Previously on The Mill: Lucy and Esther briefly escaped to Liverpool before being captured and returned to the mill, where they discovered the ultimate, tragic fate of Lucy’s sister, Catherine. Also: Daniel proposed to Susannah and started getting back in with Doherty.
Working, working, working in the mill, then trudging off for lunch at midday. Lucy spots Robert walking past and decides she wants to tell him she thinks Timperley killed her sister. Ok, why, exactly, do Lucy and Esther think he would do that? Yes, Catherine’s dead and Mr T was the last person to see her alive (that we all know of), but what reason would Mr T have to kill a child? Just so he could keep the apprentice fee he would have had to give back if he delivered the kid to the workhouse? How much could that have possibly been? He’s gruff and harsh, yes, but leaping from that to assuming he’s capable of murder is, well, quite a leap.
Esther warns Lucy to keep off for now, because they have no proof and Robert won’t believe them. Plus, if Mr T thinks they suspect him, Esther thinks he won’t hesitate to just off them as well. These girls have really wild imaginations.
Mr T’s ladling out the lunchtime slop. You can tell he doesn’t want to give any to Esther, but he does.
Dan’s showing his auto loom to Robert, who admires how smoothly it runs. Dan says they’re making some progress, and then it stops itself automatically. Robert practically dances a jig and says he’ll go apply for a patent as soon as he returns from a trip to London. He leaves, and once they’re alone, Susannah tells Dan that, now he’s signed The Document, Robert has no reason to send her away in order to coerce Dan, so they don’t really have to get married. He earnestly tells her he loves her and wants to be with her. Awww. Though, to see the way he behaves around Esther I kind of doubt the absolute sincerity of those words.
Timperley goes to the apprentice house and is accosted by a young woman who says she’s come from Liverpool to see about one of his workers. He tries to shake her, but she will not be gotten rid of. She shows him one of the notes Esther left up at the churches in Liverpool and says she’s Esther’s sister. Tommy, fetching coal, listens in from a distance. Mr T lies that Esther ran away.
A little later, Hannah comes to the apprentice house and finds the sister chatting with Tommy. Tommy explains who the young woman is and Hannah ushers them both inside. There, Hannah tells the girl she can leave a note, but it won’t be possible for her to see Esther that day. Timperley slinks in and adds that Esther’s being punished. The girl rather aggressively asks if this is a mill or a prison. I see the attitude runs in the family. Hannah says this is a home, for those who work there. Yes, it’s a very warm and fuzzy place, Hannah. The girl asks when Esther’s done and hears she’s off around nine p.m. ‘She’ll be praying for the ten-hour bill, then, just like the rest of us,’ the girl sniffs. Hannah ignores that and points her towards the writing materials, promising to see that Esther gets any note she leaves. She then steps aside and tells Tommy not to breathe a word of this to Esther, as her son’s dealing with some important stuff right now and shouldn’t be distracted by any more nonsense. Wow, Hannah. Sister leaves her name and address and tells Hannah she’ll expect to hear back from Esther, and she’ll know her handwriting, so no forging.
The apprentices troop home at the end of the day and join Hannah in the schoolroom. Esther and Lucy take the opportunity, before lessons start, to ask Hannah if they can bring Lucy’s sister, Catherine, on board now that Susannah will be leaving and there’ll be a spare bed in the dormitory. They ask Hannah if she’ll write to the workhouse and ask how Catherine is. Hannah sees Mr T passing the room and asks him if he’ll make some inquiries and see if Catherine’s fit for work now. He uncomfortably says he’ll see what he can do.
That night, the girls return to the dorm and find Timperley sitting on Esther’s and Lucy’s bed. He gently tells Lucy to sit next to him and equally gently tells her that, on the way back to the workhouse, Catherine hopped off the cart and ran away. He couldn’t find her, and later she was found dead. Lucy begins to cry, and he drapes an arm over her shoulder, telling her how sorry he is. He also tells Lucy that Samuel Greg is on his last legs, so she mustn’t burden Hannah with any extra sorrows just now. He leaves and Lucy begins to sob in earnest, and Esther comforts her.
Timperley ladles out handfuls of gruel the next morning and asks Lucy, rather kindly, if she slept. He then tells her with a companionable, sad smile that they say the grief gets easier with time. Well, he would know. When Esther comes up, he asks if Lucy told her about Catherine. Esther plays dumb admirably and thanks him for finding out about Catherine, so at least Lucy has some answers now.
Looms wind bobbins as Samuel walks the floor. He stops Susannah and tells her how happy he is about her and Dan. He also promises that Robert will look after her. She thanks him and moves on. Esther spots him and comes over. She quickly spills the story about Catherine and how she was sent back to the workhouse by Robert. This is apparently news to Samuel, as the mill has always taken great pride in the Christian treatment of their workers. She pulls off her cap to show him her shorn head and asks if this is what he considers Christian treatment. She tells him, to his horror, that Robert forced Lucy to do this. She begs him to bring Mr T to justice. He promises to look into this matter.
Robert returns home and reports to his mother that the 10-hour bill has been defeated. Also: emancipation of the slaves by the following August, at which point the family will be paid from a £20 million compensation fund. Robert and Hannah go to find Samuel to tell him the news, only to find him in Robert’s office, sitting at the desk, dead. Hard to say if it’s from entirely natural causes or the horror at the douchebag stuff his son’s done. Judging from the expression on the dead man’s face, I’m going with the latter.
Lucy and Esther return to the apprentice house and Esther asks Mr T if there’s something bothering him, thinking Mr T’s worried about having the law down on him. He abruptly breaks the news of Samuel’s death.
Inside, Esther tells Lucy she’s sorry she couldn’t help her, and then muses that nothing she does makes any difference. Tommy points out that she got rid of Crout, but she reminds them that she also got seriously punished for that. And then she ran off and wasted her time in Liverpool. Tommy hesitantly tells her she didn’t actually waste her time in Liverpool.
Esther goes whirling downstairs in a right state to ask Timperley why he didn’t let her see her sister. He says she can see her when her punishment is over, whenever that will be. Esther calls him a fat liar and he gives her an extra 20 hours of work for insolence. He also lies that the woman left no note because she couldn’t read or write. Esther knows that’s a lie because her sister must have seen her note to know to come looking for her. She tells him everything she did was worth it.
Doherty finds Dan at the pub and tells him they lost the bill and they really shouldn’t have put their faith in Parliament. Yes, amazingly, it turns out the rich tend to look after their own. Doherty’s next move is to start organizing industrially and tells Dan he wants him to be their man in town and will need him at a meeting the following Sunday. Dan says he’s getting married on Sunday. Doherty just schedules the meeting for later in the day. Dan tells him that all the men in the area have signed The Document and won’t risk their jobs. Doherty asks if Dan’s signed and Dan’s silence is answer enough. Dan reminds Doherty that he has a family to think of now, and no loyal followers to look after them if he ends up in jail. Doherty stupidly tells Dan his father would be ashamed of him, which just gets Dan angry. He stops just short of fully hulking out and backs down. Doherty gives him one of his pamphlets and tells him they had a visit from a woman from Liverpool who had quite a story to tell. Man, the Gregs must rue the day they ever brought Esther into the fold.
Dan gives the pamphlet to Susannah, who reads it to the others. It’s an invitation for Esther to present herself and be reunited with her sister. Esther’s delighted to hear that her sister didn’t give up on her. Dan warns her that this is all anonymous now, so it can’t officially come down on her head, but if she steps forward and lets Doherty name her, there’ll be no coming back. Esther, of course, doesn’t care, so Dan tells her about the meeting on Sunday. Esther promises to be there. She and Lucy hurry off, and Susanna gets a slightly frozen look on her face that might mean, ‘so, no reception, then?’ but is probably just her worrying about Dan putting himself and, by extension, their family at risk.
The pamphlet has apparently reached the Gregs, and now Tommy’s being called to account by Hannah and Robert. Hannah accuses Tommy of having lied to and disobeyed her. I’m not 100% sure how they traced the info in this pamphlet to Tommy, but whatever. She essentially accuses him of being ungrateful, but when Robert asks him what he has to say for himself, Tommy turns around and rightfully calls her a hypocrite, reminding her that, when she heard how Mary Prince was kept from her sisters, Hannah wept. But there were no tears for Esther, to be sure. She coldly calls him a most ungrateful child and says she clearly made a mistake with him. Wow, what a bitch.
Timperley drags the boy away and roughly pulls off his replacement hand, telling Tommy this belongs to Robert. Who will have numerous uses for it, I’m sure.
Robert goes to see Dan and tells him they’ll stop the mills for the afternoon of the funeral on Monday. He also hands over a wedding present: Dan’s share of the patent for the loom. Dan, don’t be stupid. Take it. You’ve earned it. Plus, you’re the one who keeps bleating to Doherty about how you can’t get involved because you have no money to support those you’ll leave behind while you’re in prison. This is a problem that’s fixing itself. Robert urges him to take it for Susannah and Dan does. Thank God. Robert wishes the couple the best and the men shake hands.
The mill workers are gathered for a speech by Robert. Miriam notes that Tommy’s missing. Robert tells them that Doherty’s rabble rousing again, and he wants to make something clear: any man attending Sunday’s meeting will be fired. He goes on to say that only Doherty is profiting from all this, by paying himself quite a bit to run his rag and be in charge of organizing the unions. Robert asks Dan to back him, and Dan thinks about it, then admits he hates the man, but he loves what he stands for. He warns Robert that he can’t stop a man from listening to another man on a Sunday, because that’s their day. He adds that he’s going to the meeting on Sunday and the others should as well. Then, like the brainless idiot he is, he tears up the patent payment and throws it at Robert’s feet. What an utterly predictable thing for him to do. Susannah dashes off after him, and Robert says he’ll be at the meeting, and any man he sees will be dismissed. He stomps off and Esther asks him what happened to Tommy. Robert doesn’t even acknowledge her.
Dan’s also stomping off, back home, I guess, followed by Susannah, who asks what was in the envelope he tore up. Dan says Robert tried to buy him off. Oh, Jesus, this idiot. Yeah, maybe he did, but you know what, Dan? You can’t just think about yourself anymore. Pull your head out of the sand, you tiresome moron! He thinks he can just find work elsewhere, even though he’s blacklisted, and Susannah reminds him that she can’t exactly just go tramping the roads right now, and leave her brother and sister behind. He tells her she should be thinking of the baby, and she snaps that he certainly wasn’t thinking about it. Glad someone said it. He says he was thinking about it, because their children deserve better than this. Yes, your children clearly deserve better than a decent wage and a rather nice cottage in a close-knit town, with money set aside for a rainy day! She asks how much was in the envelope and, after some hemming and hawing, he just tells her ‘a lot.’ Helpful. He tells her he wouldn’t blame her for calling off the wedding, but he has to go to the meeting. Susannah pulls herself together and recalls that Robert bought her silence once, and she was too afraid to stand up to him. Plus, it’s not like she has suitors lining up down the block, and let’s face it, this marriage would be a significant step up for her, socially. He’s a highly skilled engineer, which would put them in the lower part of the middle classes, at the very least. She wouldn’t have to work in the mill anymore, for starters. That’s if Dan actually starts keeping the money he earns.
The wedding happens. Not much to say about it. Susannah looks happy. Daniel never seems to smile. They leave the church and are met by Robert, who asks Susannah if she knows what he offered to Dan. She asks if it was a dowry or guilt money and he says it was a serious offer. He adds that he and Dan can do great things, with Dan’s skill and Robert’s money. He says that science will make the world a better place, not dreamers like Doherty. Actually, a combination of the two is what’ll really do it, but I think actually science does have a slight edge, since it’s helped us not die from a lot of diseases and all.
Susannah and Dan arrive at the meeting, which is not heavily attended at all. Doherty, seeming a bit humbled, welcomes and congratulates them.
Back at the apprentice house, the apprentices realize they’ve been locked in. Esther says the papers they all signed said nothing about them being locked up on Sundays so they didn’t talk to the wrong people. The others agree that it’s not fair, and before long, they’re whipped up into a right frenzy, battering down the door and flooding out. Timperley tries to threaten them, but Esther won’t have it and the girls rush him, sending him fleeing to the big house, where he tells Hannah that the apprentices are blaming them for Catherine’s death. Yes, that’s true, but I don’t really see how he’s connecting that with the apprentices’ current behaviour, nor do I really understand how he figured out that Esther and Lucy think he killed Catherine. I’d have assumed they were angry at being locked up. This script is really sloppy. Timperley gives Hannah a quick explanation of the story of Catherine and says he took pity on the girl and thought she’d be ok. You know what? I actually kind of believe he at least partly meant well with Catherine. He was probably right that things would have gone poorly for her back at the workhouse. She most likely would have died there, if not in the field, she was so delicate. And yes, he apparently kept the fee, but like I said earlier, how much could that have possibly been? It seems like kind of a big risk for him to take for just a handful of shillings. So I think there may have been some other motive at work here. We’ve seen that he can be rather kind—his treatment of Lucy was actually very gentle (though, yes, he did lie a bit in the story). So I don’t think it’s that farfetched to think that he genuinely hoped that Catherine would make it to the town and be OK. But then, maybe I’m just giving him too much credit.
The apprentices are now bearing down on the house, and Hannah scolds Mr T, telling him that the child was in their care (not that she spares a moment’s thought for Tommy, the other child who was in her care, because if we’re going to completely torpedo this character, we may as well be thorough about it, amirite?) She goes and lets the apprentices into the house, because she’s stupid, and Timperley makes a run for it. The kids pursue him through the town, and he locks himself behind some kind of gate. Lucy spots him and the kids start battering at the door like wild animals. Hannah tells them to calm down, because she’s sent for the magistrate and they need to wait for the law to take its course. Timperley insists he didn’t kill the girl, not that anyone’s listening. Hannah tells them that, without the law, they’re just barbarians. ‘And with it, what are you?’ Esther asks. Hannah pompously claims her conscience is clear, and I’m not even going to get started on this, because I think it’s pretty clear by now that this character just sucks. She tells Esther that she can trust her, and Esther immediately asks where Tommy is. Hannah clams right up, and Esther calls her a hypocrite. Hannah defends herself by reminding Esther that she released her from the room o’horrors, and taught her to read and write, which enabled her sister to find her, fat lot of good that did. Esther tells the others to leave one behind to make sure Timperley doesn’t escape, while the rest of them go to the meeting.
The meeting has begun, and Doherty’s calling for everyone to work only eight hours and then just walk out. Robert chuckles in the corner and shakes his head and points out that this will only work if everyone’s united. And just at that moment, all of Robert’s apprentices flood into the meeting. And there, Esther finally meets her sister, who hugs her while Doherty and Robert bicker and someone hands out fliers.
Esther and her sister catch up and we learn the following: Esther’s mother died when she was born, and their father was so grief stricken he started drinking all the time. Look, I know grief can do terrible things, but you really lose the option of being that self-indulgent when you have children. Sister claims it broke dad’s heart when Esther had to go to the workhouse, but apparently it didn’t break enough for him to stop drinking and get his kids back. Sister has the baptism certificate that proves Esther is, actually, 17, not 15.
Dan pokes his head in and tells Esther that Doherty has another meeting to get to. Esther tells him to wait, because she’s talking with her sister. In comes Robert, to tell Esther that being named in Doherty’s paper could ruin them. Dan says it might be a problem for Robert, but not for everyone else. Robert says that, if the business goes down, it’ll take a lot of people down with it. Esther, for starters. Her sister offers to take her in, but Robert asks if she can honestly afford another mouth to feed. I’m guessing her silence means no. Robert urges Esther to stay there and keep working for them, telling her she can have a family there someday and a good life. Esther starts bargaining, asking if Dan and Susannah can stay. Robert says they can, if Esther keeps her mouth shut. Dan pushes, asking if he can really stay, even if he joins Doherty’s new union, which he totally plans to do. Robert repeats that they can stay. Esther considers all this, and then tells Robert that she wants to tell her story so people will know who she is, but if Robert promises to burn The Documents, she’ll leave some choice bits out, to protect the Gregs.
She goes to meet with Doherty, who has her stand up in front of everyone and tell her story. She does, eagerly, of course, starting with her birth and her parents (oh, and her sister finally gets a name: Martha).
The magistrate arrives to take Timperley into custody, only to discover he’s escaped. Apparently he hid somewhere near where the waterwheel is and escaped through the river. He rushes through the water, desperate.
Robert tells the assembled workers that his father always believed in mutual respect between the workers and masters, and as a tribute to him, he’s decided to burn The Documents. He does so, as everyone watches, approvingly. Oh, he’s all enlightened now. That’s nice.
Doherty prints off his broadsides and Dan delivers one to Esther on the mill floor. The others gather around to read it.
Tommy sits miserably in a filthy corner at the Liverpool workhouse.
Hannah admires a pretty white rose growing in her garden. Ick.
Susannah, cradling the baby, watches Dan and Doherty give a speech.
At the mill, the girls work, work, work. Life goes on.
Well, meh. That’s what I say. This utterly failed to grab me. I really didn’t feel invested in any of these characters, so I didn’t care about what was happening to them. Most of them were such stock characters they were boring. Oh, look, there’s the feisty girl who won’t keep her mouth shut, no matter how badly it goes for her and others. Oh, there’s the rabble-rousing guy with no sense of self-preservation. Hey, an enlightened master, and a mean-spirited boss. There wasn’t a single person in this who felt genuine. They were paper-thin and boring as hell. Oh well, at least it was only a few weeks. Next time I want to immerse myself in a northern mill town, I’ll check out North and South.