First things first: the opening episode of chilling new BBC One drama The Cry is nothing less than a total mindf*ck. Most of the way through, you’ll be scratching your head, wondering if you’ve missed a bit (you haven’t). HANG IN THERE.
I already get the feeling this desolate psychological thriller – starring Victoria’s Jenna Coleman as struggling new mother Joanna, who from the get-go talks enigmatically about the ‘two Joannas’ (complete with spooky hand gestures) – will be worth the ride.
As a mother of two young boys, the premise of this entire drama – that Joanna’s son has disappeared from his car-seat while his parents are in a supermarket – makes my blood run cold. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
But it’s not even as simple as that. Indeed, we only find out that Noah’s gone as the episode draws to a close, as the plot twists and turns between various points in time, following the style of the book The Cry is adapted from, by Australian author Helen FitzGerald.
First, Joanna meets her future partner Alistair at the primary school she works in, then we see her, sweat-drenched, in the throes of labour, followed by a trip to Australia where Alistair is fighting for custody of his teenage daughter, Chloe. A wide-eyed, hollow-eyed Joanna loses it on their 24-hour flight to Melbourne, shouting at stunned fellow passengers, ‘Does anyone else want to give this a go?!’ as she holds her screaming baby aloft). She’s just a stressed-out new mum, right? Or is this a case of postpartum psychosis?
Interwoven into the chronology, however, seems to be a present-day court case involving Joanna – and therapy sessions which seem to indicate that, well, this is not a well woman we’re dealing with here. What the…?!
Towards the end of the episode, Joanna is getting her fingerprints taken at a police station. What’s she been arrested for?! Could she, shudder, have killed her own son? Joanna’s reaction to her three-month-old’s empty car chair was shock, worry, distress…. then something else.
We’re left with other niggling doubts. Alistair’s ex-wife Alex seems, well, suspect. In one scene, the camera lingers on the boot of her car with a pair of blue plastic gloves inside. What have they been used to do? And what of violent Chloe, Alex and Alistair’s daughter – who we find out has been hitting her teachers. Is she involved in Noah’s disappearance somehow?
In the eeriest moment of this bleak, uncomfortable episode, Joanne and Alistair’s house suddenly goes from empty to full. Why are we being told to believe nothing we see?
The last scene sees a horrifyingly calm Joanna and Alistair prepare for a TV interview, and as she walks on set, Alistair asks her, ‘Are you going to cry?’ But is this scene even real? Are they about to appeal for information on their baby boy?! Or is it a figment of one damaged mother’s mind?
Right now, we have frustratingly more questions than answers and I might need a stiff drink.
But meanwhile, The Cry’s depiction of the relentlessness of early parenthood is bang on the money. And Coleman is hypnotic as its frazzled young protagonist, unravelling in front of our very eyes.
I know what I’m watching next Sunday night…
The Cry, Sundays, 9pm on BBC One.
Did you tune in for The Cry episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up on The Cry episode 2? Read our review of episode 1 here.
Spoiler alert, folks: we’re fast-forwarding full-speed through episode 2 here just to attempt to make sense of it all.
Mostly because here Joanna, the mother who claims her baby son Noah has been abducted outside a supermarket in Australia is, even more so than episode 1, a woman drowning. Sat, vacantly pumping breastmilk at the kitchen table, we’re given a stark reminder that this is a new mum – without her baby.
But if episode 1 planted an annoying number of niggling doubts, episode 2 delivers them the ultimate coup de grace. Because distraught parents Alistair and Joanna have been working together to cover up their son Noah’s death – and are doing their utmost to pin the blame on his ex-wife, Alexandra.
So Alistair coaching his wife to cry ‘if she needs to’ at their first press conference is all part of a chilling plan. Baby Noah was never abducted. What happened to him, though – where is he? Perhaps, something catastrophic happened when the couple pulled up at the roadside, a violent fight ensuing.
Remember Joanna vomiting on the balcony at the cottage, her son wrapped up in blankets in her arms? Was he even there – or was this a mother’s physical reaction to the enormity of what she had just done to her own child? The last time we physically saw Noah was on the plane.
Spin guru Alistair sows up this dense, dark episode with the shocking confirmation that their entire abduction story is a myth. ‘It was the right thing to do – the only thing that makes sense.’
Now we look at those flashbacks The Cry has made a staple of, showing Joanna’s strangely detached behaviour, with a whole new knowing eye. One man reacting online to news of the abduction says, ‘There’s something not right about that one.’ Astute, indeed.
The tension is all ramped up a gear (if that were possible!), because now we’re in pure thriller territory. We’re not only witnessing a couple’s unspeakable pain of losing one’s baby – we’re looking at two conspirators who have done the unthinkable, and are bending every truth and setting up others to keep their shocking secret buried.
Up to a point, episode 2 was an extension of episode 1: a cat and mouse game of whodunit, with Alistair’s ‘sticky beak’ ex-wife, Alexandra, primed as the main culprit – particularly after the gut-punch revelation that a baby bootie with Noah’s DNA was found in her daughter Chloe’s room.
It’s not good for her on paper. Not good at all. She also drinks too much, stalks Joanna online, most definitely has a chip on her shoulder about her ex’s new family – and regularly goes running near where Noah was ‘abducted’. All information Alistair knew well, and clearly twisted to his advantage.
‘Someone in the world knows where he is’ says Chloe of the step-brother she never got to meet. ‘He could be here – right now.’
Now we know exactly who has that answer. But will they get away with it? Alistair seems to think so. As he and Joanna return to the scene of the ‘abduction’, he whispers, ‘These cops are smart, but we’re smarter.’
After a jarring first episode, it feels like The Cry is now in full stride. Let the games begin…
Did you tune in for The Cry episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up on The Cry episode 3? Read our review of episode 2 here.
If you haven’t developed a habit for biting your nails down to the quick and don’t feel like your heart’s been ripped out and trampled on after this episode, then either there’s something seriously wrong with you, or your TV set.
We finally know what happened to baby Noah (well, we think we do), and it would break the hardest spirit.
No matter how monstrous their actions, we see, particularly in Joanna’s case, that they are two people mad with grief. And they’re spinning out of control, too – becoming more and more unhinged, as their tangled web of lies and deceit begins to disintegrate.
But forgot about peace of mind – this series is never going to give us an easy time till the last scene. Yet again, this episode throws up way more questions than answers.
Firstly, did Joanna really kill Noah, confusing his feed with her medicine, as they were in the same plastic bottles? Alistair makes it sound entirely plausible – Joanna had endured the flight from hell with a screaming baby, exhausted. Out of her mind, she had made a simple – if fatal – mistake.
But something about his absolute insistence that this is what happened rings instantaneous alarm bells. And Joanna seems to remember that she ‘definitely did a taste test’ on the bottles.
So, the most devastating discovery here is that baby Noah is dead. It’s almost impossible to watch the scene where Joanna goes to check on him in the car and realises that her beautiful baby boy is gone. All kudos to Coleman here; the pain she emanates as a mother whose world has just been destroyed in an instant would take your breath away…
But THE biggest gut punch of this episode is that we discover Joanna is in the dock, suspected of murdering Alistair. Did she? Was his death (another) terribly unlucky accident? Mmm. We’re guessing not. We also don’t know if she’s in the dock for other charges – like Noah’s murder.
As Joanna crumbles, it’s hard to witness Alistair’s steely determination to cover their tracks, his hour-by-hour manipulation of Joanna without thinking yep, this girl is going to crack.
He even tells her she should be ‘grateful’ he’s been so good at covering their tracks. It’s monstrous.
The final straw is Alistair’s destruction of Noah’s yellow bib – the one Joanna would cry herself to sleep with. It has ‘medicine on it’ and would give the game away, he says. ‘But it’s all I had left’, gasps Joanna.
Did Alistair even tell the truth to Joanna about burying Noah’s body ‘by a tree in a beach nearby’ which he’d always thought as ‘magic’ as a kid? His ex-wife calls him ‘the best liar she ever knew’. This man would lie to his own shadow. And, judging by that disturbing scene in Alex’s kitchen where he shows flashes of madness akin to Jack Nicholson in The Shining, there’s a darkness there we haven’t even begun to plumb.
Or perhaps we’re only being manipulated ourselves, led to side with Joanna, who’s lined up as the fall guy, so our beliefs can be flipped on their head, and we find out they’re actually in it together?!
Let’s hope not – the thought that Joanna and Alistair’s humiliated ex somehow joined forces and bring him down seems like a much more satisfactory turn of events. Poetic justice wouldn’t be in it.
What a roller coaster, people. Yet the best (or worst) is yet to come. Seat belts on for the final episode. I get the feeling we’re in for quite a ride…
Did you tune in for The Cry episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up on The Cry episode 4? Read our review of episode 3 here.
So, all the secrets are out. There was something horribly addictive about this thriller – even though, considering it’s an emotionally charged story about a dead baby, there were moments where it dragged, slightly.
Taking over from Bodyguard’s Sunday night slot was always going to be a tall order, but for the most part, The Cry did not disappoint – it just took a little mental adjustment. No big shootouts or implausible love scenes here. Just a whole lotta mental anguish.
And, though there was no dramatic finale to this horrific whodunnit, tie up the myriad of loose ends it did – leaving you satisfied… but also sad and a little adrift. A bit like Joanna.
We know Joanna is on trial for killing Alistair, not their son Noah, and most of this final episode is concerned with explaining just what happened to drive her to that point of hysteria – and cold-blooded murder.
Jenna Coleman came into her own here. At turns listless, letting herself be carried along helplessly by the momentum of events, at turns steely-eyed with determination, she’s hypnotic to watch. Whatever is going to happen here is already a fait accompli.
She has decided (finally, girl) to cut herself loose from her highly manipulative relationship with Alistair. He may think he has her round his little finger but as he blathers on about another baby being ‘just what we need’, Joanna nods sagely, then in private, pops another contraceptive pill from its blister pack.
Employing the show’s usual technique of flashback, we see Joanna bare her soul to a psychologist, and clearly something huge is about to happen. The piece of the jigsaw which sees everything click into place comes courtesy of a chance letter from an old woman on that fateful flight to Melbourne.
After months of thinking she was behind her son’s death, Joanna learns it was Alistair all along. It was Alistair who gave their child that killer syringe of Joanna’s medicine at Arrivals. ‘You watched it destroy me!’, she screams. And once that cold truth sinks in, there is literally no stopping Joanna.
Before we know it, chillingly calm, Joanna is inviting Alistair out for ‘a drive’ into the wilds of Scotland, but soon undoes his seatbelt, and drives the pair of them straight off the road. She survives, but he is thrown from the vehicle and dies on impact. It’s shocking, but part of you wonders how she waited this long.
Clearly, Alistair’s mother knew what sort of a monster her son was. And actor Ewan Leslie was sensational in reeling us in as the grieving father, then twisting the knife and reminding us what a psychopath he really is.
Joanna? She has already accepted whatever fate the future holds for her. But in her eyes, there’s a fresh determination.
Found not guilty of her husband’s murder, Joanna walks away. A free woman. But as we realise her ‘missing’ dead baby is buried underneath a house in Australia, one she’s just bought, you realise: this woman will never be free.
Joanna’s kept the truth about Noah to herself – for now. But, as a police officer investigating Noah’s disappearance tells the couple at the start of the episode, ‘people think the weight of guilt will lessen over time. In my experience, it’s quite the opposite’.
Meanwhile, as she stretches slowly across the wooden floor, in a twisted attempt to get close to her baby, Joanna is home, or as close as she’ll ever be.
And we’re off to watch something joyously uncomplicated…
Did you tune in for The Cry episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!