North and South
I watched episode one at the end of May. At the end of July I watched the next three episodes on consecutive days to ensure that I wasn’t still watching the series in December. Apologies to Jen for being so tardy.
If you would like to read my review of episode one or want to know why I am apologising to Jen, click here. Otherwise, let’s talk about 2-4.
North and South ended as I though it would – with Thornton and Margaret falling in love. Before the inevitable happened, however, we had three episodes of Thornton being outwardly gruff and Margaret being snotty towards him but Thornton sending gifts to her house, anyway.
Life did not get better for the poor workers. There was a strike; an unwise man named Boucher threw a stone at Thornton only for it to strike Margaret; Boucher was duly exiled from his community; not long after being made destitute, he was found dead in a river.
I can’t remember if Boucher killed himself or not but his exile and subsequent wondering about before dying was one of the saddest parts in the whole series: the action of one day, one hour, one minute, one second had destroyed his life forever. That’s just not right.
Meanwhile, Margaret’s mother died and this lead to her brother making a sudden return from his exile in Cadiz. Frederick Hale had been abroad since leading a mutiny on board his ship. Although his cause was just, he could expect no mercy from the authorities. If they caught him, he would hang. I’d love to be able to say that 156 years after Mrs Gaskell published North and South that such biassed courts are no longer part of any earthly criminal system but it isn’t so. This, too, is not right.
Fortunately, Frederick was able to come and go without the Victorian rozzers catching up with him. Just. He was seen and even accidentally killed someone but Thornton, a local magistrate as well as mill owner, was able to cover up the affair. Top man.
Sadly, we also lost Mr Hale. Some people die of grief, he visited friends in his old university city of Oxford, said ‘I’m home’ and promptly died of happiness. If a man’s got to die, that is a pretty good way to go. Hale was really well played by Tim Pigott-Smith who was the perfect fit for the sometimes confused but always dignified dissident.
Thornton played it safe and almost went under. He refused to join someone’s business ‘speculation’. We can’t fault him for that but it did mean that he was no longer able to continue running his business, which was now suffering due to the earlier strike.
Ironically, and in one of the series’ more hopeful moments, Thornton became friends (so far as masters can ever become friends with their workers) of the erstwhile Union activist and strike-leader Higgins and they even sat at table together – in the workers’ kitchen – a very radical move for the time. In fact, what would we think today if the head of our company came and sat next to us?
Mr Bell continued to be by far the coolest person in the series. He made mistakes along the way but established his Coolest status at the end when he gave his fortune to Margaret, which fact enabled her to invest in Thornton’s mill and save the business. I didn’t catch why Bell gave his money away but I have since read that he discovered he was terminally ill. A true dude.
I enjoyed North and South as a romance, commentary on Victorian labour relations, foreshadow of contemporary business models and human drama. Daniela Denby-Ashe was good as Margaret Hale but Richard Thornton ace as Thornton. Some might say he is a poor man’s Darcy or Rochester but that’s only if you look at the romance side of the series. When you attend to the business aspect that’s when his character really shines.