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Friday, May 01, 2009

Little Dorrit, Episode 5--FINALE (Guest Blog)

Here is K, of South in the Winter, with her thoughts on the final chapter:

"Hello all! I’m very excited to be blogging about the conclusion of Little Dorrit. Apologies for the delay – I don’t have cable and I trusted to the Internet gods to save me, but as I live in Canada I had some issues with the PBS website. But all is well! I’ve been marathoning this for the past two days…

So we open with Mr. Dorrit back in Venice attempting a marriage proposal. This scene makes me squirmy with discomfort, perhaps because Mrs. General is so insufferable and Mr. Dorrit is so clearly in a state of decline. Side note: who else loves to play the “hey, it’s that character actor!” game? You will note that Mrs. General also played the evil headmistress in Matilda.

The scene where he falls apart at Mrs. Merdle’s farewell ball in Italy is heartbreaking as well. Poor Mr. Dorrit. Remember the scene where Mr. Chivery offers to let him look into the street and the noise and bustle is overwhelming? I imagine that’s what the entire Italian interlude has been. The strain of keeping the past a secret and trying to live in the open after years of confinement is just too much.

And… a double character death. Oh Dickens, why must you tug at my heartstrings so? I’m a cynic, but killing the clarinet-playing uncle is too much. I’ll just weep over here in my corner.

Hee, the Sparklers are quite the comic relief, though. “And just when he was beginning to enjoy society!” Fanny never disappoints.

As Arthur visits Miss Wade, I’m forced to ask: does anyone else find this Miss Wade/Harriet storyline boring and/or just plain odd? This is the only instance of any kind of same-sex relationship in a Dickens novel – correct me if I’m wrong, of course. But I want to see some more. And I don’t mean sex scenes.

Ah, the inevitable reunion between Arthur and Amy! My eyes are watering in preparation. But actually it’s quite restrained, another accidental meeting in the street. Claire Foy is excellent, I must say. I mean, I don’t object to looking at Matthew Macfayden but Foy has a much harder role to pull off. She manages to keep Amy right on the border between "sweet" and "saintly."

And Mr. Merdle commits suicide – in what I excitedly thought was an opium den, but it turns out to be a bathhouse. Most shocking! Wouldn’t it hurt to kill yourself with a pen knife? Apparently all of England is thrown into financial ruin. There’ll be a run on rooms at the Marshalsea!

The shockwaves ripple… the Merdles are ruined, and plan a rather cowardly (but highly entertaining) back-door exit, while Arthur is nobler and heads over to Marshalsea because he’s lost all of his money by investing in Merdle. And so the tables have turned, and the financially solvent become the debtors. I would watch a spinoff of Mrs. Merdle, Fanny and Sparkler trying to survive on nothing but his Circumlocution Office salary, spite, and parrot food. Anyone else?

Arthur is thrown into a fever by his new status as inmate at Marshalsea and has strange dreams. When he wakes, Amy is there. And you know, I think Fellowette is right – it’s not quite the right ending to the longing and restrained love story we’ve been watching. When did he realize he was in love with her? I don’t remember seeing it happen. There’s too much money talk and not enough unburdening of the soul for my liking.

Rigaud makes his reappearance and generally behaves creepily. He lays into Mrs. Clennam but I can’t understand a word of what he’s saying… however, he is threateningly arching his brows and leaning in way too close. I conclude that he is blackmailing her! Interspersed with this are shots of Harriet discovering the Missing Box of Important Papers. And… then she’s gone.

Mrs. Clennam is apparently cured by the power of Rigaud’s insane French accent, because she stumbles off and runs into Amy, telling her the whole confusing story of Arthur’s real parentage. I will admit that I had to look this part up because it puzzled me. And then the Clennam house falls down around Rigaud and Flintwitch. This is one of those dramatic but highly unrealistic Dickensian moments – like the spontaneous combustion in Bleak House – that are completely spectacular. It’s also been heavily foreshadowed, what with all the dust and creaking. I love it! Flintwitch runs through the house trying to escape and Rigaud mutters French curse words as the roof collapses on him.

This is getting too long, sorry. Let’s skip the public shaming of Mr. Casby and move right to the happy ending. John stands by stoically in the yard as Amy enters the Marshalsea. (Oh John. There are plenty of other young ladies out there. Stop making me cry.) Our lovers reunite. It’s sweet, as Arthur picks her up and spins her about, but there isn’t quite enough sweeping emotion for me. In yet another plot twist, Daniel Doyce comes back from Russia having saved the business. Doyce is wearing fur, as all travellers to Russia must.

Wedding scene! Everyone is there – including, inexplicably, Harriet and the Meagles. Where’s Pet? Hopefully not languishing in Italy still. I like that Amy is wearing a purple dress - a lot of the colours thus far (around the Dorrit family in particular) have been subdued greys and violets, and her wedding dress is in the same family but a bit brighter and happier.

And the camera freezes on Little Dorrit, now all grown up, as your cynical heartless blogger wipes away a tear. Dickens and Davies are obviously out to sell a lot of Kleenex to classic novel lovers. The John storyline alone broke my heart repeatedly. I must say, despite the dropped threads of the plot (Pet, Harriet and Miss Wade) and the somewhat disappointing end to the love story, this miniseries was highly entertaining. As always with Dickens, the secondary comic characters are so important, and the casting was uniformly excellent. What did everyone else think?

Thanks so much for the opportunity, Fellowette!"


  1. I was also a bit let down by the lack of emotional heft in the endgame of the love story between Arthur and Amy. I can only assume that Arthur "realizes her loves her" in the moment when John is unburdening himself to Arthur, yelling and crying heartbreakingly, as is his wont, and all Arthur can do is sort of open and shut his mouth like a freshly caught fish.

    Then he falls into a fever, which is gratifyingly swoony, but then when he wakes up to find Amy there, they are both so matter of fact about loving each other, they sort of skip over the "I love you" and get right to the "I can't let you bind yourself to a tainted man," seasoned lightly with "I could never share your fortune." K is right -- too much money, too little love.

    Davies should just let Sandy Welch write the love scenes. He just doesn't ever hit the right note when it matters the most. In Jane Eyre, Welch freaking NAILS IT, in scene after aching scene.


  2. I thought that Dickens kind of squelched the love scenes in the book, so I hoped that Davies (who we know doesn't mind a bit of invention) might actually be able to improve on them. Despite how much I came to like McFadyen in this role, I still thought he played Clennam as a bit of a puppy, particularly when he told Amy he loved her. Don't be a puppy! Be a man!

    I thought the John Chivery story and acting played out perfectly, it was probably my favourite part of this episode! And I give kudos to Davies for filling in the Fanny/Sparkler/Mrs. Merdle story, it was just the amount of lightness I think the episode needed. Lastly, in the novel, Amy keeps Arthur's family history from him, but I think it rounded out the plot properly and worked in a TV/modern context for Arthur to be informed. I think I like it better this way.

  3. Great synopsis!

    I always like to brood awhile on these BBC Masterpiece Classic adaptations. I agree with everyone else about the let down on the love story - it just seemed to zoom in from almost no where, and I also agree with Beth Dunn that Arthur seems to get his first clue when John Chivery unloads on him. Poor John Chivery! I would very much have liked to see his part of the story nicely tied up instead of left as a loose string, but I suppose that would take away from his utter devotion to Amy. Still, it would have been nice to see some worthy young lady have an eye for him....

    I was confused about Miss Wade and Harriet, the ending plotline and Harriet's departure.

    The casting was excellent. Thanks for pointing out that the actress who played Mrs. General also played Miss Trunchbull in Matilda. I thought she looked familiar!