Midwinter of the Spirit did something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other TV drama ever made – they finally gave a leading role to the brilliant Anna Maxwell Martin!
The supernatural tone was set early on, beginning with a man being chased through forest to be sacrificed, while a priest babbles away in a hospital to a sick patient.
Rev Merrily Watkins (Martin) is training to be a “female diocesan exorcist”. Well, she’s already been a female for a number of years, obviously, but the man leading the class is Huw Owen, played by David Threlfall, sporting a bigger beard than he did in The Ark, telling his staff to rule out everything before you can consider it a spiritual cause, and how you have to gain a sensitivity to work out what’s a poltergeist-type character.
Merrily was called for her expertise to a murder scene in the woods, where the aforementioned chased man was now a deceased cadaver, hanging up in the woods, crucified like Jesus. Was it a sick individual doing this, or something with a religious bent? Either way, it freaked her out because of her faith.
She then had to visit Denzil Joy (Oengus MacNamara) in hospital, a man everyone considers to be evil, but who is also at death’s door. He snuffed it after she said a prayer, but then rose up from his bed, grabbed her hand forcefully, shouting “Scritch-scratch!” and clawed at her hand, causing it to bleed. When she realises what has happened, he’s fallen back down to the bed. Another time, she spotted a flash of him in her mirror at home, as if he’s next to her in bed. Of course he isn’t, really.
Midwinter Of The Spirit is mostly utter nonsense, with weirdness that doesn’t make sense, such as Canon Dobbs seen constantly sobbing and crying out as if he’s responsible, moaning how he “couldn’t stand up to Denzil Joy”, and that he may now be dead, but “his evil is still alive”. There was a brief mention of how the bereaved normally go for this type of job, leading us to understand this had also happened to Merrily, but it was quickly glossed over to move things on. However, it was reasonably entertaining fluff with the lovely Anna Maxwell Martin turning in a great performance as always.
Overall, this will be okay for an ITV three-parter, given the key casting of Ms Martin, but I wasn’t scared at all by this. It’s Se7en-lite. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many films like this in the past and so the ‘shocks’ at like water of a duck’s back to me. I’ll stick around for parts 2 and 3, though.
If there’s a full series to come, they will really need to up their game, however. And we need more than five minutes of David Threlfall, who clearly just popped up to collect the cheque.
Oh, and even if you were watching in HD you’d be understood for thinking you weren’t since it’s filmed with a very soft focus, making it look like you’re not actually watching in HD.
Midwinter Of The Spirit continues next Wednesday on ITV at 9pm, and it is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on November 2nd. If you missed it, you can watch the episode on ITV Player, up until October 23rd.
Episode 1 Score: 6/10
Director: Richard Clark
Producer: Phil Collinson
Screenplay: Stephen Volk
Music: Edmund Butt
Merrily Watkins: Anna Maxwell Martin
Canon Dobbs: David Sterne
Jane Watkins: Sally Messham
D.I. Karen Voss: Kate Dickie
D.S. Frank Bliss: Simon Trinder
Huw Owen: David Threlfall
James Lydon: Will Attenborough
Lol Robinson: Doc Brown
Denzil Joy: Oengus MacNamara
Mrs Joy: Ania Marson
Rowenna Napier: Leila Mimmack
Sophie Hill: Eileen Nicholas
Bishop Mick Hunter: Nicholas Pinnock
Angela Purefoy: Siobhan Finneran
Edna Reeves: Vivienne Soan
Sean: Scott Wright
Dean Wallis: Kai Alexander
Clive Wells: Neil Ashton
Rosemary Woodhouse: Rachel Atkins
Jeffrey Kimball: Paul Bentall
Woman on TV: Holly Kavanagh
Sister Cullen: Josie Walker
Barry Ambrose: Martin Walsh
Paul Sayer: Stephen Walsh
Danny Gilligan: Deon Williams
Professor Nasira Khan: Nisha Nayar
DC Shaw: Alexis Platt
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.