Spoilers for Apple Tree Yard episode 1 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!
Spoilers for Apple Tree Yard episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Sarah’s review of episode 1 here.
She was raped. Brutally. In every way possible. And after being whacked in the face, twice, beforehand – and warned of more if she moved – she was terrified! So why, when Yvonne finally escaped from rapist George Selway’s office, didn’t she shout for help, expose the swine, and rush straight to the police?
We were as shaken as she was by last week’s finale to this extraordinary drama, but as episode two opened last night, my fury at him turned to bafflement at her emerging into a building still populated by workers after the office party and not saying a word.
To my further horror, she then shared a cab home with him. What???
By the time she rushed into her shower, I was screaming at the screen: “NO, NO, don’t shower, don’t destroy the evidence, call the police, call them NOW!” I was so vexed, and could only watch in despair as she then bagged up and went to bin the clothes, too. There was one moment of hope when the scientist in her suddenly seemed to realise what she was doing, and she took them to a police station. But after sitting outside she bottled it, or so I thought…
It turned out she’d realised that an internal examination would reveal her illicit sex earlier in the evening with her lover in Apple Tree Yard. And there’s the rub. She thought exposure of her extra-marital affair would be worse than exposing a violent rapist.
So she told no one except her lover, not even her husband. And because of that, she ended up in the dock herself, after another vile crime. Makes you wonder about the choices we make, and how life can spin out of control in a split second.
But, like the awful hostess at a dinner party later in the episode talking of another rape case, who am I to criticise a rape victim for not doing the right thing? “Everything in your world is lovely,” Yvonne snapped at her. “So you don’t really have the imagination to see what it’s like when bad things happen, just randomly, great torrents of sh*t descending on ordinary people!”
As in that great outburst, how can I possibly know a victim’s feelings or mind? The shock, the violation, the degradation, the feeling of dirt and filth, and that lingering fear…
The drama showed us in no uncertain terms. Once confident and playful, Yvonne was now a cowed, crushed woman with a crumpled face, ripped stockings and grotesquely bruised thighs. Another clue came in her silent message to her lover: “I know what I am now – nothing, no one… All it really takes for your life and everything you thought about yourself to change forever… is one good, hard slap!”
Actress Emily Watson is superb at playing out the raw emotions, as she has been since she leapt to our attention years ago in the harrowing Angela’s Ashes among other things, and this thriller has been riveting from the start. We were instantly hooked on the clever idea of an attractive older woman with a dull husband (Mark Bonnar, who, confusingly, is also in ITV’s Unforgotten at the moment) suddenly finding fun again in the arms of a mystery man (Ben Chaplin) she likes to think is ‘a spook’.
And when it came to stealth and daring there were no flies on lover-boy – not done up, anyway. It was all hurrah and hot flushes all round. After their risqué sex around London I could even imagine a whole new tourist bus tour!
Then came the shock of the rape, and this week’s shattering insight into the effect on the victim. The series is worth watching for that alone. In a heartbeat, this adaptation of Louise Doughty’s novel swung from the saucy to the sickening, with twisted George stalking his victim, and sending messages that showed he was deluded – that it was all a bit of fun that could be repeated – no doubt because there was no police knock at the door.
We were left as wrung out as she was with all the terror and tension, at home – and at work. The grim realisation dawned on Yvonne: “There are no more refuges for me. No places of safety.”
“Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to put the wind right up that pathetic piece of sh*t,” said her lover after they had resumed relations in a so-called ‘safe’ house.
“Yeh, I would,” she said. “I want him to crap himself with fear. I want him to feel… half as terrified as he made me feel. I suppose you know people?”
“Yeh. But I’d like to see his face,” he responded with relish. “Wouldn’t you?”
Then there WAS a knock at her tormentor’s door…
Sit tight for further horrors. I know some who have already rushed out to get the book because they could not wait to find out more…
Did you tune in for Apple Tree Yard episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for Apple Tree Yard episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Sarah’s review of episode 2 here.
So who thumped on Yvonne’s car window with such force last week it made both her and us jump out of our skins? I have been agonising over it all week, with all manner of awful scenarios rushing through my fevered brain. Could it be ghastly rapist George instead of lover boy, who had gone to put the frighteners on the beast?
As last night’s penultimate episode opened, it turned out to be her pet spook. Phew. All was well – or was it? He was in a bit of a state… “Drive – now, now!” he demanded, staring frantically this way and that.
“Do we need to call the police?” she squeaked. “No,” he said. “Just trust me, Yvonne. Trust me.” Oh dear. Words that are so often fatal…
But at least we got his name at last, when she dropped him at a station. He said they shouldn’t see each other for a while, and took her secret infidelity phone. She called out, feebly, “Mark” as he went.
And then we got his second name – after the police interrupted a jolly family birthday dinner to “arrest her on suspicion of the murder of George Selway” – the first of the night’s big shocks! Everything went into slo-mo.
At the police station, the DI said: “You do know we’ve arrested Mark Costley? Were you there when Mark Costley beat and kicked George Selway to death, Yvonne?”
It was a sickening moment. “No,” she breathed, absolutely stunned. That was the beginning of the tales of the unexpected that peppered yet another excellent episode.
One of the big surprises was Yvonne’s wet husband Gary suddenly developing a brain and one hell of a backbone – as demonstrated when he whipped out a large kitchen knife and held it to the brass neck of an odious young legal eagle who was meant to be helping Yvonne, but was being utterly disdainful about her rape. Gary cracked when he goaded her about not fighting back, and terrified the young squirt. Good!
Apparently, according to Gary, it’s all down to a thing in our brains no bigger than a peanut which overrides all reasoned thought and simply urges us to do whatever is necessary to survive, even if that means “doing nothing”.
His fury yielded another fantastic, if scary, speech about the horrors or rape and what victims go through – one of the best things about this drama is the way it hammers that message home.
There was also a brief moment of joy, as Yvonne reconnected with her suddenly much more interesting husband, and even a spot of comedy as her electronic tag short-circuited their revived passion.
Then it emerged that Costley was pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to a “personality disorder”. You would have thought that would ring alarm bells but no, Yvonne took that as good news.
The next shock came in court, first when she saw the utterly gruesome photos of the brutal attack on Selway, and when the truth was finally revealed about her “MI5” lover. He had tried to become a spook, but failed to pass muster after some training. And he had been a police officer assigned to Parliament(!)
As Yvonne sat side by side with him in the dock, Costley couldn’t look at her, and she stared in disbelief at him. For an “eminent scientist”, she had been well and truly hoodwinked, and now she was on trial for murder.
Her mind was racing: “Who are you really? What have I done?”
All praise to the author, the production and actress Emily Watson – you just cannot see where this is going. But it has been a cracking journey so far. So, whatever you do, don’t miss what is sure to be a twisting, thrilling finale tonight…
Did you tune in for Apple Tree Yard episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for Apple Tree Yard episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Sarah’s review of episode 3 here.
I cried, I really did. And, boy, it takes a lot to make me do that. But that’s how stonkingly good this sensational psychological thriller has been.
My eyes had been transfixed on the screen while we awaited the last of the four verdicts for the two defendants. Like Yvonne in the dock, I didn’t even dare blink. There was a wickedly long pause, and then it came… She was not guilty of either the murder or manslaughter of rapist George Selway. Phew!
Her lover Mark Costley, who had killed him, was sent down for manslaughter, but after hearing about his gross philandering we had long stopped caring about him.
Funnily enough, Yvonne’s wimpy husband Gary – the type who would sleep with a ridiculously younger woman then snivellingly confess to his wife – suddenly came into his own big time, and had taken the love interest role back with feeling. Hats off to actor Mark Bonnar for that transformation!
Back in court, by the time we reached the verdicts we had all been through the mangle, with amazing Emily Watson squeezing every last drop of emotion out of us as she sobbed in the dock recounting the full horror of her rape to a disbelieving barrister. A female one at that!
The irony was the wife, mother and successful scientist hadn’t gone to the police precisely because she couldn’t face the grilling she was now suffering, and the accusations she was asking for it all along. Seriously, is that what wearing no knickers means?
Then came Yvonne’s tortured face as she realised the barrister was about to reveal the truth – not only to the jury, but to her family in the gallery – about her public sex with Costley before the rape, in a London alleyway. Delivering the killer blow, the lawyer asked if she’d had “sex in a doorway in Apple Tree Yard during rush hour”.
Staring at the floor, realising Costley had betrayed her, Yvonne could only mumble: “It wasn’t rush hour…” (a terrible moment in court, but the best line of the night!)
Then, just when we thought we could all relax and live happily ever after, there was a final twist of the author’s knife. Naughty Louise Doughty – that was so sneaky!
When Yvonne was drawn to visit Costley in prison, he suddenly whispered through the glass: “What you said to me in the flat, I never told them, I didn’t!” And there it was… as a flashback to a whole new piece of dialogue from the lovers’ pillow talk in the “safe house” turned the whole horrible murder upside down.
“So what do you want?” he had asked about the rapist. “I want you to kill him,” she had replied, laughing. Then, with a dead straight face, “I want you to smash his f***ing face in.” Cue Costley literally jumping on Selway’s throat and face as he did indeed kill him. And thank God we were spared the sight of that. The police photos were quite grisly enough.
Yvonne stared at him in horror as the ghastly truth sank in. “People can say anything,” she said. “You really can’t tell the difference, can you?” Costley just stared back blankly like a child who doesn’t understand what the grown-up is saying.
So was Yvonne guilty after all? Both she and six million viewers were left with that chilling thought, and cleverly left us wanting more…
The finale’s pace was overwhelming. Not a second was wasted and the tension was relentless. What a riveting and refreshingly different ride Apple Tree Yard has been. Only four episodes, yet it seemed like a lot more, perhaps because the wait between each has been excruciating.
But it really was the portrayal of the brutal reality of rape and aftermath that spiralled this drama to the heights. With millions of men as hooked as women were, this has probably done more good to open everyone’s eyes to the trauma of rape than any campaign.
Gongs all round! And, with Doughty sharpening her sneaky pencil, steady yourselves for the rumoured sequel…
Did you tune in for Apple Tree Yard episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!