WARNING: spoilers below
Well, if anything was going to take our fevered minds off Trump, this was it! A thriller full of tantalising secrets and sex (even if they do keep their clothes on). And, at the end of this opener, the out-of-the-blue shock of sudden violence.
Apple Tree Yard – it sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? All Anne of Green Gables, unless you are one of the millions who have read Louise Doughty’s bestseller. But it promises to take us down some very dark alleys. Ones that could possibly lure any one of us…
Wide-eyed Emily Watson is perfect as Dr Yvonne Carmichael, the successful, fiftysomething scientist, wife and mother who falls a mighty long way from grace after an unexpected close encounter with a handsome stranger unleashes her animal instincts. Her face was able to light up with a cheeky, mysterious smile that let the world know she was suddenly having a very good time, without giving away her secret.
And with his burning brown eyes, and skill at sneaking through the streets of London while covering his tracks, her anonymous lover (played by Ben Chaplin) was very much the ‘wolf’ she described him as, albeit a friendly one.
The story plays on the tag line of how ‘fear can make animals of us all’. Dr Carmichael’s opening words, as the tale opened with her being transported to court with a jolt in a prison van, were: “Reallly, we are all just animals. You know how I know that? Fear, fear for your life… ”
Flashing back to nine months earlier, we see her as a respected expert in genetics speaking to a Commons Select Committee about ‘pushing at frontiers’. Amusingly, an MP checks there are ‘No 10ft mice on the cards, or triangular cows?’ Good to know our revered leaders are so thorough.
Her sexy stranger comes hot on the heels of the bottled water she buys in a House of Commons café straight afterwards. “Have you seen the chapel in the crypt?” he asks. Not your usual chat-up line, but ten out of ten for imagination.
After receiving an off-putting text from her boring husband Gary about nose drops (ugh), she readily follows the man down the stairs to the stunning Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the bowels of Parliament.
Before long they are huddled in the historic broom cupboard where suffragette Emily Davison stayed the night in 1911. The closet encounter fast leads to cupboard love. I have to admit, this really didn’t seem very likely, but hey. It had to start somehow…
In the moment of passion, he not only clicks the cleaning bucket, but puts his foot in it, creating hell of a racket on top of their frenetic panting. “I’ve never done anything like that before,” she says, still breathless. “Then lucky me”, he says. You’re not kidding!
Back at home, she opens a file on the computer cleverly marked ‘VAT query 3’, she starts to type a letter to her stranger. “I know nothing about you. Well, one thing… sex with you is like being eaten by a wolf.”
They bump into each other again at another café and the affair takes off. He says he is a civil servant, but still we don’t know his name or what he really does. Adding to her thrills, and given his expert knowledge of CCTV among other things, Dr Carmichael soon surmises he is a ‘spook’. She’s feeling not only mysterious, but naughty, and a bit young again, and she loves it. Who wouldn’t?
More surreptitious sex follows, first in a café bathroom and then in the famous Apple Tree Yard. Yes, sex in public places is very much his thing.
“Who are you?” she types in her VAT letter. “I couldn’t say. Although I have noticed secrets are the air you breathe.”
She then attends a work party, drinks champagne and exchanges saucy texts with her lover while sitting with a colleague, George, who suggests they share a cab home. Heading to his office, the warning signs may have been there when she declared: “it is definitely, definitely time for bed.”
Taking that as his cue, the vastly less than gorgeous George moves in for a kiss, and when she protests the vicious punch comes flying out of nowhere, shaking us all rigid. Then another. Smash! Bang! Wallop! It was truly shocking, as was the rape before the credits rolled. The fear she spoke of at the beginning erupted in her eyes as she screamed.
What other animal actions might this horror lead to? We can only sit tight until episode 2…
Did you tune in for Apple Tree Yard episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!