Review: “Garrow’s Law”, Series 3, Episode 1: “Not the Madness of King George”

15 November, 2011 at 12:17 am 16 comments

Ah, what a fine, yet ordinary morning… Dobby the house elf has removed all garbage, swept the streets and polished the doorknobs, so the good people of London are going about their business in a remarkably clean 18th century Britain. Merchants are hawking their goods, housemaids are looking for a bargain, and Mr. James Hadfield (Mark Letheren) buys a pistol to shoot King George III.

Well. Maybe it’s not that ordinary a morning, after all.

Meanwhile Mr. Garrow, back in his black velvet coat and looking as dashing as ever, doesn’t find the morning too pleasing. Arriving at the Old Bailey, he finds that the gentlemen of the legal trade do not approve of his “criminal conversation” with Sir Arthur Hill’s wife, Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal). He’s avoided and shunned by everybody, which gives him a great opportunity for a bit of brooding.

But of course, nothing can be so bad that Mr. Silvester (Aidan McArdle) wouldn’t find a way to make it worse. Poor Mr. Garrow, so we learn, is on the receiving end of many poisoned quills in Fleet Street, and though his courtroom nemesis expresses his hopes that the journalists will soon forget about the scandal, I’d bet a quid or two that Mr. Silvester collects all press-clippings of the affair in his diary.

While Mr. Garrow is trying to find a bottle of anti-freeze for shoulders, Lady Sarah is fighting a lost battle on the market. Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves), her very handsome yet unbearably twittish husband, has publicly announced that all shops and merchants are prohibited from giving credit to his wife. No credit, no shopping. It’s not advisable to argue with a man who holds a meat cleaver; a very humiliating and embarrassing experience for Mr. Garrow’s chère-et-tendre. And then the disapproving glares of the local tittle-tattling busybodies on top of it! Quel malheur.

In such a situation, a woman needs a word of hope, of comfort.

“Your son doesn’t belong to you. Nothing belongs to you. Therefore you must avail yourself of the charity of a third party, which you do.”

Close, but no cigar, Mr. Southouse (Alun Armstrong). Lady Sarah wonders if Mr. Southouse will ever approve of her, but the gentleman prefers not to elaborate on this point further. A pity, really; I think he’d have looked adorable with a shopping basket on his head.

Luckily, Mr. Garrow’s credit is still good enough to buy… duck eggs and a gourd.

Gourd and duck eggs – where’s Jamie Oliver when you need him? But do not worry about Mr. Garrow and Mrs. Not-Yet-Garrow, though – they might only have gourd, duck eggs and a draughty home, but love and air is all they need…

(I suspect David Hamilton hijacked the camera and soft-focused the hell out of the following love scene. I could swear somebody was playing the Theme of Bilitis on a hammond organ in the background!)

But back to Mr. Hadfield, a man on a mission. We meet him again at the Royal Theatre of Drury Lane, ready to carry out his dastardly plan.

Bang! Boom! Kabloom! Now that’s what I call an explosive performance! Alas, the shot goes amiss, and Mr. Hadfield is quickly caught by some hard-working and tax-paying citizens in the audience.

Mr. Hadfield announces that the worst is yet to come, and the Duke of York (Tim Steed) looks befuddled. That must come with the title.

Now, I think we can all agree that trying to kill a king is uncouth and also very stupid. You only get away with that sort of thing if you’re Elizabeth I. or the French Convention, and in general, you can’t really count on the support of your family. Considering this, the appearance of Mrs. Ann Hadfield (Sian Brooke) in Mr. Southouse’s office , armed with both a baby and money to pay for the defense of her husband, is very surprising. Mr. Southouse is confused when Mrs. Hadfield insists that her husband is not an assassin or a murderer, but a martyr. Sometimes he’s not himself. Also, he’s cursed.

There’s only one explanation for her words: James Hadfield turns into a werewolf once a month.

Let’s leave Mr. Southouse to his thoughts and turn our attention to the pack of wolves that is the goverment. Lord Melville (Stephen Boxer) suspects that the incident is connected with the French Revolution.

The Duke of York explains what terrifying, horrible and scary things are threatening the peace in Britain: the rights of men, the vindication of the rights of women…

Good grief! We can’t have that! So an example has to be made of James Hadfield. You may make an educated guess how his chances for an acquittal or even a fair process are. But – does James Hadfield want to be acquitted?

This is where the episode takes an unexpected and tragic turn. James Hadfield is convinced that it is God’s will that he’ll die as a martyr to save the world from certain doom. As committing suicide would be a sin, he shot at the King, deliberately missing him, as he hoped to be “set upon by my fellow Englishmen, who’d beat me to death in their indignation, and tear me apart with their patriotic passion.”

If we’d hear such a story today, our first thought would probably be “we need a psychiatrist”, and any court with half a brain would decide that Mr. Hadfield was innocent as he was “non compos mentis”. But we’re talking about the 18th century here. Unless you roamed the street stark naked, waving a bloody meat cleaver above your head while wearing your wife’s hat and yelling “I’m the antichrist”, nobody would have declared you “mad”.  And even then people might have just assumed that you’re Sir Francis Dashwood returning from an orgy at the Hellfire Club.

The reason why Mr. Hadfield doesn’t plead guilty as charged is that he’s a soldier and loyal to the King; he considers himself a patriot and wants to die a martyr, not a traitor. Needless to say, Mr. Garrow finds it difficult to make head or tail of this story, and he and Mr. Southouse leave Newgate prison in a state of great confusion.

Mr. Southouse very correctly identifies Mr. Hadfield’s state of mind and deathwish as his curse, and that the defense must be that the man is mad. However, Mr. Garrow just as correctly points out that, for such a defense to work, Mr. Hedfield would have to be “completely derranged”, which he isn’t. Botheration and damnation, what can they do?

While Mr. Southouse lets Mr. Garrow know once again that he should focus more on his professional than his private life, Mr. Silvester has obviously forgotten all about the last series, and jumps into bed with Lord Melville (that’s an allegory, don’t get any funny ideas!), who offers him the job of King’s Counsellor in return for a successful prosecution of James Hadfield. Mr. Silvester, ever the patriot and opportunist, can’t say no. (Not that he’d want to in the first place…)

After the conversation between his lordship and Mr. Silvester, it becomes apparent that the man is obsessed with destroying William Garrow. That doesn’t make much sense whatsoever, seeing how he helped to save William Garrow from having his life destroyed in the last series. I’m beginning to think that Mr. Hadfield is not the only one with issues here.

While the gentlemen at the Admiralty are scheming, Mr. Southouse is tracking down a witness in the dirtiest part of London (means: bannisters are only polished four times a week and the flower sacks are a bit dusty).

According to John Redknapp (Chris New), Mr. Hadfield’s neighbour and the man who sold him the pistol, Mr. Hadfield’s brain was sometimes “unsettled”, that he was “flurried in the head” and often talked without sense. Is this the proof for Mr. Hadfield’s madness that could save his life? We’ll see.

Elsewhere, things aren’t going well. Lady Sarah suffers terribly from her separation from her son Samuel, who is still held captive living with her estranged husband. This pain seems to throw a shadow on her mind, and though Garrow tries his best to comfort her, there’s not much he can do.

Wait – somebody is missing. Whatever happened to Sir Arthur Hill? Well, his sourly lordship was caught up in the fallout of the scandal as well, and retreated with his misstress, Lady Henrietta Armistad (Olivia Grant), first to Europe for three months and then to his constituency in Sussex, where we find him in a bathtub.

Gods. I just love fanservice!

The scandal hasn’t died down, though, and just like Mr. Garrow, Sir Arthur is dragged through the papers. You just have to love that caricature!

Henrietta is bored with country life and misses London. Will whinging, batting of lashes and flashing of cleavage convince Sir Arthur to return to the capital and its mean journalists?

Have a wild guess. And as we’re already talking about foolish people doing foolish things: Lady Sarah returns to her former home and fetches her jewellery. She carries pearls and gemstones to a pawnbrokers, and with the money, she wants to drag Sir Arthur to court and demand custody for Samuel.

How did I end up on Coronation street?

Lady Sarah is an intelligent woman. One of the things I love about “Garrow’s Law” as a series is the fact that we have one of the rare good female characters on television here; Sarah is not just a squiggle on Garrow’s Q, she’s determined and smart and knows perfectly well what rights, or rather, what lack of rights a woman in her position has. Not even by taking mother’s love into account, an overdose on Ratafia and maybe lack of sleep I can believe that she’d go and steal from Sir Arthur. Because that’s what it is by the law’s of that time: stealing. She owns nothing, he owns everything. She must know that this completely ruins her case. I hope for some sort of intelligent solution in future episodes; by now, “temporary insanity” is just about the only thing that would make some sense.

Now let’s join Mr. Garrow and Mr. Southouse in Bedlam, where ladies and gentlemen could watch mentally ill people for a penny and poke them with sticks. A disgrace, but true.

Luckily for both Mr. Garrow and Mr. Hadfield, the man in charge of Bedlam, Alexander Creighton (Clive Russell) is a decent chap, and he confirms that “madness”, as defined by law, is rare, and that most people who suffer from mental illnesses do have moments, sometimes long periods in time, when they are completely rational and “normal”. And in their own world, their seemingly irrational actions do make sense. This is a defining moment for the defense of James Hadfield.

The process begins, and it becomes apparent very quickly that both the witness (former of the defense, now of the prosecution) and the Duke of York have a rather interesting approach to the truth.

According to the Duke, Mr. Hadfield did not shoot above the royal box; his hand was raised by a stagehand and the shot went through the roof. So the stagehand – a stagehand AND A PATRIOT, YOU PEOPLE! – saved the life of the King. Then the orchestra played “God Save the King”.

Yes. Sure. To say it with Mr. Garrow: “Hah!

It all comes down to a possible change of the law: does the definition of “madness” have to be changed? Is it possible for a man to be only partially “mad”, and should he be acquitted if that was the case?

To understand why this subject was so tricky one has to know that King George III. suffered from recurrent mental illness. There’s an (unconfirmed) story that he once shook a branch of a tree thinking he was shaking the hand of the the King of Prussia. Now imagine the consequences such a change in law could have on the status of the King and the problems it could cause.

No wonder Judge Buller (Michael Culkin) looks worried.

As much as I love spoilers, I will not give the outcome of the process away. But, some inconsistencies aside, series three of “Garrow’s Law” is up for a very good start. And I have to compliment Mark Letheren on his emphatetic and touching portrayal of James Hadfield. The way people with mental illnesses are portrayed in the media is not always dignified, to say the least. We may think that we’ve come a long way from poking sick people with sticks, but one look at the tabloid press will tell you that we’ve merely changed the type of stick.

Mr. Silvester out for blood, Sir Arthur back in town and Lady Sarah in trouble – where will this end?

“I’m called to a custody hearing. My absolute right as a father is to be questioned – challenged.”

“My God. The sickness of the age is truly upon us.”

Word to that, Lord Melville; word to that.

* * *

You can find supporting content for this episode here, and regular readers of this blog will be very pleased to hear that, in some way, we got our wish for the inclusion of the Nelson trial granted. Alas without uniforms, but you can’t have everything…

And don’t forget to visit the blog of Mark Pallis, who has lots of interesting information.

Recommended movie: The Madness of King George, with Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Graves, Rupert Everett.

* * *

Next week: Two men accused of destroying silk looms in an act of industrial sabotage cower in the dock; their defence is perilously thin. Garrow must persuade a sceptical jury of their innocence. Love and loyalty compete with fear and betrayal in the brutal surroundings of the 18th-century Bailey.

* * *


(Unless, of course, you’re not living in the UK. — enter usual rant here —)

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

Garrow’s Law to return on 13th November! Garrowites vs Erskiners: This Time, it’s not about the Gavels.

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rachel  |  15 November, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! I hope someone gets to copy this to YouTube in the near future. Heaven knows when it will reach the USA. Would it help if I wrote to my local PBS stations?

    • 2. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      It can never do harm to write. 🙂 I do think the new series will be available sooner or later in the US, too, just like the previous ones. And for the impatient (and who wouldn’t be!), the internet offers various alternative solutions. *cough*

      • 3. Rachel Bellenoit  |  18 November, 2011 at 12:39 am

        I’ll write to both area stations to nudge them along. And yes, *cough cough*. 🙂 In the meantime, I’ll read this delightful blog.

  • 4. Roh Krishnan  |  15 November, 2011 at 5:04 am

    (I’m here from Livejournal, btw).

    Brilliant review. I spent so much time squeeing over all the legal permutations of Hatfield’s Case that I forgot to consider how good Mr. Garrow looks when he’s all broody and vaguely disapproving. Your screencaps were a nice reminder.

    (IIRC, in the real world version of Hatfield, Thomas Erskine pled for the defense, and the case was prosecuted for the Crown by none other than Garrow. Nice bit of poetic license Auntie Beeb took there, lol).

    • 5. Garrowfan  |  15 November, 2011 at 6:50 am

      Fantastic review as ever!

      I am a bit disappointed about Silvester, but the face, when Lord Melville announced the turning of the witness was priceless… he has a bit of a conscience left!

      Keep up your good work!

      • 6. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 3:53 pm

        Thank you!

        I haven’t given up all hope for Mr. Silvester yet, there are three more episodes to come, and who knows, maybe he’ll come to his senses. Then again, it’s probably more entertaining if he doesn’t, heh!

    • 7. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you! Yes, you’re perfectly right, it was Thomas Erskine’s case. Some people are not amused:

      Well, at least they’re not arguing over gavels this time…! 😀

  • 8. Mrs Silvester  |  15 November, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Great review and lovely screencaps 🙂

    I would like to say a few words about Silvester. These are just my thoughts; others may disagree. I know his behaviour seems inconsistent given he defended Garrow at the end of series 2… but, in that case I think he was persuaded to defend him partly by the publicity that conducting a crim con trial would give him, and I like to think perhaps because he did recognise that Garrow needed to be defended. I think Silvester needs Garrow because he provides a good challenge to him, in order to play the law “as a game for gentlemen”. Silvester will recognise Garrow’s talent when he has been justly beaten (“and you will find me in earnest”). In some ways I think he likes having to up his game.

    Silvester is very ambitious and so being offered KC was something he could not refuse. I know he expressed his dislike of Melville in the last series, but I think he may be prepared to sacrifice his moral principles on this with the chance to ascend to the elevated status of KC. I’m not sure he wants to destroy Garrow… I think he sees him as a threat because Garrow is changing the trial over which traditionally the prosecutor had such influence. So this perhaps alarms him and he feels the only way to get back at Garrow is to get higher in the ranks. And so the possibility of further elevation to the judge’s bench is very attractive to Silvester. It allows him to get back at Garrow for the times he has been beaten him in the past. As he says: “I’d give him hell… I’d sustain every objection”. Garrow is taking away some of his power in the pit and he wishes it back, and he can become more powerful than Garrow by being a judge.

    I think Silvester loves to hate Garrow…! As much as he dislikes him, he somewhat depends on him. And he does recognise his talents to an extent, so there is perhaps some (very) grudging admiration.

    That’s my psychoanalysis of him anyway, haha!

    Re Sarah, I think it is genuine that she is suffering so much grief with the loss of her son, being shunned in society, having a totally different life now and having to tackle things she’s never had to before, all this makes her a bit irrational therefore she is prone to irrational acts, such as stealing the jewellery.

    Cannot wait for next Sunday’s episode! 🙂

    • 9. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      I think Silvester loves to hate Garrow…!

      I think you’re spot on. Other people collect buttons, Silvester’s hobby is making Garrow’s life unpleasant. If they’d had internet back then, he’d probably trolled the hell out of the Old Bailey’s message board! 😉 I suspect he’s writing snarky letters to the various newspapers in his spare time…

      The whole thing doesn’t really work for me yet, but there are still three episodes to come.

      all this makes her a bit irrational

      For me, it would have made sense if she’d taken the jewells, kidnapped Samuel and fled the country. But stealing from the man you’ll meet in court? I don’t know… but let’s wait and see.

  • 10. Irene  |  15 November, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    This is an excellent review! And it was amusing too. Keep it up!

    • 11. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Thank you! Glad you liked it! 🙂

  • 12. Mark Pallis  |  15 November, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Hi. I love these reviews, I really do! Thanks so much for taking the time to put them together.

    On Silvester, I agree with Mrs Silvester; I think he loves to hate Garrow. I thought the scene with Lord Melville about sustaining every objection …”in accordance with the full strictures of the law etc etc” was hilarious!

    On Sarah, I think it’s fair enough for go for the jewels – they were hers after all, even if the law says that everything she had is now (and always was after the marriage) the property of Hill. She’s desperate for her son. Some critics have said this is ahead of its time, but I don’t agree. It’s not a modern thing for a women to be devastated when a child is taken from her, and it’s not modern for her to want to fight to get it back … as you’ll see with some of the stuff I’ll post in later episodes, we were inspired by real cases from the time.

    with best wishes and thanks again for posting – the pics make all the difference!


    • 13. Molly Joyful  |  17 November, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      Glad you had fun with it; the reviews are always a great excuse for a second viewing (as if I needed one, heh…)

      I’m very curious what Silvester will be up to in this series. Aidan McArdle gave some hints in a recent interview, so I can’t wait for the next episodes. As for now, the whole thing doesn’t really work for me yet, but I’ll wait and see. That line really was hilarious, and so typical for him!

      It’s not a modern thing for a women to be devastated when a child is taken from her, and it’s not modern for her to want to fight to get it back

      Oh, absolutely, and I fully understand that. In her place, I’d probably clubbed Arthie over the head and ran off with the bairn. If Sarah had taken the jewellery, snatched Samuel and left the country, it would have made sense to me. But stealing (and she *knows* that it’s considered theft) from the man she intents to confront in court? That’s – not very smart. The “emotional woman gets irrational and does stupid things” trope is one of my pet peeves, but as above, it was only the first episode, so there’s still a lot of time for the story to unfold. 🙂

  • 14. Anke  |  24 November, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I too must say that I found it just simply stupid of Lady Sarah to steal the jewels. I understand the pain she’s in, but stealing from her husband does not help her case. In fact, I am sure that just on those grounds her case could be dismissed. Grieving mother or not. And she doesn’t have much of a case to begin with.

    But as with many others, my problem is Silvester. I’ve said in another post that I think he’s a sexy bastard, but now I am quite disappointed in him. His behaviour now is inconsistent with his previous behaviour. As Mrs. Silvester says, “Silvester needs Garrow because he provides a good challenge to him, in order to play the law “as a game for gentlemen”.

    I never thought Silvester hated Garrow. I always thought he not only respected, but also liked him (in a way you like a punching ball maybe). Silvester liked to deride and taunt Garrow, but mostly because for Silvester a court case was a game and a competition and he knew Garrow was a worthy opponent. And it is so easy to rile up Garrow. If he had wanted to Silvester could have seriously harmed Garrow in the duel.

    I understand that the promise to become a KC would be a great temptation for Silvester, but I was quite shocked when he more or less blackmailed the witness/accused to lie in court. I hope he won’t turn into a complete jerk.

    On another note, Molly, could you tell me where to find the recent interview with Aidan McArdle? I’d love to read it.

  • […] Episode 1: “Not the Madness of King George” […]

  • 16. Irene McWatt  |  21 June, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for this information (re. Opera) – will try it out.
    Also, I just wish the BBC would bring Garrow’s Law back – they’ve done so before, with other series we thought had had its day. But now that they’ve got new management, perhaps one or two will realise what gem was thrown out.


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