Well, this second episode of Arthur & George kicks the mysteries up a notch, and by the end, it seems Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Martin Clunes) and Dr. Alfred Wood (Charles Edwards) haven’t made much progress in identifying the mysterious animal-maimer and note-writer, or “the ripper,” as he’s now called by all the principal characters.
[Warning: the recap of Arthur & George contains spoilers!]
We pick up in Arthur & George right where we left off last week, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chased the hooded figure through the wood and found a child’s doll in the middle of a circle of candles. Upon bringing it back to the Edalji house, George Edalji’s (Arshur Ali) sister, Maud (Pearl Chanda), confirms that it is indeed her doll that went missing many years before. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle declares that the ripper must be someone obvious who is in plain sight most of the time. He then asks the family pointedly what could have made their family a target. As they consider this question, George Edalji arrives unexpectedly, but he joins the conversation. The family seems unable to give decisive answers, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle insists that their enemy could be someone more obvious than they think. He cautions them saying,
“Satan lives among you, but he may have mutated into someone you trust.”
The conversation is soon cut short by Dr. Alfred Wood who becomes uncomfortable upon seeing fresh mud on George Edalji’s boots. Once he and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are out of the house, he points this out, asking whether this could be evidence that it had been George Edalji in the hooded cloak. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quickly dismisses the idea, saying it couldn’t have been George Edalji because of his bad eyesight, his limp, and his “honest face.” Dr. Alfred Wood is clearly still dubious and wants to take things more slowly, but agrees to stop at the police station to make inquiries.
Their interview with the policeman (Tony Pankhurst) is short, and the policeman does not want to give detailed answers. He tells them that it was a Sergeant Upton (Conleth Hill), the police chief, who first pointed to George Edalji as a suspect and who said he was known as “not a right sort.” When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle persists for specifics, and the policeman describes that the Edalji house had been searched one day when George Edalji was not there. We see the search in a flashback, and the family is clearly nervous at the interrogation. The first things to raise suspicion about George Edalji were that he did not own his own razor or have his own bedroom. Next, they find wet boots, and a coat that is damp, bloodstained, and has horsehair on it. At the end of the interview, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle asks why Sergeant Upton disliked George Edalji so much, but no definitive answer is given. Once the gentlemen leave the police station, Dr. Alfred Wood says the clearest answer is that racial prejudice informed Sergeant Upton’s dislike, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle insists that that’s too obvious. The enthusiasm of the mystery writer is clearly outstripping that of his secretary at this point.
A number of people must be questioned now. The first stop, however, is the hotel where they’ll be staying next. When they reach their room, they find on the floor a dead duck that appears to have broken through the bedroom window. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle examines the scene and says everything actually appears to have been placed intentionally. Then they find a threatening note that looks identical in form and handwriting to the notes the Edalji family had received. This is an intense moment, as the note threatens the gentlemen and the famous Sherlock Holmes.
The first person to be questioned is Harry Bostock (Ciarán Owens), a farmer who was an old school mate of George Edalji’s. His father had been the schoolmaster. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Alfred Wood pursue the question of whether George Edalji was subject to racial prejudice. Harry denies this, saying that George Edalji was disliked more for his intelligence. He also mentions that he was mocked for his poor eyesight when he was a young boy. Harry also offers useful farming knowledge – this ripper would have had to know his way around animals in order to murder them so brutally. After a bit more questioning about the Edalji family, Harry says he doesn’t recall anything particularly noteworthy about them, but there had been a bit of drama surrounding the dismissal of a servant girl many years before. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also asks about Harry’s father, and Harry says that he died eight years earlier, falling to his death.
With this information in hand, the amateur detectives then head back to the Edalji home and ask about the servant girl’s dismissal. Her name was Elizabeth Foster, as the family explains, and apparently she had complained that George Edalji looked at her strangely. Rev Shapurji Edalji (Art Malik) of course questioned the young George, but he denied having looked at her for anything. Rev Shapurji Edalji explains that he had no choice but to dismiss Elizabeth. Dr. Alfred Wood is curious as to why he never doubted whether his son was being truthful. George Edalji then says that she spat in his face when she left – that was the dramatic part of it. Pondering these facts, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Alfred Wood ask what else they knew of her. George Edalji’s mother, Charlotte Edalji (Emma Fielding), says Elizabeth had no family left in the area save a half-brother, who happens to be none other than Sergeant Upton, the police chief who had harassed them previously. This throws Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into a series of new speculations, and he goes outside to talk to Dr. Alfred Wood about what to do next. At this point, Maud Edalji quietly approaches them and begins talking pleasantly about the Sherlock Holmes stories, but uses it as an entrance into more serious discussion. She says that though she loves her parents, she believes they both have an exaggerated and naïve respect for authority in general. She unhesitatingly calls Sergeant Upton a cruel man who wanted to harm George Edalji all along. After some discussion she agrees with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that he could have singled out George Edalji in revenge for Elizabeth’s dismissal at the least.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Alfred Wood next go to question the blacksmith, Mr. Brooks (Dean Ashton), but first stop at the place where Harry said his father fell to his death. It’s a steep cliff with a waterfall, a clearly precarious place. Curiously, they see another dead animal hanging from a tree with another note before they leave. Cautious but undeterred, they proceed to question Mr. Brooks, also a victim of threatening letters at the same time the Edalji family was. Mr. Brooks appears very gruff and unwilling to answer clearly, saying the letters were merely blackmail asking for money, but he’d ignored them and nothing had happened. He says he hadn’t kept the letters, and also doesn’t speak of his son with fondness, mentioning he’d gone to a different school than George Edalji. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Alfred Wood leave him to get a drink before heading back home, and they come upon George Edalji in the street, and it appears he’s being harassed by several men. They leave upon seeing the gentlemen approach, but it’s clear George Edalji is uncomfortable. As the gentlemen settle down with their drinks, we see Sergeant Upton is watching them and perhaps has been following them for a bit. Dr. Alfred Wood notices him first, and when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle notices him, Sergeant Upton ridicules him and his stories, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only retorts that he’s going to expose the unjust part Sergeant Upton played in convicting George Edalji.
In the midst of this interlude, we see that the blacksmith, Mr. Brooks, actually does still have the letters. He slips into a private room and begins looking at letters that are clearly written in the ripper’s distinct hand. But surprisingly and tragically, an unknown someone traps Mr. Brooks in this room and then sets fire to it, killing Mr. Brooks. A horrified Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives at the scene with Dr. Alfred Wood, and in seconds, he’s convinced that the ripper killed Mr. Brooks, but the policemen harshly dismiss him as an amateur. As the gentlemen continue to inspect the crime scene, Dr. Alfred Wood questions whether they ought to have interfered by questioning Mr. Brooks, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is only further convinced that his death means they’re getting near the truth. He then declares the precise spot where the killer stood as he watched the building burn, and then looks down to find boot prints in the mud. However, the right is deeper than the other, indicating a limp like George Edalji’s. Dr. Alfred Wood still says dryly that much of the evidence does point to George Edalji, and then confesses that he thinks Sir Arthur Conan Doyle should let this case rest. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of course refuses to do so.
We next see him back at home visiting with Jean Leckie (Hattie Morahan). She makes clear that she won’t wait much longer for him, encouraging him to get on with the Edalji case. She suggests he should visit George Edalji again since he doesn’t know him well and he’s not entirely convinced there’s enough evidence to prove him innocent. The next evening, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Alfred Wood resolve to follow George Edalji just to observe him naturally without his knowledge. They follow him to a garage-like place with many people around. The atmosphere is generally quiet and serious, as well as eerie in some ways. People have guns and George Edalji seems to know many of them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gasps in surprise when he sees George Edalji shaking hands with someone he knows only from reports. He whispers to Dr. Alfred Wood that he’s the worst kind of criminal and actually the man who inspired the character of Moriarty in his Sherlock Holmes stories. If you know anything about Moriarty, that’s a frightening thought indeed!
The rest of the episode focuses on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie. They walk together at a cricket game and are enjoying the day and one another until Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sister Connie (Hillary Maclean) and brother-in-law Ernest (Timothy Watson) rudely ignore them. When he goes to their house later that day demanding an explanation, Ernest scathingly rebukes him for the way he carries on with Jean Leckie, saying it’s detrimental to his children and reputation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle angrily declares that she’s never been his mistress, only to receive another scathing rebuke from Connie for not marrying Jean Leckie before now. She harshly declares that Jean and everyone else deserve that respect. Resigned, Arthur goes straight to Jean Leckie’s house and proposes marriage. To his astonishment, she refuses, saying that she knows he’s not proposing out of love or concern for her, but out of resignation to his sister’s threats and out of his own guilt. She says she knows he has sought to appease his guilt over Lady Doyle through this Edalji case, and she cannot accept him until he has made peace with her memory and learned to forgive himself. It’s clearly a difficult conversation, but it all needed to be said.
Photo Source: britsunited.blogspot.com
That’s all for this week of Arthur & George! Hopefully some good evidence will turn up next week. Some serious sleuthing will be needed if Sir Arthur wants to clear George Edalji in just one episode! Tune in to Arthur & George next Sunday at 8/7c on PBS.1 of 1