Foxtel’s Picnic at Hanging Rock
Directed by Amanda Brotchie
Written by Alice Addison
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
We find Sara Waybourne (Inez Currõ) having strange dreams, amid the worry for her friend Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan) still lost in the Outback. At the same time, Irma Leopold’s (Samara Weaving) been driven by the young women from the school, as Ms. Dora Lumley (Yael Stone) pretty much let the abuse happen right in front of her. Poor Sara was left in the “posture board” the whole time, too. At least Mademoiselle Dianne de Poitiers (Lola Bessis) is looking out for the girls and the young women.
There’s such a back and forth energy about Widow Hester Appleyard (Natalie Dormer). She’s at times sympathetic. Others, she’s scarily dominant. She warns Sara about “collecting secrets,” but doesn’t get the response she wants from the little girl. The relationship is a rough one. Meanwhile, Hester is concerned with “hysteria” spreading at the college, so she orders more fresh air, music, and a bit of church for her pupils.
In town, Mrs. Appleyard and her college aren’t loved by the locals. The posters around for those still missing draw dirty looks towards her and the girls. Sergeant Bumpher (Jonny Pasvolsky) continually searches for answers. But he overlooks other possibilities. Mrs. Bumpher (Kate Box) tells him he has no clue about the inner workings of the womanly mind, especially not the minds of young women— mysteries far too many men won’t ever be able to comprehend.
While everyone’s out, Dora is left looking after Sara, and she falls asleep. The little girl has a peek around the place by herself. She finds a gun belonging to Mrs. Appleyard. Then she comes across a man – the one who came on to Miranda and got a pitchfork in the foot – crouching on the carpet for a shit. Tom (Mark Coles Smith) is able to talk her out of doing anything rash. This brings Bumpher to the college. He has questions about the “highwayman‘s gun” Hester owns. More trouble.
Skip back to Christmas Holidays during December of 1899. Some of the ladies are going elsewhere, such as Irma and a few of the more well-to-do amongst the students, and some are going home like Miranda, along with Sara at her side. A few others stay at the college. Marion Quade (Madeleine Madden) is one of those few, as well as Ms. Greta McCraw (Anna McGahan), the both of whom get to know each other better while doing a bit of reading. We’ve already seen Marion’s curiosity, and we’ve been given a glimpse of Greta’s secret, sexual life. It’s obvious where it’s all headed. Or, is it?
Hester talks with Marion about giving her work at the college, teaching history. Most of it sounds nice, other than the implied racism, y’know. The younger woman smile and takes it, which she’s probably gotten used to over the years. Then, after the holidays wind down, Irma gets back eager to share presents with Marion, only to find her friend lying in bed sharing a cigarette and longing looks + deep conversation with Ms. McCraw. This opens a new, secret rift amongst the ladies.
Note: The scene with Greta + Marion epitomises many of the themes in Picnic at Hanging Rock, particularly the below quote. We’re seeing the divide between childhood and adulthood, in the context of women’s sexuality.
The whole sexuality theme extends to the men, too. Michael Fitzhubert (Harrison Gilbertson) has come back from holiday, saying he’s got plans to head off travelling. He wants to take Albert Crundall (James Hoare). Except Albert’s a self-proclaimed “working man” and can’t yet embrace the part of him which seems to long for a different relationship with Michael. The upper class dandy could afford to live a life outside of Victorian era social acceptance, not someone working class. So sad. YET THE LONGING IS TOO SEXY! IT’S TOO MUCH! Later, Albert gets a reward for helping Irma, which might just change all that.
We’re given a glimpse of the orphanage, from which Sara was plucked. We also see that Albert is Sara’s brother. He doesn’t know that she’s up at the college, and he’s been looking to find her for ages. He wants to use the money from his reward to get her back. Only problem is, she’s been sent from the orphanage to a benefactor, then abandoned to the college by him, as well. A right mess.
Speaking of messes, Hester’s got bills on top of bills. Plus, she’s found out there’s a detective from Scotland Yard about to come in on the case, sent by Mr. Leopold. This almost gives her a heart attack, given her past. Aside from that, more of her past has turned up— one of the men in the strange, old hat, Tomasetti (Marcus Graham). He’s come by under the guise of working on the stone statues at the college. “Perfect time for concealment,” he says. Quite threatening.
Albert’s shown up at the college looking for help with a letter, seeking Dianne. Little does he know his young sister is upstairs, carving bloody bits out of her skin. Outside, Dianne helps Albert write to Mike, explaining where to meet him. Maybe they’ll have a real relationship. At that same moment, Sara hears her brother outside, unable to make it down in time to catch him before he’s gone. Tragic to think she might not get to him before he leaves town entirely. So, the girl packs up and tries making an escape. She heads out into the wilderness by herself. Will she make it, or will she be caught in the process?
God, I really do love this adaptation! The film was perfect. But this does go in fantastic new directions, some other places the novel itself went that the film didn’t, and it’s all working for me. Gothic in general, Gothic romance, repressed sexuality at the end of the Victoria Era, and so many different themes all coming together. Beautifully rendered. Two more episodes left now.