Last week’s opening episode of Dark Angel was a 100mph slalom through Victorian England and the life of Mary Ann Cotton (Joanne Froggatt), who began to poison her husbands with such alarming regularity that any time she walked and asked, “Who’s for tea?” we all shuddered. She carried out her Arsenic-laced work up in her native Sunderland and then down in Devon, but, now, back up in her home town, there was no stopping her. At least for a while.
It was difficult to keep up with Our Mary in last week’s opener, and it was hard to keep a handle exactly who was being buried from one moment to the next. There were so many bodies and graveyards. This second episode calmed things down a little bit, but when it came to Mary, she had turned from an opportunist killer into a cold-hearted, compulsive poisoner, using her preferred method of killing to pretty much get rid of anyone who stood in her way.
She was so desperate not to be shackled by society, by marriage and even by children, she was beginning to become reckless. More children died (one of them unintentionally), her lover Joe Nattrass and even her best friend Maggie all bought it. Why? Because they threatened her, and stood in her path to what she thought was a respectable life.
We joined this second, concluding episode with Mary still shacked up with James Robinson, but that didn’t last. As soon as they were married and Mary conceived a baby, she began to steal money and she was soon out on her ear. Then it was onto her best friend Maggie, whose brother Fred she took a shine to. Soon Maggie was dead and Mary was in with Fred.
Fred managed to get a job at the colliery – somewhere she never said she would live – and it was in this close-knit community where she was finally found out by a suspicious shopkeeper, who put two and two together when ANOTHER of her children died of ‘gastroenteritis’.
So Mary was done for. And so was this show, which, despite some pleasing period detail and some good acting from Froggatt, hurtled through her life with almost abandon. Yes, the point was made (often by Mary) that she was not to be shackled by society and the drudgery it produced, but once she had opened the Pandora’s Box (or arsenic tin) it had given her the kind of power that leads to compulsion. And this is what made her evil – any little interference in her life became an excuse to kill.
For our episode one review, go here