Taking a break from the usual romantic suspects, this episode Matron’s “exotic” past is explored and Sister Livesey’s German fiancé appears. Meanwhile, Flora hatches a scheme to throw a ‘do’ with boringly patriotic consequences.
It’s interesting to see Matron (Hermione Norris) finally stepping out of the cardboard cut-out her character had inhabited. Her relationship with the semi-psychotic Major Jocelyn Ballard (Peter Sullivan) is enjoyable in it’s tension. Norris is quietly brilliant at expressing the anguish and uncertainty in loving (and losing) a Punjabi soldier.
As Matron pines for her lost man, Joan tries desperately to regain hers. Hope comes from the fleeing Belgian - who sent her letter in the first place - but who is now leaving for England.
Unfortunately, he’s attacked by local French villagers, and Joan’s secret is exposed to Kitty after her and Peter encounter the man’s daughter and rescue him.
In the biggest suspension of disbelief yet, Joan’s German turns up at the cottage.
After sending her German off on her bike (because that’s a really inconspicuous way to travel) she promises to meet him later (with what transport?) but is caught by the cheating quartermaster, with predictably disastrous consequences.
The episode’s pristine quality was soiled - literally - by the first bit of mud I’ve seen, which Rosalie (Marianne Oldham) topples into. For all the relaxing qualities of watching a show where there’s hardly a seam out of place, it was reassuring to see a bit of realism, even if only briefly.
Now that Rosalie is a Rt Honourable, her accent, previously fairly indistinguishable, has taken on amusingly posh tones and phrases. Flora remains one of the most enjoyable characters of the lot, if only for her consistently mad attitude towards anything and everything.
Kitty and the brooding Scot continue to be attractive and brooding and not much else in scenes together, although odds on they'll kiss and make up for the finale.
The penultimate episode makes a good attempt to ratchet up the tension, which perhaps might have had better success had the series previously not been so focused on engagement rings.
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It’s hard to conjure a real sense of fear for any of the characters, encased as they are in a world of starched linen and complicated love lives, separated entirely from the squalor and degradation of trench warfare.
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