For approximately 30 seconds this week I thought I was going to have to eat my words about The Village. It seemed, for a good quarter of the show at least, that things might be about to get a little happier.
Now the proud owners of several cows (Lord only knows how), John Middleton (John Simm) and his young son Bert (Bill Jones) work the farm together, with Bert taking the milk down to the station on a cart pulled by a pony they have somehow procured. John, presumably having had a personality transplant, is teaching his son how to box, even encouraging him to use his prohibited left hand, whilst Grace (Maxine Peake) has a job down at a local factory. Joe (Nico Mirallegro) has also returned home on leave, which is nice for him, Caro Allingham (Emily Beecham) seems to have happily replaced Baby the dog with an actual baby, and George Allingham (Augustus Prew) and Martha Lane (Charlie Murphy) are having a lovely time tramping across the Peak District vaguely flirting.
So much happiness could never last though, and certainly not in this village. Grace’s tardiness lands her in trouble at work, Joe has no time for Caro and her mooning about, Lady Clem (Juliet Stevenson) plots against her own daughter, and indeed just about everyone, George is desperate to prove his worth to Martha, the cows ruin their milk by inadvertently eating garlic, we hear of a local tragedy from the front line oh and soldiers want to take the Middleton’s horse off to war with them. No one in The Village has it worse this week, however, than Gerard Eyre (Matt Stokoe), a conscientious objector and teacher at the local school. Making clear his refusal to set aside his views and be sent off to war with the introduction of conscription for the first time in British history, he was always going to be in for a rough, even tragic, ride.
Stokoe gives a heart breaking performance as the strong willed, well-meaning teacher, particularly during his refusal to put on uniform to face tribunal. Bill Jones also gives his best performance of the series so far as the Young Bert, conveying the child’s desperate panic at the plight of his ally and hero. Powerful performances were also provided this week by the returning Nico Mirallegro as Joe, the lad about town suddenly faced with unimaginable horror and terror, trying to keep it together whilst on leave for the sake of his little brother, as well as Emily Beecham’s Caro, a young woman in a situation she never expected to find herself in, rejected and judged by her own family.
Desperate as I am to end this review on a cheerful note, I am pleased to report the happier news that John Middleton appears to have developed a sense of humour, and that Martha Lane is marginally less useless than she was previously, sticking up for Grace as well as herself. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all? I’m joking of course, they are, but it’s shaping up to me nigh on un-missable Sunday night viewing regardless.