What a shame. I was really getting to grips with Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the BBC's latest period drama offering. Episode One was a bit bland and iffy. Episode Two was a comparative cracker. Episode Three stalled. Badly.
I'm trying to work out whether I found this particular quarter of Hardy's novel similarly dull and inspiring. But no. I always remember being gripped by Tess and Angel's brief 'honeymoon' at the creepy old D'Urberville mansion. And overwhelmed with fury at Angel's callous priggishness.
In this production, I found these scenes oddly lifeless. It's not for want of trying on the part of Gemma Arterton's Tess. She really does pucker up her bottom lip nicely, and her large, soulful eyes glow with fearful sorrow. Having thought Eddie Redmayne made for a decent enough Angel Clare in Episode Two, I was now forced into second thoughts. His entire demeanour was wooden, his voice flat and unemotional. To my surprise, I found myself hankering for Oliver Milburn's performance in ITV's 1998 version of Hardy's epic.
Tess's gruelling farm-work was also well-portrayed in the 1998 ITV version; genuinely resonant of hardship and suffering. You could see why Alex's offer to take Tess away from the grime and misery of peasant life was so inviting?
Which perhaps points to the main difficulty I am having with this piece right now. The BBC prides itself on authentic period drama, but has shied away from any semblance of the grit and grime which would have besmirched daily rural life at this time.
We need a real sense of Tess's sufferings here. And I'm just not getting it.
Hopefully things will pick up in next week's final episode. I'll post a fuller review then.