Review: “Garrow’s Law”, Series 3, Episode 3: “Dark Forest of the Soul”

4 December, 2011 at 1:27 am 4 comments

People are very much like scratchcards. If you scratch off the latex, you might be lucky and find a fortune, but more often than not, you’ll be disappointed. And if you scratch the thin veneer of civilisation off a man, you might find someone like Sir Thomas Picton. Yes, that Thomas Picton, of Waterloo fame, previously of Trinidad notority, where he ruled as governor with an iron fist. Torture, executions, the full deal. Among other revolting things, he also had a young girl tortured. And all that, I suppose, while being completely convinced that he was an ambassador of civilisation.

Recently some people suggested that the portrait of such a man might not be the most suitable to hang above the judge’s chair in the Carmarthen court house. I’m sure you can imagine how that idea was received…

“Sacrilege! He was a hero! Waterloo! Wellington! British Empire! Pretty uniform!”

“I think we have to accept Picton warts and all and not judge him by today’s standards.”

That’s the opinion of Ann Dorset, one spokeswoman of Carmarthenshire Museum which owns the painting of Sir Thomas Picton. Some warts, indeed – even by the standards of his time. But who cares what a hero does abroad. Fine, he had people tortured and all, but hey, let’s not be too harsh on good ol’ Tom.

As tempting as it is to look at history through rose-tinted glasses: sometimes, people can be heroic and revolting. William Wilberforce, abolitionist and mysoginist. Mary Daly and Gloria Steinem, feminists and transphobes. The list goes on.

The following comment by Richard Goodridge, the former mayor of Carmarthen, is typcial for someone who sees history as a pick-and-match:

“Louisa Calderon suffered no ill effects from the treatment she received and required no medical attention afterwards. After she was released from custody she walked more than a mile to the store where the crime took place, smoking a cigar.”

Standing on a sharp spike while suspended from the ceiling by the wrist? A walk in the park, my friends!

May he step barefoot on a Lego.

But let’s start with something less infuriating, we’ll have plenty of reason for throwing blunt objects later on. Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) can’t decide which dress to wear for her big showdown with Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves). Baby Samuel’s fate is at stake – so… green or blue? The fewer dresses, the harder the choice. And Mr. Garrow (Andrew Buchan) is not yet an experienced enough almost-husband to know that the correct answer would be “you look lovely in both, my dear.”

Who knows, maybe now the time has come to recognise the rights of a mother? Ah, you just have to love an optimist.

The wicked don’t rest, so a new case is coming Mr. Garrow’s way: Mr. James Fullerton (Will Keen) is willing to carry all costs if Mr. Garrow takes on the case of Luisa Calderon (Sasha Frost), a “sweet, young freeborn female, tortured by the vicious governor general of a slave colony.” (Please note les random pots de chambre in the background!)

The case is just the beginning, though: the list of Mr. Picton’s cruelties is long, and while the case has processed too far to stop it, many influential personalities own property in the colonies, and have absolutely no interest in their business of slavery being discussed in public. But that’s exactly what Mr. Fullerton wants: Mr. Garrow should use the huge casefile during the process and so expose the horrible events in Trinidad.

Aw. Looks like George (Harry Melling) caught a serious case of hero-worship…

Meanwhile, Lady Sarah sees Samuel again for the first time in months. The process begins, and as expected, her “immoral” life with William Garrow is the main focus of Sir Arthur’s team.

Sir Arthur Hill, men’s rights advocate.

Lady Sarah, not impressed.

Mr. Fullerton is filling Mr. Garrow in on the long list of crimes committed or ordered by General Picton (Patrick Baladi). While torture is only a “misdemeanour” in British law, he wants to use the case of Luisa Calderon to bring that long list finally to light.

The case is well documented, and George has done a great job collecting all associated cases.

While Mr. Garrow has a look at the evidence, Lady Sarah and Sir Arthur are still shouting at each other. He insists on his right of ownership to the child, she brings up pregnancy and childbirth, and we all know where this will go to…

I’m wondering – as Mr. Garrow has already been found guilty of “criminal conversation” with Lady Sarah, why don’t they just claim now that Samuel is his son now? I mean, the scandal’s already happened. He’s living with a married woman, she is an adulteress in the eyes of law and public. Couldn’t this save everybody a lot of trouble and time?

But anyway, back to Mr. Garrow. He’s interrogating Mr. Vallot (Zubin Varla),  General Picton’s jailer torturer and executor

He’s an alcoholic, driven to drinking by the horrible pictures of his deeds haunting him. Will he be any use as a witness? We’ll see.

Back in court, Lady Sarah has lost her case, as expected. Lady Henrietta (Olivia Grant) is all smug about it, but there seems to be an uncomfortable feeling – maybe the thought that a man who treats a woman badly does not restrict his behaviour to one woman only. Who knows, maybe she’s next on the list to have her heart ripped out?

Time for Mr. Garrow to meet his main witness, Luisa Calderon. Both Mr. Garrow and George are speechless for a moment; can’t say I’m surprised!

Luisa tells of her ordeal, and insists that she had not committed the theft she’d been accused of and subsequently tortured for. Mr. Garrow still seems to be a little unsure about the case when he’s approached by one of Lord Melville’s men and informed that his lordship requires his presence. Uh uh uh.

Lord Melville (Stephen Boxer) makes Mr. Garrow a most immoral offer: if he restricts the case to Luisa Calderon, without bringing General Picton’s other crimes into it, he’ll use his influence on Sir Arthur to make him return Samuel to Lady Sarah. Neither the King nor anybody else profiting from the slave trade and the cruelties connected with it have any interest of seeing their income threatened. Mr. Garrow doesn’t like this offer one bit and tells Lord Milville so in rather strong words.

Upon his return home, Mr. Garrow finds Lady Sarah completely devastated.

Lord Melville had claimed that every man would be compromised at one point in his life – will Mr. Garrow’s love for Lady Sarah be the defining moment in his life when he will be compromised?

While Mr. Garrow ponders his fate, Mr. Southouse makes one last attempt to convince Sir Arthur to return baby Samuel to his mother.

As expected, that heartfelt request is met with ridicule by Sir Arthur, who’s dropped the grapes in favour of apricots.

Life would be much easier for everybody if Sir Arthur choked on an apricot stone, but Mr. Southouse decides not to take any risks, and insists that he wishes to shake Sir Arthur’s hand. As Mr. Southouse is suffering from typhus and knows that it can be passed on by contact, one could consider this an attempt to murder Sir Arthur.

… what?

Yeah – no. I’m sorry, but no. I simply don’t believe that Mr. Southouse would do that, not even if he hated Sir Arthur’s guts and was on the brink of death. Not only is it completely out of character, but let’s assume Mr. Southouse was, like most people in his time, a religious person. Would you murder somebody when you know you’ll meet your maker soon? I really doubt it!

While Sir Arthur returns to apricots and rickettsia prowazekii, Mr. Southouse heads to Mr. Garrow’s house to ask how Lady Sarah is doing. Mr. Garrow, in a gesture of gratitude, puts his hand on Mr. Southouse’s shoulder, but his friend moves quickly away, saying: “Please stand back. I abhoar promiscuous demonstrations of affection” – and even now Mr. Garrow does not realise that something is wrong! Argh! Grrr! Growl! Friends are precious, Will my boy; you might regret not having paid attention soon.

For now, all of Mr. Garrow’s thoughts are with Lady Sarah.

Late at night, he returns to the office, where Mr. Southouse and George put together the damning documents about General Picton’s crimes. But much to their confusion, Mr. Garrow doesn’t want to see the evidence and declares it is of no relevance to the case. Looks like he’s come to a decision, after all.

When he returns home, Mr. Garrow finds Lady Sarah up and dressed. She apologises, saying that Samuel didn’t recognise her and that she’d move on. He tells her that there is still hope, explains Lord Melville’s proposal, and while she first protests, rightly warning that Mr. Garrow that he’ll become Lord Melville’s creature, she finally accepts his decision.

The Picton process starts. Not surprisingly, General Picton appears in company of Lord Melville.

There’s a short exchange between his lordship and Mr. Garrow, but it’s long enough for Mr. Southouse to smell the fish – something is not right here, and he demands to know what’s going on. When he realises that Mr. Garrow has sold out to Lord Melville, he breaks down and collapses. Finally, even Mr. Garrow realises that Mr. Southouse is very, very ill.

Mr. Southouse begs Mr. Garrow to “go in there and do your duty” – but will he? The process starts, with much more than just General Picton’s career at stake.

Mr. Southouse is very ill, and Lady Sarah is looking after him, but there’s nothing she can do for him anymore. Knowing that he doesn’t have much time left, Mr. Southouse asks Lady Sarah to fetch Mr. Garrow, as he wishes to see him.

Judge Buller (Michael Culkin), when learning of Mr. Southouse request, interrupts the process to “consult on the matter of Trinidad law”, giving Mr. Garrow the chance to rush to his old friend’s bedsite. Mr. Garrow arrives just in time to thank Mr. Southouse for all he’s done, for his friendship, his kindness, his guidance, and to tell him how much he is loved. He calls him a father, a teacher and his conscience.

Mr. Southouse says to Mr. Garrow that he was proudest of him in those moments when he was being honest, and what “they” have bought him with. Mr. Garrow replies: “With love.”

Mr. Southouse asks Mr. Garrow to promise him that he’ll be himself. He makes the promise – “may justice be done, even if the heavens fall”.

While Mr. Garrow makes a fateful decision, Mr. Southouse dies. I like to think that he knew that his trust in Mr. Garrow had been justified.

When news of his death reaches court, Judge Buller speaks some very kind words, expressing his hope that goodness will not die along with a good man, and a moment of silence is held.

I won’t spoil the outcome of the process for you – but really, guilty or not don’t make much of a difference in this case. For some people, justice will never be done.

Life goes on after the death of Mr. Southouse and the end of the process. Luisa Calderon is offered a part in a play in Drury Lane, and dear George seems to have the sweets for her. They’d make an incredibly cute couple.

Making her own decisions, Lady Sarah does what I’ve recommended ages ago: taking Samuel and fleeing the place. This promises big trouble for the last episode.

And what about Mr. Garrow? He holds death watch for his old friend. When he falls asleep, George carefully wraps him in a blanket, then kisses his uncle on the forehead.

Thus ends the story of John Southouse. It rarely happens that writers manage to create a character that I really care for, but I did care for Mr. Southouse, and I cried when he died. That’s a compliment both to the writers and the actor; my gratitude to Alun Armstrong for bringing my favourite solicitor to life – and death. He was the heart of the show; “Garrow’s Law” won’t be the same without him, and he’ll be sorely missed.

This episode was very hard to stomach. I’ve spent it either shaking my fist at the screen or crying, yet I’d still call it one of the strongest of the series. Be aware that there will be very ugly racist language and explicit description of torture, though.

There are people who think that we should let the past rest and look forward. “Ok, we had slavery here once, but that was ages ago, why still talk about it?” I’ll tell you why – because most of us don’t have a clue where the metals in our mobile phones and laptops come from, and under what conditions they are mined in the Republic of Congo. Because there are now more slaves worldwide than at any other time in history. Because we all still profit from slavery.

WATCH THIS EPISODE ON THE BBC’S iPLAYER!

Inspirations for this episode
by Mark Pallis

Next week (BBC1, Sunday, 9pm): A vicious riot erupts on polling day in the Westminster constituency. As the crowd parts, an old man lies on the ground, brutally clubbed to death. Garrow, alone and grieving, gets pulled into a complex web of conspiracy and cover-up, of political double-dealing and the abuse of power.

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

“Garrow’s Law”, Series 3, Episode 2: “Luddites and Liars” Review: “Garrow’s Law”, Series 3, Episode 4: “The Baby in the Basket”

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rohwyn  |  4 December, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Here from LJ…

    I was gutted by this episode, because I had no idea that Mr. Southouse was leaving us. 😦 I cried through much of the scene at his deathbed, and I have no idea how Garrow can function at such a high level without his solicitor (and more importantly, his conscience). *bawls*

    I’m wondering – as Mr. Garrow has already been found guilty of “criminal conversation” with Lady Sarah, why don’t they just claim now that Samuel is his son now?

    I’m not an expert on family law, especially of the Georgian era, but I think they’re bound by the common law rule that a child born to a married woman is the child of the husband, unless he can prove otherwise, i.e. he has evidence he was not around for conception. I don’t think Sir Arthur can emphatically prove the child is not his. Moreover, IIRC, he’s in need of an heir, and Samuel will do, at least for now, I guess. *shrugs*

    Reply
    • 2. Molly Joyful  |  11 December, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      i only read some spoilers, and i didn’t think they’d really kill off mr. southouse. so, just like you, i was floored and had a good cry. it was one of those cases of character death which really got the plot moving, and as sad as it is that mr. southouse is not part of the show anymore, his death and the consequences for his family and friends were wonderfully done.

      as for lady sarah: very good point, i think you’re right. well, the samuel-case turned out the way we all wanted, so i’m very happy now. 🙂

      Reply
  • […] Episode 3: “Dark Forest of the Soul” […]

    Reply
  • 4. Rikibeth  |  21 December, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I loved this episode, sad as it was (and how odd it was for me, as Southouse is so very opposite Wackford Squeers or Thenardier, but is wearing their face) but I have one complaint: where is Lady Sarah’s shift? There should be a shift under her stays, and it’s MISSING. Stays are expensive and worn daily; they need a shift under them, to protect them from sweat. They make this mistake in a later episode, too. I don’t understand it, when everything else is so PERFECT.

    SHIFT, dammit!

    Reply

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