Previously on The Living and the Dead: Nathan and his wife, Charlotte, decided to make a go of farming, which would be challenging enough, but it turns out the tiny village is super haunted. Or something. Maybe there’s something in the water, because now even Nathan’s starting to see and hear things. Ghost children tempted a village boy, Charlie, to an old mine, where he died.
It’s harvest-time, and since this period is so vital to the survival of Shepzoy, feelings are running a little high. Nathan’s a little distracted by guilt over Charlie, whose mother has decided to pack up her horrifyingly creepy daughters and leave. She thinks the place is cursed. I can’t blame her for that. I’m starting to think so too.
The day before the harvest is a day of rest, so one of the young men of the village, Peter, goes for a swim in the old millpond. As he’s swimming deeper, he sees a woman at the bottom of the pond, and he leaps out and races to fetch Nathan.
Nathan returns with him to the pond, strips down, and dives in to check things out. But there’s nothing there. He resurfaces and stands by the pond in his skivvies, soaking wet, long enough for all of us to have our Poldark Moment of Tasty Beefcakiness. It’s all distracting enough I almost miss their conversation, but basically Nathan asks Peter if he’s ever seen or heard things that weren’t there. He then takes a seriously wrong step and mentions perhaps sending Peter off to some specialists in Bristol, which freaks Peter out (asylums were not nice places then!) and he claims he was just mistaken, he’s fine, sorry to have disturbed!
Nathan just watches him go, not at all concerned, it seems about the fact that yet another person in his tiny village is exhibiting odd behaviour. He then goes and fetches Charlotte to take her to the old mill, figuring she’d enjoy taking some photographs there. When they arrive, they notice all the fish in the pond are now dead. Well, that’s ominous. And inside both Charlotte and Nathan keep getting the willies, and we the viewers catch glimpses of a woman moving around.
Gwen’s found an old photograph of a harvest past. It was taken pre-Nathan, but his parents are there, along with a woman and a young girl the camera takes care to linger on for a while, just so we know they’re important.
Nathan goes to see Peter’s mother and learns that Peter was a talented student who was offered a scholarship, but he was made to stay at home because his mother thought it would be better for him to learn a trade. That’s what she says, anyway. She pauses just long enough to suggest that’s just her story and she’s sticking with it.
Peter comes in and finds the two of them there. He’s displeased to be gossiped about and accuses Nathan of concocting a plan to put him in an asylum. Nathan says he has no intention of doing that, but he would like to know if Peter poisoned the millpond and killed the fish. Peter denies it.
That night, Peter hears a woman’s voice calling him out to the wheat fields. He obeys, and once there, she appears before him and tells him he must sacrifice his mother, or the harvest will die. A black beetle scurries out of her mouth and across her chin.
Nathan can’t sleep and starts making notes about Peter. He also notices his right hand is shaking a lot, and there are some black beetles crawling across his notes. Not good.
Meanwhile, Gideon finds Peter out in the fields and asks him what he’s doing out there so early. Peter says nothing and hurries away.
Nathan and Charlotte head out to the fields, where Gideon greets them with a handful of beetles and the news the crop’s been cursed. He saw this before, back the 1860s. They’re all toast. He accuses Peter of coming out to curse the harvest that morning, which would make sense if not for the fact that Peter’s livelihood relies on them getting in a good harvest. Charlotte reassures everyone that this is no biblical plague, but a simple infestation. She keeps everyone busy by setting them to pick the beetles off by hand while she goes to try and find a solution.
Peter rushes over to Nathan and gabbles that he does, in fact, hear voices and that a woman told him he has to kill his mother to save the harvest. Nathan rather blandly tells him that was just a delusion, but Peter’s not listening. He runs off and grabs a scythe and Nathan…just stands there. Nathan! What are you doing? Hearing voices has already driven one person to near murder, and another to suicide! For God’s sake, go after him!
But no, Nathan just kind of chills there and eventually sidles up to Peter’s mother to comment that Peter seems ‘agitated.’ AGITATED? He’s considering murdering his mother! She tells Nathan that Peter’s just highly strung but harmless. Nevertheless, Nathan warns her to lock her bedroom door. He doesn’t tell her why, mind, though if any moment called for full disclosure, I’d say this was it.
Charlotte has a breakthrough and enlists Gwen’s help in creating some sort of early DDT smoke bombs. She starts setting them off in the fields and the beetles drop right off the wheat. The harvest is saved!
So, things are looking up. Not for Peter, though, because here comes Jack, Gideon’s complete asshole of a nephew, who apparently never quite grew out of being Nelson Muntz. He bullied Peter back at school and he’s happy to bully him now, quite aggressively, until Gideon intervenes. But lest you think it’s all ok, Gideon tells Peter that Charlotte has broken the spell and Peter’s to leave off cursing. Look, I know this is a rural area and Gideon’s on the older side, but it’s still 1894 and waaaay late for anyone who wasn’t born and raise in the most backwater of backwaters to believe in spells and curses and things. It’s not like this place lacks education: Jack just referred to having been at school with Peter.
Nathan invites Peter to Shepzoy house and shows him the photograph Gwen found. The little girl in it is Peter’s mother. Peter stares at the other woman in it and asks who she is. Gwen says she was named Clarity and was a healer who helped women conceive. Peter asks what happened to her and Gwen, who’s pretty up on gossip that happened long before she was born, says she left the parish the year of the last plagued harvest. Peter gets out of there, quickly. Nathan worries a tiny bit about him. But not enough to go and warn Peter’s mother or anything.
That night, Nathan can’t sleep. He gets up and wanders the house, certain he can hear Gabriel, but of course he finds nothing. When he returns to his bedroom, he finds Ghost Clarity sitting by the bed. She puts her hand on Charlotte’s belly and says, ‘You’ll reap what has been sown.’ I hope so. Why sow anything if you can’t reap it?
Lightening flashes and Charlotte wakes with a start. Rain is not good for just-cut wheat. She and Nathan hitch horses to a hayrick and drive it out to the field, where the other workers have already gathered. Everyone rushes to get the wheat in.
Almost everyone. Peter’s still in bed, Clarity whispering to him that he has the power to stop the rain. He gets up and goes to his mother’s room but finds the door locked. He begs to just talk to her and asks about Clarity. She claims not to know anything about the woman, which is clearly a lie. Peter calls her out on it, hammering on her door. She cries and tells him she loves him, even if he doesn’t love her. He cries too, and calls her a liar. This poor guy. What a crap life he’s had.
Jack, of course, is convinced that Peter’s to blame for the weather now and tells Gideon they need to take care of this ‘the old way.’ That sounds super ominous.
Charlotte, meanwhile, thinks this is all her fault and wonders if she’s somehow cursed this place. Nathan tells her that’s crazy talk and she calms down. I think this is the hormones talking.
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]I think it’s time for the water to be tested in this village, because this is a lot of strange goings on for one small group of people[/cryout-pullquote]
She goes to get some rest and Nathan goes back to Peter’s home to ask his mother about Clarity. Again, she lies about not knowing her but the woman’s a terrible liar. When Nathan seems doubtful, she says she kind of remembers the woman moving to America. She then starts flying off the handle, saying that everyone’s accusing her of lying. She then drops that Jack stopped by earlier, looking for Peter and making it seem like she was covering for her son, like any sensible and loving mother might do. Nathan realises Jack’s after a scapegoat and rushes off to find him.
Jack finds Peter first, holed up in the old mill, and it turns out that ‘the old way’ involves tying him hand and foot and throwing him in the mill pond to do a ‘witch float test’ after accusing him of doing black magic to curse the harvest. Again, why would Peter curse the harvest? His livelihood depends on it just as much as yours, Jack! I know you should’t look for logic in situations like this, and certainly there are plenty of people out there for whom any sort of logic is a foreign notion, but come on. Couldn’t someone else have pointed this out to him? It doesn’t seem like anyone else (besides Gideon) thinks this is all Peter’s fault. And why would they think that about Peter anyway? Just because he was a smart kid? Because he was out in the field early one morning? I’m just…not buying this. And also as I said before, this is ridiculously late for people to still believe in witches and curses and to execute people for that. It was silly on Outlander, and that’s set in the 1740s.
So Jack, who’s not so much a bully as a hideous murderous asshole, throws Peter in the pond while Ghost Clarity watches from the door of the mill and whispers that this was also done to her. Fortunately, Nathan shows up and yanks Peter out of the water, as Jack flees and Peter’s mother arrives with Charlotte. Peter is saved, and as he gasps for air, his mother moves towards the pond and prepares to slash her wrists, insisting that this is what she owes Clarity, for what she did. She cries and says that year was terrible, with the harvest destroyed. And Clarity made her nervous, and she saw Clarity give her mother a potion and that scared her, so she accused the woman of being a witch and the villagers all got together and drowned her. Where the hell were Nathan’s parents in all this? Did they seriously just look the other way while their villagers committed murder?
Peter stops his mother from killing herself and they make up.
Nathan goes into the mill and calls for Clarity, asking if what she said about reaping what has been sown was a warning or a curse? But there is no answer. Which begs the question: is what Nathan seeing and hearing actually real, or is he, too, losing it? Seriously, I think it’s time for the water to be tested in this village, because this is a lot of strange goings on for one small group of people.
Nathan next goes to the pub and tells Jack to get the hell off his land and to never come back. Jack insists he was just trying to rid them of evil. Nathan’s pretty much, ‘Murder is evil, asshole. Get lost.’ Before he goes, Jack says this place is damned and has felt that way ever since Nathan returned.
Trivia! Did you know that dandelion leaves are a handy stand-in for First Response? I don’t know how historically accurate that is, but apparently this is how Charlotte finds out she’s finally knocked up.
The harvest is brought in and everyone cheers and then enjoys a lively party. Nathan watches from the side with Denning and they agree this has been a strange and disturbing summer. I’ll say. Gideon goes to Peter and apologises for not reining in his terrible nephew. Peter accepts the apology with enormous grace, offering a handshake and saying it’s ‘water under the bridge.’ Heh. Nice gallows humour you’ve got there, Peter.
Charlotte and Nathan dance and he comments that she’s so alive, which, considering everything that’s happened here lately, is slightly creepy. You know who’s not alive? The ghost of little Gabriel, who watches the party from the sidelines, clutching his dripping toy sailboat.