Midwinter of the Spirit: 1.01

ITV’s Midwinter of the Spirit takes on the second book in Phil Rickman’s successful series of Merrily Watkins Mysteries, wherein bereaved mother Reverend Merrily Watkins begins to explore the spiritual psychosphere of her sleepy Herefordshire parish.

Midwinter is directed by Richard Clark, and written by Stephen Volk, who is well-versed in the supernatural. His previous work has been the movie The Awakening and the TV show Afterlife, available on Netflix.

Anna Maxwell Martin is nice local vicar Merrily Watkins, who has decided that her future in the church lies in ‘Deliverance Ministry’; a neat euphemism for the rebranded band of exorcists. Ambitious local Bishop Mick Hunter has decided a more modern approach is needed, unlike that of the previous Witchfinder General, Canon Dobbs.

With Dobbs off the rails and off his rocker, the police turn to Reverend Watkins instead to assist with the local occult crimes, principal among which the crucifixion of a man in the woods.
Meanwhile, Merrily’s daughter Jane is also encountering the village’s occult community, from a passing psychic fortuneteller, to her new best friend Rowenna, who clearly has a nebulous past.

“There are dangers in this kind of work, Merrily,” warns Huw (David Threlfall), the Deliverance tutor. “Not just dangers in the mind and the soul, but dangers in the dregs of humanity who attach themselves to the flipside of what we believe in, little rat eyes in the dark waiting to infect you.”

And there’s no end to the little rat eyes, peering out of the occult shadows of this village, a community more at home with the esoteric than Midsomer is to murder. Psychics, mediums, cults and crucifixions; and at the heart of it all, the nefarious serial abuser and man of power Denzil Joy, a pervading influence of evil throughout the community. A man known to Canon Dobbs, but whose powers of faith were insufficient to quell the evil in their midst.

Clearly writer Stephen Volk has been watching True Detective, the influences are evidenced in small ways. But it isn’t over done and in no way detracts from the small aesthetics of a sleepy English village supernatural crime drama. This little slice of Gothic Little England stands on its own, the influences aside.

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