Hunderby: One Big, Happy Family

dec2015-sky-atlantic-hunderby-tile-c6a2c54This time of year, a lot of people (for better and for worse) wind up spending a lot of time with their families. So what better time to bring back one of the most dysfunctional families on television: the good folks of Hunderby?

When last we saw them, things were…complicated. Edmund, the master of Hunderby and the local vicar, had married Helene, a woman with a mysterious past and the permanent look of a freshly landed fish. Put off by Edmund’s and his creepy housekeeper, Dorothy’s, obsession with Edmund’s dead first wife, Helene fell for the local doctor, Graham Foggerty, a man miserably married to Hester, who was crippled when he ran her over the night before their wedding. His and Helene’s affair resulted in a pregnancy, and when Helene went into labour, we suddenly discovered the following: 1) Edmund’s first wife was not dead but had been kept in the attic for years, Mrs Rochester-style. But then she fell out of the attic and died, so we’re pretty sure she’s for reals dead now. 2) Edmund, a poorly closeted homosexual, was set up by his mother to rape Dorothy years ago, and said rape resulted in the birth of twins who grew up to be…Hester and Fogarty. The shock of all this seems to have given Edmund some sort of stroke, rendering him just this side of comatose. Helene gave birth to a son, and since Foggerty’s marriage to Hester is clearly unlawful now that they’re twins and all, it looks like he and Helene will get to be together after all. And he’ll get to inherit Hunderby someday.

Wow, this programme comes with almost as many warnings as Game of Thrones.

Helene and Foggerty run merrily through the woods, playing hide-and-seek. Trouserless hide-and-seek, that is. Hester, wheeling through the woods, finds Foggerty’s abandoned trousers, and then happens upon the happy couple having a handjob. She loudly interrupts and invites them to a picnic. Because this is a gentler time, they’re too polite to tell her to shove off.

At Hunderby, Edmund’s so recovered he can now bitch and moan about his unacceptable boiled egg and sausage plait. Dorothy’s taking all the credit for his recovery and suggests he think of remarriage. He eyes two shirtless stableboys outside and says there’s no rush. She warns him that people will talk and offers herself as a candidate, which gets a spit-take out of him. So, that’s a no, then? In fact, he’s so affronted by the idea he threatens to fire her if she ever brings it up again. She reminds him that he kind of owes her for that rape and he reminds her that he was drugged at the time and can’t be held accountable.

Helene, Foggerty, and the baby arrive at Hunderby, where they’re going to be living, for some reason. I love the fact that, even though it’s clearly nice, warm weather outside, it’s so cold in the house their breath actually steams. Their bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Dorothy, whom Foggerty rather reluctantly greets as ‘mother.’ Dorothy takes the baby and sends him off to be fed by Biddy, her rather gross cohort, because apparently Helene’s having breastfeeding trouble and doesn’t have a nice district nurse or clinic that can help her out (yay progress!)

Helene and Foggerty examine his notebook, which has a page in it decorated with Helene’s pubic hairs. He suggests freshening up the offerings on the page, but of course Dorothy comes in with coffee and interrupts things. She offers some coffee to Foggerty, who declines, but Helene asks for some, as well as a snack.

Dorothy: You know you’re getting fat, right?

Helene takes the snack and happily shoves about half of it in her mouth right in Dorothy’s face. Heh. She takes off, stupidly giving Dorothy the opportunity to slam how Helene’s looking to Foggerty and to pry into the relationship between the two lovebirds. Foggerty says that things are great, but they can’t officially live together as man and wife until his annulment goes through. Dorothy pretends to be pleased to hear it, and then brings up Helene’s ‘butchered’ downstairs area, which she says was totally wrecked by the baby’s birth. She claims Helene now looks like an ‘exploded shark’ which is an image that’s not leaving my mind anytime soon. Foggerty seems to be buying this, but wasn’t he there at the birth? Or didn’t he tend to Helene afterwards? He is the local doctor, after all. Surely he’d have seen for himself that all was normal?

Biddy comes rushing in and reports that Edmund has taken a terrible turn.

Foggerty goes to check him out. Edmund appears to be frothing or something. Foggerty is confused, since Edmund had been doing so well.

Everyone goes to church and welcomes the new pastor, John, a gross rat-faced man who immediately insults Hester for no reason. Dorothy rolls up with Edmund, still kind of a mess, though at least he’s stopped frothing. He tries to say something, but it just comes out as a moan. Dorothy gives him some bubbly milk from a huge bottle. Biddy starts checking out Pastor John and asks if he’s married. He’s not, though he’s been considering it. Biddy starts naming potential candidates, including herself and Dorothy, but John’s distracted by Helene. Foggerty introduces her and gives a quick rundown of the messy family situation. All John takes away from that is that Helene is not married.

Later, Helene’s a bit low. Foggerty reassures her the annulment is sure to come through soon enough, since they sent away for it weeks ago. Helene watches Hester pass and says she feels like Hester resents her, for living in Hunderby and being all happy while Hester lives in a terrible hovel. Helene confesses to feeling a little guilty about the whole thing and Foggerty promises to talk to Hester and see how she’s doing. Helene suggests a little afternoon delight right in the stables, but Foggerty puts her off, which does not ease her mind.

Hester cheerfully attempts to feed Edmund soup, which he doesn’t want. He thrashes and knocks her to the ground, where she accidentally finds a bottle of laudanum hidden under the bed. Dorothy comes in and quickly explains that the medicine was prescribed by Foggerty before roughly getting Hester back on her feet. Dorothy then goes to change Edmund’s nappy and ‘creams his mushroom’ a little too enthusiastically, while Edmund moans pathetically. Foggerty comes in and suggests this is really inappropriate, and even Hester, who wouldn’t know inappropriate if it kicked the crutches out from under her, is looking fairly disgusted.

Dorothy tells them that, the night before, Edmund became lucid just long enough to say Dorothy’s name and put a ring on her finger. Foggerty identifies it as Edmund’s mother’s ring, which she was buried with. Foggerty’s throwing side-eye all over the place.

Later, he goes to visit Hester at the stables, where she’s now living. He explains that he just wanted to see if she’s happy and comfortable there. He asks if she wants to come live in the main house but she merrily says she doesn’t want to be a burden. He goes to leave, satisfied, but then happens upon a shrine to himself that includes the letter to the magistrate about the annulment, which Hester, not so unexpectedly, failed to send off. He reminds her that their marriage is unnatural and she bursts into tears. He promises not to speak of the creepy shrine if she’ll just let him be free. She agrees and he goes to mail the letter, but she begs to be allowed to send it herself, to make amends. Because Foggerty’s clearly overdosing on idiot pills, he agrees. For GOD’S SAKE, FOGGERTY!

Brother Joseph’s back from his travels. Dorothy compliments his tan and he observes she still looks like a parsnip. She asks about Ruth and, as always, he responds that she’s not well. Dorothy finally asks the question a lot of us have been wondering: just what is wrong with Ruth? Apparently, poor Ruth has Vague Plague, which was so common in 19th century literature and basically amounted to: she’s not well, and we don’t know why.

Joseph goes to visit Edmund, who’s being tended by Foggerty and Hester. He’s brought a gift for Edmund: a monkey in a cage. The creature throws itself against the bars, as well it might, frightening Edmund, but Foggerty is able to calm the creature. Hester accidentally spills the beans about the laudanum, and Foggerty is quite upset because he never prescribes the stuff. Dorothy weeps and says she just wants to offer the poor man relief from his suffering and tries to lay the blame on Hester. Foggerty says they’re going to have to detox Edmund, which isn’t going to be fun.

That night, Edmund tosses and turns, hallucinating and hearing voices from his past (and probably his horrible present as well).

The next day, Hester calls Helene into the library at Hunderby and gets her talking. Helene worries about Foggerty’s sudden disinterest in sex and Hester feeds the flames by saying it was all she could do to keep Foggerty off of her, back in the day. Hester then ‘accidentally’ finds the letter to the magistrate in the drawer and makes it seem like Foggerty’s holding off on sending it because he doesn’t want to remarry.

Helene bursts out of the library and runs into Foggerty, who has a bouquet of lavender for her, and she screams for him to go away and never come back. Confused, he races upstairs after her.

Edmund’s doing better and relaxing with Joseph and says he’s really perplexed by everything that’s happened, as well as his sudden status as father and grandfather, since he has no memory of ever having raped Dorothy. Talk turns to the new pastor, whom Edmund is quite curious about.

Confession time: Joseph is at Hunderby as a sort of fugitive. Apparently his mission to save souls in the darker parts of the world has offended certain church authorities. Actually, it was probably the pornographic drawings Joseph produced that offended the authorities. And now he’s worried Pastor John will also misunderstand Joseph’s ‘unique method.’ That method seems to involve him using his finger to ‘bring people closer to God.’ Make of that what you will.

Dorothy delivers a giant dress to Helene to wear to dinner that night and keeps calling her fat and ugly, now she’s had a baby. Helene asks if Foggerty has said anything about her and Dorothy replies he has mentioned her ‘boxy shape’ a bit. Helene insists that Foggerty loves her. Biddy then comes in to ‘coax some chest juice’ out of Helene for the baby, claiming it’s at Foggerty’s insistence. And that’s why Helene allows a grown woman to start sucking at her boob. Eww. I know this is a comedy and all, but that was a bit much.

Joseph and Edmund walk through the woods near a gypsy encampment. They spot a young man and Joseph rushes off to ‘help’ him. Left alone, Edmund spies another young man, who emerges from behind a tree not at all suggestively playing a pipe.

Yay, another dinner party at Hunderby! The odds of this going hideously wrong are only slightly better than at Downton Abbey. Helene’s still refusing to speak to Foggerty. Dorothy proposes a toast, supposedly to Edmund and his return to health, but also to herself for being the reason for his recovery. Biddy keeps trying to hit on Pastor John, who just wants to flirt with Helene. Foggerty asks Helene why she’s mad at him and she hisses that he knows full well. Oh, I hate this trope. It’s just such lazy writing, and hardly anyone actually does this. Some people, it’s true, shut down when they’re angry, but then they shut down completely and basically don’t talk at all (people who do this: stop right now. It sucks and is completely counterproductive). But who, when asked by someone else what that other person did wrong, insists the other person already knows? That’s ridiculous.

Hester interrupts to ask Foggerty to help her to the bathroom, and he lugs her there reluctantly, dumping her on the privy and then just leaving her there.

Back at dinner, we swiftly learn that Pastor John has no sense of humour and no intention of leaving Hunderby, despite Edmund’s return to health. He believes there’s work for him to do: he needs to eradicate all the sinners, in particular the ‘unnatural man who seeks to dwell in the bottoms of other men.’ He gets really worked up about it and says they caught some gypsies who have confessed to having had, shall we say, relations with men of the parish. He’s sure it’ll only be a matter of time before they get descriptions of the other men out of these gypsies, and then everyone will hang.

Dorothy’s Face: Well, now I’m going to have to kill you.

Dorothy’s Voice: Sounds awesome!

She then grabs Edmund’s hand and makes it seem like he’s feeling her up, giggling that he’s ‘quite the lusty octopus’ these days. For the first time ever, Edmund takes the hint and plays along, though he’s predictably terrible at making it seem like he actually wants to touch boobs.

After dinner, it’s time for some awful singing and music. Pastor John creepily sings some love song to Helene, which Biddy thinks is for her, because she’s sitting right next to Helene. Dorothy, probably slightly drunk at this point, starts insulting Helene and her baby, and for some reason Foggerty fails to stick up for either. Jesus, man, it’s your child and the woman’s calling him ugly and deformed! Helene asks Dorothy to stop, and only now does Foggerty try to step in, by telling Helene to leave off. Helene, clearly at the end of her tether now, shrieks that she’s mistress at Hunderby, but Dorothy reminds her that she’s not mistress yet, so Helene strikes back viciously, telling Dorothy that no man has ever loved her or ever shall and the only way she can get laid is through a drugged rape. Helene runs out, and Dorothy pretends to faint in despair.

Foggerty goes after Helene to soothe her, along with John. Foggerty tells the man to get lost, but since he doesn’t have a legal claim on Helene, he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on just now. And Hester, still in the privy nearby, is calling for help, so Foggerty goes to tend to her, giving John the chance to propose marriage to Helene. He tells her to think it over, but remember she’s an ageing unwed mother, so her prospects are few.

While Foggerty and Hester are in the privy, Dorothy and Biddy come out into the hall nearby so Dorothy can whine about Helene and then, suddenly, admit that the rape never happened. She totally made the whole story up, because even drugged Edmund can’t get the job done with a woman. So Hester and Foggerty aren’t brother and sister after all.

Hester is delighted by this turn of events, because it means their marriage is still ok. She merrily tells him they can go on with their lives. He tells her that he loves Helene and their son. Hester then drops a fresh bomb: she’s pregnant.

Foggerty’s face: How is that possible?

He is not delighted. She tells him he slept with her once when drunk. He shrieks that this baby will be some sort of monster but she’s sure the baby will combine all their best features.

Foggerty: What the hell do you have to offer in that deal?

Hester: Nice eyebrows?



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