Catch up with….Garrow’s Law

Hello and welcome to Tellysquawks, your fun, light-hearted look at what’s been on TV this week. Today, we’ll be reviewing Episode 3 of Garrow’s Law, which featured as its main story the systematic state-sponsored torture, rape, mutilation and murder of the people of Trinidad.

It’s too difficult a job to do my usual attempt at a joke filled review – the episode was bleaker than a Morrissey biopic directed by Werner Herzog-  and what makes it worse is that this (or something very similar) actually happened to actual real people.

Fictional unpleasantness can be good fun, historical unpleasantness, less so.

The episode opened with Lady Sarah getting ready for her custody hearing at the Chancery court to try and win back baby Samuel from the clutches of the evil Sir Arthur. Her case was based on the flimsiest of precedent, so even with Mr Silvester acting as her advocate she was onto a loser – despite an impassioned plea from her that a baby should not just be property, and that a mother’s bond should give her rights beyond her husband.

The Chancery courts appear to be a Georgian version of The Jeremy Kyle Show – a public gawpfest where onlookers can  pass comment loudly and chunter away amongst themselves.  It does London of the 18th century a lot of credit that the people in Chancery generally have more teeth and brain cells than that of the guests on Jezza.

Meanwhile, Young Master Garrow is appointed by Mr Southouse (still with an alarming cough) to take the case of Luisa Calderon, a young Freewoman (freed slave) of Trinidad, against Governor General Picton – who has ordered her tortured for a crime she did not commit.

Luisa is aided in this by Fullerton, the new civilian governor of the island, who has reams of evidence showing that Picton was systematically torturing the population – slaves and Freemen alike.

Almost as soon as he agrees to the case, YMG is summoned to the chambers of Melville, the alarmingly chestnut wigged Lord Chancellor, and is offered a deal – prosecute Picton for this case alone, do not reveal the underlying problems for fear of embarrassing the political elite of London who have many business interests on the island, and Melville will ensure that Lady Sarah gets custody of her son.

Wracked with guilt and hogtied by his conscience, YMG takes the deal for the good of his family and watches with horror in court as Luisa’s character is assassinated by Mr Silvester (back in his usual place as weasel–in-chief of the establishment); yet still manages to build enough of a case against Picton to convict him.

The moment of truth comes when Fullerton takes the stand and strongly intimates that there’s more evidence to come. “No more questions” says Will, to a look of disgust from Fullerton.

Outside, Southouse confronts Will, furious with the betrayal of his ideals – the apoplexy and Gaol Fever combine and he collapses with a cry of “Go in, do your duty.”

And do his duty he does: Southouse’s young nephew proves every bit as persistent as his dying uncle, finding Picton’s torturer and bringing him to the stand. The details of the torture are too upsetting to go into; but this, combined with YMGs incisive questioning brings a filthy, racist rant from Picton, and a guilty verdict from the jury.

Picton, of course, is free to leave despite his guilt – and YMG has ruined another chance to get into the good books of Lord Melville.

I know we expect our Sunday night TV to be Downton-esque froth to take our minds from going back to work, but for all its unpleasantness this was a fantastic hours’ worth of television. Superbly acted, with a special mention to Sasha Frost for playing Luisa with quiet dignity; a gripping story which did not have a weak minute; and showing the full horror of Britain’s ‘glorious’ Empire.

It’s strange to say that the few moments of lightness in the episode were all around the dying Mr Southouse.

Alun Armstrong put in a performance worthy of the 2011 Robert Hardy Award for Overacting in a Costume Drama during his corridor collapse and lapsed into Yoda-esque whispered grammar on his deathbed. The final scenes with Will and Sarah were touching and gentle, especially compared to the horror of the courtroom and the colonies.

Tomorrow’s episode is the last of the series: hopefully it’ll be a lot more fun.

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Garrow’s Law is on Sundays, BBC1, 9pm.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter here

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4 Responses to Catch up with….Garrow’s Law

  1. Lydia says:

    Indeed a wonderfully packed episode.. Masterfully acted by all. Loved Sasha Frost as the young louisa calderon…Subtle, classy and beautifully acted. What a stunningly refreshing performance.. Hope we see much more of her in future episodes!!

  2. Katie says:

    Wonderfully acted episode. I agree, Sasha Frost’s performance stood out; it’s great to see such a character and storyline on British TV. Well done all involved.

  3. Brad says:

    Best episode so far, Would love to see the Character Luisa Calderon more. Will she be back in series 4?

  4. Winston says:

    What a great episode and I agree Sasha Frost was superb and I would love to see more of her and the story of Luisa Calderon

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