The Essex Serpent
Apple TV+’s newest release, The Essex Serpent, stars Claire Danes as Cora Seaborne, a recently-widowed mother from London interested in fossils and artefacts, and Tom Hiddleston as Will Ransome, a vicar whom she forms a close bond with. Cora’s interest takes her to Essex, where rumours of a mythical serpent run amok, causing panic and anxiety amongst the villagers of Aldwinter. With a lot of nuances and moving parts within its plot, The Essex Serpent intrinsically ties the myth of the creature to discussions surrounding feminism and socialism, creating intrigue and raising questions about how society functions.
The structure of the series sees one single event create a whirlwind of different scenarios within an episode, before culminating in a resolution. This then sparks a new event that dominates the majority of the next episode, only resolving at the very end once again, sparking a few more problems in its wake. This domino effect follows through and creates a never-ending cycle of questions, answers and more questions. The Essex Serpent’s penchant for cliff-hangers adds a little bit of an edge to its otherwise slow pace and long runtime.
The themes explored within the show start off subtle before transitioning to become more pronounced. For example, the presence of sexism is at first normalised, with Cora and her friend being the only women in a room full of male observers at a live operation, before one of the men warns them about seeing too much blood. As the episode goes on, conversations about what men can do and what women can’t do become more prominent, which then develop into discussions of evidence against belief. Finally, these evolve into the broader clash of science and theology, and the divide between theology and myth. The gradual emergence of these themes throughout the series allows the discussions to remain streamlined and natural rather than forced.
Visually, The Essex Serpent is filtered in cold greys and neutrals to really emphasise the ever-looming presence of the serpent. This choice allows for the warmth of natural lighting – whether it be the little rays of sunlight or the small glow of a candle – to flit in through dull colours, adding emotional weight depending on what the scene demands. The score is also an ominous presence that overall helps maintain the mystery surrounding the myth of the creature.
The Essex Serpent is released on Apple TV+ on 13th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Essex Serpent here: