Joyful Molly-House #garrowslaw

22 November, 2010 at 6:19 pm 9 comments

“Oh my God – you’ll be a romantic at the Old Bailey! Heaven help us all!”

And heaven help me – at the rate I’m going through tissues watching this series, I’ll be broke by the end of the month.

But first we have to go through yet another tactless conversation between Mr. Southouse (Alun Armstrong), Lady Sarah Hill (Lyndsey Marshal) and Mr. Garrow (Andrew Buchan). Southouse tries to discuss Lady Sarah’s legal situation in a discrete, diplomatic manner. Recommendable, but Garrow’s inner teenager is on the go again.

Lady Sarah seems to doubt that Southouse believes her word that she has not “lain” with Garrow. He confirms this and remarks: “I’d recollect if that had been so”. Somebody hand that man an ASBO, please. Southouse makes absolutely clear that Garrow and Lady Sarah must keep apart, so not to provide Sir Arthur with any ammunition to support his case. Let’s make a bet here if they will heed his advice…

Sir Arthur has completed his transformation from gentleman to moustache-twirling villain; quite a feat, considering he’s clean-shaven.

While he paces his mansion like a caged tiger, the dastardly, despicable and drab Mr. Farmer (Anton Lesser) begins to spin his web. He employs people to supervise and spy on Lady Sarah at all times, and he’s very specific in his demands – he wants to know about “the stains on her undergarments and the contents of her pot”. A pity the man isn’t alive anymore, he’d make an excellent investigative celebrity journalist.

Meanwhile, the court under Judge Buller (Michael Culkin) is off to a dramatic start: a couple is accused and found guilty of coining.

They are sentenced to death, but it’s difficult to tell whether this is due to their guilt or Mr. Garrow being distracted by Mr. Farmer in the audience. Garrow seems to have as little concern for his clients’ fate as Mr. Silvester (Aidan McArdle), who munches either dates or peeled grapes with an expression of ennui on his face, while the unfortunate victims of 18th century “justice” are dragged away to the gallows. Maybe I should send him a lyre, he seems to the bread-and-circuses-type.

The difference in the sentences for man and woman convicted of the same crime is yet again typical for the misogyny in 18th century Britain: the man will be hanged, the woman burned at stake. (Well, she’ll be hanged first, so we can assume that she’ll already be dead by the time the fire consumes her, but still, what the hell?!)

To keep himself busy Mr. Garrow, cravat-deep into trouble and facing ruin, takes on the case of Captain Robert Jones (outstanding performance by Andrew Scott), who’s accused of assaulting his cobbler, David Jasker (Matthew McNulty). Not just any assault, though: Jasker claims that his customer was a “sodomite” and had raped him. The incident only came to light because Jasker’s wife Isabella (Liz White) interrupted the two, and it’s also her who insists that her husband takes the case to court. She worries about his reputation if he shouldn’t take any action.

One does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that there’s more between Dr. Moriarty Captain Jones and Jasker than meets the eye. While Garrow believes Captain Jones is not guilty of assault, Mr. Southouse is suspicious. So is Garrow, but for different reasons. He believes in his client’s innocence, but also thinks him to be a liar.

A difficult case, so Mr. Southouse’s talents as an undercover investigator are needed! Armed with a pair of shoes of his late wife, he heads for Mr. Jasker’s workshop.

It’s very clear something’s not quite right with the Jaskerses, but what, Southouse can’t figure out on his first visit.

Meanwhile, Garrow undertakes the heroic attempt of making Sir Arthur Hill see sense. The man is a politician, so how big are the chances of this undertaking being a success…?

Yes, exactly: nil. Zero. He won’t allow his wife to see their child, he’s been wronged, life is cruel, bla bla bla. For once, Garrow sees the futility of his actions, tells Sir Arthur Hill that he’ll never understand respect because he’s not capable of giving it and leaves his lordship to sulk.

Someobody has to bear the brunt of Garrow’s anger, and who’d be more suitable than the not really honest Captain Jones?

Jones admits that he’s given Jasker money as his business was in trouble. He now presents the case as one of blackmail; as Jones is not married, he’d be an easy target for such a crime. Surprisingly (for Garrow and Southose, not for us…) Jones doesn’t seem to be too keen on getting rid of his blackmailer and seeing him in the dock. Gee, why might that be…

Luckily for Jones, the cavalry arrives in form of his fiancee. How convenient! Certainly, a man who’s bedding a dashing redhead can’t be a sodomite, right? Wonderful! Case solved! Reputation saved!

David Jasker doesn’t know anything about the dark clouds of trouble gathering on the horizon of his life. His wife is glad that her husband is “himself” again. But wait a second – if he wasn’t himself before – what was he then…?

Mr. Southouse has some very clears idea about that point, and is only too happy to herald the news of David Jasker’s imminent persecution for blackmail.

And as we’re already talking about blackmailers: Mr. Farmer is also engaging in this filthy business, putting Lady Sarah’s maid under pressure. He’s following the age-old rule: if you don’t have any evidence, manufacture it yourself, so Mary is sent with a faked letter to Mr. Garrow, requiring his presence at Lady Sarah’s hotel.

Mr. Jasker is also very busy manufacturing – horse manure, that is. It wasn’t blackmail, he tells his wife, but rather a loan, as Captain Jones was a wealthy man and his business was ailing.

His wife, only too eager to believe whatever nonsense her husband tells her as long as it’s not the truth, constructs a scenario in which Captain Jones feels that the money he gave Jasker would entitle him to take “liberties” with her husband. She’s  now even more determined to prove her husband’s innocence in court. Needless to say, he’s delighted.

Garrow, not questioning the fake note and not heading Southouse’s dire warnings either, arrives at Lady Sarah’s hotel room. Not surprisingly, Mary knocks on the door. Now that will make a nice witness for Sir Arthur Hill! But whatever, William Garrow is a practical man, and as you’re hanged for a sheep as a lamb, he very sensibly decides that he might as well just stay as he’s already there. And what happens?

Nothing! Ab-so-lu-te-ly nothing! I demand sainthood for both Lady Sarah and Mr. Garrow. Had I been in her place, I’d been sending cravats and stockings and garters a-flying… while the turtle doves refrain from turtling, Mr. Southouse is looking for Captain Jones’ fiancee. To his great surprise and horror, he learns that the lady in question is not quite a lady, but rather known as “Mother” and running a molly house.

To sum it up: the woman who should testify Captain Jones’ “preference” for women is running a molly house. The respectable Captain Jones has been “many a man’s husband”, the defense has nothing, absolutely nothing to work with and the outraged Southouse advices Garrow to give the case up. After all, Jones is a sodomite. Southouse is also worried that he’s been mistaken for a “Macaroni” – I doubt it, though. Nobody could possibly look at Southouse and think of a Macaroni. (You haven’t been paying attention, Mr. Garrow!)

Garrow has a different view on the case, though. Captain Jones is accused of assaulting David Jesker, and of that, Garrow is sure, the man is innocent. It’s neither blackmail nor assault, but the age-old tale of love and betrayal.

And as different as his own life is from that of Captain Jones, Garrow can emphasise with somebody who loves the “wrong” person as he’s in the same position. He even confides in Jones about his heartache, and in a very touching and intimate scene, Jones tells him everything about the relationship between himself and David  Jasker. At the end of the day, it’s all about love, and Garrow decides that love will be what could save his client’s neck.

Jasker tries to withdraw the case at the last moment, but his wife insists he goes through with it, and Silvester warns him that it could happen that he’d be accused of consent. So, once again, Jasker does as he’s told, not as he wants. And what he doesn’t want to say, his wife will. And what hasn’t happened, she’ll make up.

At first glance, Mrs. Jasker seems to be an unpleasant character. She knows that the encounter between her husband and Captain Jones was consensual;  she puts him under pressure and calls him weak in public. But we have to keep in mind that Isabella Jasker reacted exactly the way most women would have in her situation. As mentioned in my last review, the status of a woman was closely connected with the status of her husband; disgrace for him also meant disgrace and hardship for her.

Eventually, the process takes an unexpected, but hoped-for turn, and at least for Captain Jones, there won’t be a punishment – this time.

I’m not going to spoil every detail for you, but let me say that much: for once, just for once, the gay guy doesn’t die; a refreshing change from a trope we still see regularly perpetuated on both television and the big screen. And despite the verdict, there’s the distinct notion that, eventually, the two men might find happiness within the confines and restrictions of their time.


You’ll also find an article by Mark Pallis about the actual cases which inspired this episode and links which will provide you with further information.

Related literature:

Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830
(Hardcover) by Rictor Norton

Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean
by B.R. Burg

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash: Piracy, Sexuality and Masculine Identity
(Paperback) by Hans Turley

Boys at Sea: Sodomy, Indecency, and Courts Martial in Nelson’s Navy
(Hardcover) by B.R. Burg


Entry filed under: 18th century, garrow's law, resource, tv. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

TV Tip: Don’t miss tomorrow’s episode of “Garrow’s Law” (BBC1, 9PM) TV Tip: Tomorrow, “Garrow’s Law” will tackle the Admiralty (9pm, BBC1)

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark Pallis  |  22 November, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I always love reading your reviews!! thanks.

    • 2. Molly Joyful  |  23 November, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you; great episodes make for good reviews, and I’m rather grateful Garrow’s Law keeps me from doing the laundry… 😉

  • 3. Garrowfan  |  22 November, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    “Somebody hand that man an ASBO, please.” 🙂

    I always love your reviews!

    • 4. Molly Joyful  |  23 November, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks a lot! :>)

  • 5. Liz Hanbury  |  22 November, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Great review, JM! It was a fabulous episode, well-written and beautifully acted. Andrew Scott was indeed outstanding as Robert Jones.

    • 6. Molly Joyful  |  23 November, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      Thanks a lot, Liz. Andrew Scott fooled me again; no matter what he does, I expect to hate it, and then he goes and delivers a stunning performance and I forget all about complaining. Matthew McNulty was also very good, they made a lovely couple. 🙂

  • 7. Chelsea  |  23 November, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I’ve really been enjoying reading your reviews again this season. I loved the episode and agree that Andrew Scott was fantastic! It was so nice to see a (relatively) happy yet seemingly realistic ending.

    • 8. Molly Joyful  |  23 November, 2010 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks! The happy ending was fantastic, especially because it was so unexpected (I was convinced we’d get yet another hanging, or at least some ugly scenes on the pillory). Some have criticised it as “too modern”, but I agree with you, I thought it was realistic, and some cases I’ve found during my researches were rather similar.

  • […] Episode 2: “Mr. Southouse and the Joyful Molly-House” […]


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