The End


Oh it’s so sad. And so happy. It’s so happy and so sad. It’s taken me weeks and weeks just to wipe the tears away.1 I’d better finish up.

Week Seven. Last week, Tulkinghorn got what he so dearly deserved. Now, all the other characters are left to bicker over who actually got around to killing him. There’s an angry, rude, passionate foreign woman running about the place, but surely she’s too, too obvious a suspect? No? Oh. I’m not even going to go near any subtextual implications of her guilt. But I’m happy it wasn’t sweet Lady Dedlock.

Meanwhile, those crazy kids, having come of age, are now engaged secretly to be managed. Ada’s bunking with her dearest now, which seems unwise as he looks sickly enough to catch any number of diseases from. But true love means never quite allowing yourself to notice that your dearest is an obsessive, self-destructive loser.

Mind you, it’s not that easy to find good medical help these days. Hilarious but somewhat disturbing moments this week, as Esther gets rid of the worst doctor ever. Imagine a time where medical knowledge was basic enough, and the populace ignorant enough that a man could make a living going from house to house extolling the virtues of his faithful “black liquid”.2 Where oh where could we get a proper doctor? Oh, it’s that dishy Woodcourt back again. This would be convenient for Esther if she hadn’t gotten all engaged to Mr Jarndyce.

Week Eight. With that nasty murder business behind us, everyone’s happy and well. Or rather they would have been if that silly foreign woman had gone on a proper murderous rampage and taken out Mr Smallweed as well. At the beginning of Bleak House, it felt like there was a dark, oppressive god overseeing all the little people and keeping them in check; now that he’s gone, everyone’s free, and things start moving. Jarndyce and Jarndyce is concluded — but there’s no money in it. Ada and Richard are married — but Richard’s dying. Smallweed ensures that the truth about Lady Dedlock is revealed — and she takes her own life.

In the chaos and release, there’s only room for a few happy endings, but those that eventuate are all the sweeter for the tragedy around them. Life goes on, Mrs Flite’s caged birds are set free, and Mr Jarndyce comes good, and allows Esther to cancel their engagement and marry Woodcourt. There were moments at the start where I wasn’t completely sold on the series — the crazy sound-effects and scene-switching felt a bit tacky in the earlier episodes — but these elements settled down quickly and found a more natural level. Bleak House was a relaxed, involving and consistently entertaining adaptation,3 with the performances of Gillian Anderson, Denis Lawson, Charles Dance and Anna Maxwell Martin in particular making a larger-than-life story feel very real. No one does the classics like the BBC, but I’m glad that they’re willing to experiment with them.

  1. Yeah, that’s plausible. They’ll never guess just how lazy I truly am.
  2. Could have been blue. Or another possibly purple.
  3. Not that I’ve read the book. Must get onto that.

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