Foxtel’s Picnic at Hanging Rock
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Written by Alice Addison & Beatrix Christian
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
Back to the day of the picnic. Rothschild heiress Irma (Samara Weaving) stares across the lake at Michael Fitzhubert (Harrison Gilbertson), eyeing him carefully, as Mademoiselle Dianne de Poitiers (Lola Bessis) keeps an eye on the girls. Then, we jump to Irma, Miranda (Lily Sulivan), Mariona (Madeleine Madden), and Edith (Ruby Rees) heading up the mountain. They see Michael and Albert (James Hoare) along the way, too. More staring between Michael and Irma.
After a while Irma sees Miranda in the field, taking off her stockings and leaving them behind. She gets angry with Miranda, believing she’s “amusing herself” while not caring for the feelings of others. More tension between the two, as seen already in the previous episode.
Jump ahead. Michael’s expedition in the hills wound up helping to find a still breathing Irma, somehow able to survive a week out there on her own, without any food or water. She’s back at the college in bed, fed laudanum by Dr. Mackenzie (Don Hany) and questioned by Sgt. Bumpher (Jonny Pasvolsky). Naturally, the cop wants answers, hoping to figure out more about the other girls. Poor Irma doesn’t have much to add after they all “fell asleep.” By themselves, the men talk, mentioning the young woman wasn’t wearing a corset when she was found. Scandalous.
Widow Appleyard (Natalie Dormer) is having an early drink, stressing about the ones still missing and about what Irma may or may not know. She does seem concerned, though. Even if she’s got skeletons best kept hidden in her closet, she doesn’t appear heartless. In fact, she knows all about the plight of women and girls in bad situations, which is why she fears the worst about what could’ve occurred out there at Hanging Rock. Nevertheless, she IS concerned about her own selfish interests, between a criminal past and the continuance of her college without a permanent blemish from this event.
There’s other bad shit happening. A crucified, disembowelled animal turns up on the grounds. And things like that only serve to make Hester believe the ghostly presence of her late, murdered husband Arthur (Philip Quast) has followed her from London.
We’re beginning to see more unveiled about the relationship between Irma, Marion, and Miranda. There’s something else behind it, more than just a friendship. This is where the original themes of the film come back to bear on this series, such as the loss of childhood innocence and the symbolic movement from childhood to adulthood of young girls becoming young women. Moreover, Ms. Dora Lumley (Yael Stone) is one hell of a repressed woman, so entrenched in Bible worship and ignoring her own sexuality she’s coveting a dildo belonging to Ms. Greta McCraw (Anna McGahan).
More of Irma and Miranda on the fateful day, talking about men, the former much more of a hopeless romantic. Back to the present, Irma believes she’s now fated to be with Michael because he’s her saviour. I think he prefers the other lads to the ladies. Not easy for a young man in 1900 Australia.
“How can a wall protect us from what’s out there? But it does, fortified by standards and values. One brick holds up the next. So it is with the edicts of society.”
Creepy Reg Lumley (Aaron Glenane) gets one of the private letters from Ms. McCraw’s room, dug up by his sister Dora. These two have an uncomfortable relationship, from what I gather. There are deep issues in their family. He’s taken the letter to the coppers, trying to stick his nose into the whole affair. But, why?
There are visions of Hanging Rock plaguing Irma. Mentally, she’s not in a good place. She can’t seem to remember anything concrete, only bits and pieces of what could be memories but what are likely only dreams. She collapses in the rain by the stables, taken inside by Albert, tended to by Michael at her bedside.
Back to another memory, from before the picnic. Irma, Marion, and Miranda lie on the floor together half dressed. They talk about each others bodies, admiring one another. There’s an undeniable tension between them, a curiosity about their sexuality, all those things that come with changing over from just a kid, a teenager, into a young adult. A kiss from Irma to Miranda presents an intriguing reason for why there’s more tension between them specifically.
Skip back to London in 1894, after Hester sees a man in an old hat passing by on a carriage. She remembers that former life with Arthur, all the sketchy characters who inhabited their lives. Is her current paranoia only paranoid? Or, is it genuine concern? Her head’s filled with haunting memories. No wonder she drinks. She soon gets a visit from the sergeant, asking about Ms. McCraw and her “heated behaviour” towards other women. Hester rejects it, though Sgt. Bumpher has clearly started questioning what the headmistress knows about her own girls and employees. He brings up deceptive appearances— a running theme in Picnic at Hanging Rock!
Irma’s awaiting a proposal from Michael. She’s over with the family, the doting uncle and aunt. They’re having dinner together. Although there’s no sign of Michael yet, he’s busy drinking tea in the stable with Albert, the object of his true affections. The young lad’s sent a note instead. She’s saddened, of course. She finds he won’t be proposing any time soon, dashing her hopes. Worse, he’s going to see Miranda’s family while in Queensland, like salt in Irma’s wound.
Before she heads home, she’s summoned to see her headmistress. Hester wants to know her “secrets,” to keep them “where they belong.” The young woman offers nothing, and Widow Appleyard tries to caution her that keeping secrets will damage her forever. ‘Cause the headmistress knows, better than anybody.
A telling scene, where Dora’s trying to teach the girls about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, shows the tension of lesbianism presented in the way the girls are all so scared or weirded out to teach one another, particularly seeing as how it’s similar to kissing. Then Irma shows up, getting set upon by the other girls. They want to know what happened to the others. Soon it devolves into a properly nasty situation, sending Irma running. This keeps some of the women and the girls wondering— did Ms. Leopold have something to do with the disappearance of Marion and Miranda?
We’ll see more next time. Another wonderful chapter in this miniseries, full of grim and beautiful imagery alike! Can’t wait to watch Episode 4.