Apologies for the lateness of this review, but, you know, real life. So Apple Tree Yard, then, so named after the little alleyway Dr Yvonne Carmichael (Emily Watson) and the mysterious Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin) engaged illicit hully gully in. Episode one followed the couple’s journey into dangerous, clandestine lust and sex, but then turned on its head in the traumatic final scene, when Yvonne was brutally raped by a work colleague.
Episode two picked things up almost immediately, with a shaken, incredulous, angry Yvonne sharing a cab silently with her abuser. Wow. It was an astonishing scene, tense in its conception, as we, the audience, were put in Yvonne’s shoes. What must have she been feeling? Shame? Humiliation? Revulsion? Ignominy? Emily Watson’s performance was astonishing during this episode, not least in these scenes immediately after the rape, full of nuanced, shaking emotion, a woman coming apart at the seams. She struggled to cover her ripped tights in car with her skirt and stay sane, her disgusting abuser leering at her smugly from the other side of the backseat in the cab. On narration, she recited an email she would write to her Mr X when she finally got home.
“We think we’re special, but we’re not special. I know what I am now: nothing. No one. It turns out that what it really takes for your life and everything you thought about yourself to change forever isn’t love or passion; all it takes is one good, hard slap.”
And this is what we saw for the first half an hour of this second episode: Yvonne trying to come to terms with what had happened to her, blaming herself, perhaps blaming the affair with Costley for putting her in this position. It was heartbreaking to watch, and portrayed the thoughts of rape survivors intimately and accurately – they’re blaming themselves, looking for rational explanations to something so irrational. “I didn’t fight back,” she whispered, ashamed. Of course, the only person really to blame – and always to blame in these horrific incidences – is the man, the perpetrator. Not the survivor. Never the survivor. Yvonne took some time off work and pretended to her husband that she was sick, so she could sleep in the spare bedroom and conceal her superficial and internal injuries from the assault.
Once again, this was powerful, heart-rending drama and, as George began to stalk and terrorise her – a text, an email, a bunch of flowers – I was imploring her to go to the police and report him. But she didn’t. What is it that Yvonne said in the opening? “Fear, that’s what makes animals of us all.”
Instead, she went to Costley. Her Mr X. If I had a few doubts about the sequence of their initial coupling, and indeed the chemistry that existed between them, I found myself impressed and believing in Costley’s reaction to her ordeal. He was calm, supporting, and seemed genuinely upset and ready to not only do what he could to help but also, crucially, give her the room she needed to process.
But there was a problem: she couldn’t go to the police. Or at least she believed she couldn’t after a meeting with a friend of Costley’s (male) who asked her difficult questions, adding insult to injury. She was worried that her affair with Costley would be brought to light and therefore convince a jury that she was a ‘sex-crazed woman’. There was also mental illness in her family (not least her son, who was bipolar). No, these things couldn’t be brought into the open, not in a system like this. Is it any wonder 80 per cent of women do not feel they can report sexual abuse?
If anything Apple Tree Yard works best when it’s dealing with the emotional, shattering story of abuse – its writing, direction and acting sensitive are piercingly accurate. Although we got some traditional thriller elements, I’m not sure this area is the strongest part of the drama… yet. It all added up to a final scene in which Costley and Yvonne went round to George’s house to ‘scare’ him. Judging by the trailer for episode three, I think we all know where this might be headed.
For our episode one review, go here