Dark Angel headlines the fabulous Joanne Froggatt in a true story of Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton, in a two-part drama beginning at Durham jail (or gaol, as they called it back then), in March 1873, where she’s about to feel the smack of firm government as she’s hauled towards the gallows, so we know where this is heading, but it’s all about her journey.
It then flashes back to 1857 when she first came to town. It’s a time when women can give birth without even realising they were pregnant, and for Mary, she’s forever popping out babies, but struggles to look after them given how hubby is forever working away from home. However, questions can’t be far away when one child dies, and then another…
Oscar Wilde said, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Apply this to Ms Cotton’s situation with her young ones and even before the time of DNA evidence, her situation’s going to start to whiff a bit, especially when the thorny issue of life insurance comes up. And with one character slamming that type of company, I wonder how many will be advertised during the breaks? 😉
In this era, modern medicine is an age away, and when we see her working in a hospital, bed sheets are changed only once every two weeks! Before that, with her and a new hubby moving to their own place, she was suggested to buy some arsenic to kill the bed bugs – a bit extreme?! Meanwhile, she’s attracting unwelcome advances from pit worker Joe (Jonas Armstrong), who looks – and probably smells – looking like he’s spent a week liiving in a sewer… which is pretty much the case.
In Dark Angel, the accents are very strong, and watching it as a preview ahead of the broadcast, there are no subtitles, so I had to rewind it a fair few times. I suggest you put the subs on.
So, did she kill them? Or, like The A-Team, was she framed for a crime she didn’t commit? The drama starts off leaving it vague before it decides to reveal its hand. As it goes on, it rather canters through the storyline, making me wish it could slow down a bit. It’s being told in two 90-minute episodes and I think a four-hour total would’ve been better. Contrast that Channel 4’s recent four-parter, National Treasure, which could easily have been condensed into three hours.
Hence, as it feels a bit uneven at times and rushes things, it’s still a must-watch for Ms Froggatt, who acts her socks off at every turn. She’s an amazing actress and I have to ask – why isn’t she setting Hollywood alight, a la Carey Mulligan and Emily Blunt?
Oh, and with this first episode running for 90 minutes including adverts, the first part runs for around 15 minutes, but it gets shorter, leading to the final two lasting 6-7 mins, before the end credits kick in.
I have also seen part two, but the only thing I can say about that is that… it’s on next Monday at 9pm, so you’ll have to watch it then. Ooh, I’m a tease! 😀
Seriously, Ms Froggatt is again the one to watch in both parts, so enjoy her performance.
You can also buy the book on which this drama is based, Mary Ann Cotton: Brian’s First Female Serial Killer by Martin Connolly, in paperback.
Episode 1 Score: 7/10
Director: Brian Percival
Producer: Jake Lushington
Writer: Gwyneth Hughes (inspired by the book “Mary Ann Cotton: Brian’s First Female Serial Killer” by Martin Connolly)
Music: Michael Mcevoy
Mary Ann Cotton: Joanne Froggatt
Joe Nattrass: Jonas Armstrong
George Stott: Alun Armstrong
Dr. John Maling: John Hollingworth
George Ward: Thomas Howes
Sunderland vicar: Michael Culkin
Helen Robinson: Emma Fielding
James Robinson: Sam Hoare
Seaham minister: Paul Bentall
Mr. Johnson: John Bowler
Mr. Brownlee: Bill Fellows
Sunderland doctor: Mike Burnside
Sunderland minister: Nigel Cooke
William Robinson: George Kent
William Calcraft: Seamus O’Neill
Preacher: Gioacchino Jim Cuffaro
Billy Mowbray: Tom Varey
Maggie Cotton: Laura Morgan
Margaret Stott: Penny Layden
Insurance agent: George Potts
Elizabeth Robinson: Hayley Walters
Isabella Mowbray (7 years): Isla McMonigle
James Robinson Jr: Alexander McMonigle
Isabella Mowbray (3 years): Isobel Dobson