BBC One’s Requiem
Episode 1: “Matilda”
Directed by Mahalia Belo
Written by Kris Mrksa
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Blue Room” – click here
In a big stately home, an older gentleman called Ewan Dean hears noises. He’s frightened. This sends him around the place smashing all the mirrors; something is living inside them, something terrifying. This sends him up to the roof. And somebody pulls up just in time to watch him jump to his death in the driveway below. A mystery we’ll have to unravel.
We meet Matilda Gray (Lydia Wilson), her mother is Janice (Joanna Scanian). They meet for tea, have a chat. They’re close. Matilda is a busy woman, a musician. Her axe? The cello. She goes to rehearsal with pianist Hal Fine (Joel Fry) and they play a beautiful piece together. She has a few secrets, too. Like the fact she’s headed for New York and mom doesn’t know yet.
At home, Janice’s CD player goes all funny, strange things start occurring while she’s putting on makeup. She hears something like static all around her, muffled screams underneath the noise, as if it’s everywhere.
And it is everywhere. Even lurking around Matilda, in the mirrors, in the air.
Janice shows up to see Matilda, she’s only got half her makeup on. She gives her daughter flowers then walks off, apologising. The daughter follows along behind her mother, who’s walking like she’s possessed. Matilda follows Janice into a dark parking garage. It’s there her mother pulls a knife out of a bag, cutting her throat open in a bloody mess. Oh my lord. Brutal.
In the aftermath Hal is there to try comforting Matilda. Although it’ll be a long, hard road. Such a strange turn of events, because Janice had no history of violence. Matilda’s mother was suffering from “acute anxiety” and took antidepressants. But, the medication didn’t make her do that, far as toxicology’s concerned. Another suicide mystery. Particularly when Matilda considers that her mother couldn’t have known where she was, to find her out back smoking before the performance. Eerie, no? Worse, whatever was following mum is hovering around the daughter.
Matilda has a vision. She’s in a cave, a light flickering. There’s a door at the end, inside is a little girl. Soon, she wakes, back to the waking nightmare of her life currently. She goes over to her mother’s place, where the music comes on suddenly up in the bedroom giving her a fright. In the static is a voice-like noise again. It’s all bad enough, she’s left sifting through Janice’s left after witnessing her vicious suicide. In a box, Matilda finds a videotape labelled CARYS, along with newspaper clippings, pictures of a missing girl named Carys Howell, plus half of a heart necklace, some photographs of two people in the woods + that house Mr. Dean jumped off in the beginning, all dating to 1994.
With the box of evidence, Matilda goes to Alice Brenton (Nimmi Harasgama), the officer who came to speak with her after Janice’s suicide. Of course it all just looks like a citizen becoming “emotionally involved” in the case of a missing little girl. We know now that the Dean house is located in Wales. Yet mum was born in Manchester, no connection to that Welsh village from the pictures. Or, at least not that Matilda knows, anyway.
Left picking up the pieces and burying her mother Matilda is trying to figure out what her mother was doing with all those things in the box. She wonders if the woman in the photos was the mother of Carys; but who was she meeting? Hal suggests they go out to Wales, despite the fact he doesn’t think they’ll find anything. He’s supportive. And now it’s a Welsh road trip for the pair!
They arrive in the little Welsh village of their destination. Just so happens it’s right as the funeral of Mr. Dean is happening. Matilda asks around about Rose (Claire Rushbrook), who is now Rose Morgan, not Howell. Asking questions in a small place isn’t always easy, she has to work at it; some “barefaced lying,” as Hal puts it. Nevertheless, they come to see the woman in those photographs is highly likely Rose herself. Matilda gets to talk with the woman, as well. Bit confrontational, certainly. More so after husband Aaron Morgan (Richard Harrington) gets in there, angry and physical.
Later on, nephew of the deceased old man Nick Dean (James Frecheville) chats up Matilda and Hal, making sure they’re okay. He’s much more friendly. Moreover, he identifies his uncle’s estate: the one he’s been left post-suicide. Perfect coincidence. They head over with Nick to the big house, he also offers to put them up for the night in one of the extra rooms. Gives Matilda a chance to poke around the estate, the old woods out beyond the backyard. Around the house Matilda already notices the mirrors missing their glass, aside from a scattered piece here or there.
“It‘s kinda creepy staying in a big house like this all on my own”
At her place, Rose is thinking of her daughter Carys. There’s also some connection to Ewan’s estate, obviously. But what? We see the grieving mother tear up Mr. Dean’s funeral program, crying, and the husband mentions that the old guy “did right” by them. There is evidently a long, storied history between them all in that village.
Then we have the coincidence of the two suicides, connected by these threads. Matilda tells Hal and Nick of a dream she had for years, the one where she’s in the cave, or some other “narrow passage,” where she finds the girl. She wonders if the “dead can communicate” with the living, perhaps through dreams. Hal doubts that, whereas Nick is more inclined to believe.
Cue another dream of that cramped space, the door, the girl. Matilda keeps waking up in places she didn’t fall asleep, either. Might be significant at some point. She hears a banging somewhere in the house. All three of them are awake now, they see the front door’s open in the wind. “I‘ve been here before,” Matilda says. On instinct she goes to one of the rooms and she finds the trap door, the one Ewan looked through before heading up to the roof.
Down below is a large room, shelves full of books, tapes dating up to ’94. One tape is a terrifying sound, like a little girl singing from far off, slightly distorted, airy. There’s also a mirror. Matilda has another vision of that cave-like passage. She sees the little girl behind a glassy pane this time. And the girl is her: Matilda is Carys.
Holy shit. That’s unsettling. What an opening episode, I didn’t anticipate such a strong start. Can’t wait to see the next episode, I’m hooked already. No telling what more Matilda will uncover. “The Blue Room” is next.