Great Expectations (2023) – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

The first sequence of this coming of age show, premised on the novel by Charles Dickens, features Pip trying to hang himself and jumping off from a bridge in 1839 London. We are quickly transported back in time by seven years and we are introduced to the primary plotline. While working extremely hard, an impressionable Pip is quoting Shakespeare.

Following that, we shift to a tense, jail cell setting where two men, Magwitch and Compeyson, shout out loud expressing how much they despise one another. We are informed that they will have to stay beside each other until they reach Australia, by the guard, resulting in them having no choice.

Compeyson starts a fire inside his cell to initiate his escape plan because he doesn’t seem to be willing to just sit idly by and remain in jail. Magwitch, Compeyson’s jailhouse companion, asks him to set him free; however, Compeyson goes on to tell him to burn in hell following which he walks away. Magwitch, however, manages to flee and kills each guard on his way out.

Young Pip hopes to go see his family members on Christmas Eve, however, his sister Sara, as well as her partner Joe, advise him not to do so due to the cannons firing. Joe makes an effort to resolve the dispute and he convinces Pip to stay. Joe then warns Sara that if she whips Pip once more, he will leave. Pip then sneaks out of his room when it gets dark, which creates problems.

Pip is captured by Magwitch while going to visit his family members’ burial site and he is instructed to get him snacks and items to keep him toasty. If he doesn’t, the prisoner blackmails him that he’ll bury his sister and her husband alongside his deceased family members.

Pip delivers a fair amount of food as well as a drink to Magwitch as agreed. Magwitch requests him to remove his chains before inquiring if he has come across anybody who appears like him. A short while later, Compeyson makes an appearance and asks Pip whether he’s seen Magwitch. Naturally, Pip lies and claims that he doesn’t know any of it since he is frightened.

The announcement that Miss Havisham demands Pip to be sent to her residence is made when Mr. Pumblechook, Sara, Joe, as well as Pip show up for dinner. Seeing as they were unable to spot a boy of the right class, Pip was chosen by Mr. Pumblechook. He goes on to say that Miss Havisham adopted a girl who requires companionship and they think Pip is smart enough to be her friend.

The guards break into the home to inform them about how two men have fled and they thereafter order the men to immediately go outside and look for them while Sara gets excited about the prospect of being paid.

Pip and Joe are pressured to assist the soldiers in their search for the prisoners. While on their walk, Pip admits to Joe that he is unsure about the agreement with Mr. Pumblechook but is certain that he is unwilling to be a blacksmith in the future.

The soldiers overhear Compeyson and Magwitch engaged in combat. As Magwitch is  about to kill Compeyson—who is covered in mud—a soldier enters and confronts him. The officer in charge then inquires about Magwitch’s method of removing his ankle chains. He claims that he decided to break into a blacksmith’s home and got them off.

Pip and Biddy debate about his agreement with Miss Havisham. He describes the ways in which he could use the money to support Joe as well as his sister. She informs him that she doesn’t like his plan.

Mr. Pumblechook and Pip are on their way to see Miss Havisham. Pip finally shows up at the residence to see Miss Havisham and Estella. Miss Havisham, Pip, and Estella have an uncomfortable and frightening conversation before the episode ends, whereby Miss Havisham asserts “I would like to watch you play”, after making them talk about each other.

The Episode Review

The opening scenes of the episode establish the tone of the narrative. Additionally, it provides us with a glimpse of the storyline’s central characters including Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Magwitch, and Joe.

The show’s prison setting is disturbing, but it captures an often-overlooked section of Victorian society: the prisoners. Charles Dickens is known for shedding light on the underrepresented sections of Victorian society. Through this tale, he throws light on the living conditions of a blacksmith and a prisoner. These aspects are brilliantly and yet disturbingly displayed in the first episode.

We’re also introduced to a minor but significant change in the plotline. Even before meeting Estelle, Pip expresses his disinterest in becoming a blacksmith. We know from the novel that he wants to become a gentleman in order to be with Estelle. However, wanting to be a part of the upper class because of a different motivation suggests that this show is most likely a reinterpretation of the novel.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Great Expectations here!

  • Episode Rating

2 thoughts on “Great Expectations (2023) – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review”

  1. Hey Flaneuse, thanks for commenting. I’ve just noticed that as well actually on a few occasions they’re written that way across these recaps, I do apologize! I’ve gone in and corrected those now. On IMDB it is listed as “Mr Pumblechuck” which might be where the error lay there but regardless, those errors have now been corrected.

    Really appreciate the feedback and letting us know!

    -Greg W

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