Previously on The Living and the Dead: Charlotte got pregnant, which would be great if she weren’t seemingly living at the mouth of hell. An unusual number of people in a tiny village were haunted, some to death, including Nathan, who keeps seeing a very 21st century woman in a red coat running around his house. It may be slowly driving him crazy.
So, if the last episode was the one where Nathan started going a bit off the rails, this is the one where he drives the train right over the edge of the bridge. Deliberately. He’s going full-on nuts, is what I’m saying.
It’s nearly All Hallows Eve (of course!) which just so happens to be the anniversary of an absolutely horrific Civil War-era massacre in Shepzoy (of course!). It’s all fun and games for a little while, with Charlotte snapping a photo of the villagers in the world’s most nightmare-inducing masks, but then one of the railway engineers sees someone hanging from a tree out in the woods in the middle of the night and playtime’s over.
Even though absolutely no evidence of a body can be found (and it was dark, which would convince most people they were just seeing things), the engineer panics enough to pack up and take off, and, for some reason, take all the railway workers with him. I don’t really find this credible, to be honest. That a man of this time would admit to being such a chicken, that maybe possibly he saw something that could just have been a loose branch or his mind playing tricks on him? I feel like most late-Victorian men, particularly those in professions where they have to be tough and in charge of other tough men, would have publicly shrugged this off and just said they must have been mistaken and gone about their work, even if they did feel rather uneasy.
So, it looks like Shepzoy may not get its railway, which is bad, but Charlotte’s determined to remain optimistic because the poor woman needs something to cling to, right? But man, things are about to get freaky, even for her.
And for everyone else! The pub owner’s wife hears strange noises in the cellar, which she attributes to mice, but then we see what appears to be blood dripping from nowhere. And then Maude, Peter’s mother (hey, where is Peter? He seems to have just disappeared, with no explanation. On any other show, that’d be odd, but here it seems incredibly sinister.) notices red marks appearing on her neck for no reason. And while everyone’s out in the fields, ghostly Roundhead soldiers start appearing, and everyone basically goes, ‘I’m sooo not paid enough for this!’ and races back into the forest, where they meet up with Charlotte.
Now, Charlotte’s already primed for this, because when she checked out the photo she took earlier of the villagers, she found an unexpected and not terribly welcome photobomber: dead Gabriel, standing in the background with his toy boat. And then out in the woods she, too, sees the soldiers so now she’s just as freaked out as everyone else.
And Nathan? Well, he’s still seeing Red Coat Lady, and hearing her baby wailing around the house. His solution is to grab Harriet, re-draw the sketch she made in blood on the wall of his house, and then hypnotise her in the hope she’ll tell him something important. She does, kind of: ‘They’re coming for you,’ she rasps, but can offer no further details. Any sensible person would hear that, remember Clarity’s ‘You will reap what has been sown’ statement, grab their pregnant wife and GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, but Nathan’s a stubborn idiot and stays put. He does ask Denning if an exorcism might be in order, but that’s not really Denning’s area of expertise.
When Denning finds out that Nathan was using his daughter to try and commune with possibly evil spirits, he’s super pissed off, and so is Charlotte, because seriously, Nathan, that’s just reckless and selfish. Denning marches out to Shepzoy in the dark just to yell at Nathan while Charlotte tries to play peacekeeper, but then the three of them are distracted by a tree bursting into flames in the distance. Of course, the next day, absolutely no evidence of that tree being on fire can be found.
So that brings us to All Hallows Eve, which is the day of the Ghost Soldiers. After that little performance, Maude, sensibly, decides that absolutely no good can be gained by sticking around and decides to flee. Not so sensibly, she hangs around for hours, until it’s dark, and then instead of taking the road out of town, she runs through the forest which we all already know is incredibly haunted. While out there, stumbling about in the dark, her imagination already in full overdrive, she trips and puts her hand in a pool of blood, and then looks up into the trees and sees people hanging there. In a panic, she runs right into a tree’s forked branch and somehow manages to strangle there. How did that happen? Did she jump up to get caught? No, she ran straight into the tree, which means her feet should still be on the ground and she could just walk back and not strangle to death. Eh, whatever. Farewell, Maude.
Denning, meanwhile, has been convinced that the exorcism is necessary. And the thing that convinced him was the sight of his daughter being lifted off the floor of the church by an invisible rope, strangling to death. In a blind panic, he grabs holy water and flings it on her, and that seems to break the spell. Give everyone a flask of that stuff to carry around, Denning. On second thought, give them a bucket.
Off he goes to Shepzoy house, where he begins the ceremony, while whatever spirits are around start getting kind of angry. The gramophone begins playing Gabriel’s record, which draws Nathan in, so Charlotte drags him off to show him Gabriel in that photograph. Why in God’s name she does that, I have no idea. Nathan freaks out at her for not showing him this earlier (though she clearly avoided doing so because she thought he would freak out, and look, she was right!) and stops the exorcism. Not only does he stop it, he rather violently ejects Denning from the house and tells him never to come back. Jesus, Nathan. And he’s doing this because he wants the creepy spirit of his dead son to stick around. Nathan! What is wrong with you? This is so deeply selfish I can’t even begin to comprehend it! These spirits are not benevolent! They have actively led to many deaths in an extremely short period of time!
This just doesn’t fly with me. Nathan has been depicted as someone who really cares for this place and these people. To do this, when these hauntings have led to deaths that have seriously affected him personally, just doesn’t feel right, or quite in character, even if he is coming unspooled.
Charlotte and the villagers are NOT happy about any of this, because they’re people with brains that still function, but Nathan’s just gone totally around the bend. When the villagers appear with Maude’s body, wondering why Denning didn’t put an end to this, Nathan stammers that he had really good reasons for not going through with the ‘ceremony’. No you didn’t, you asshole. Charlotte is SO over this and actually considers leaving—and she totally, totally should, because this is not going to end well for her, or her child. Even Gwen urges her to get out of there, offering to go along with her, but Charlotte decides to stay, because she can’t ‘abandon’ Nathan. Charlotte, he’s already abandoned all of you! RUN! Go back to London, take care of yourself, gather your girlfriends together, and talk about how much it sucks when your husband inherits a haunted house and then, outrageously, prioritises the possibility of hanging out with the creepy ghost of his dead kid over the lives and welfare of actual living people, including his wife and unborn child. My God, Nathan’s just losing me. I hope GhostGabriel appears just long enough to punch his dad in the face and tell him to get his act together before someone else dies.