Episode 3 of The Essex Serpent starts with fishermen out on the sea. Eerie noises crescendo into the vessel being hit by something underneath, as we see a dark outline appear under the boat, courtesy of a slick overhead shot. One of the fishermen, Joshua, falls out and almost gets pulled under. Although he scrambles back aboard, it’s yet another ominous sign that this serpent could actually be real.
Cora continues to reel over what happened in the school. She’s hardly slept since the incident but thankfully Dr Garrett has arrived to try and right this ship of chaos. Cora is convinced something happened and suggests the kids may have been possessed by the devil. Garrett though looks for a scientific explanation. When they arrive at the school, looking around the classroom, Matthew appears and blames Cora for what happened, claiming her “heretical ideas” are the root cause of the children playing up.
When Cora walks through the marshlands with Garrett afterwards, the latter chalks up her ideas about the serpent to the fact she’s grieving and it’s manifested into this.
Part of Matthew’s spooked demeanour stems from the attack on the fishermen that morning. A grave Will Ransome shows up to check on Cora after learning of this, worried about the effect of this classroom incident. Will eventually wraps his scarf around Cora’s neck, but he almost seems to lean in for a kiss too before thinking better of it. There’s some definite sexual tension between the two.
That night, Garrett suggests hypnotizing Jo, intent on trying to help her. Cora is not so sure. Still, the pair dance around their feelings for one another, made all the more complicated by that earlier incident with Will.
In the morning, the pair head back out to the site she’s been investigating. There, Cora finds a vertebra that looks similar to the one she’s uncovered in Dorset. That’s certainly quite the find. When they arrive back on the shore though, all the villagers are not happy and claim Cora is conducting witchcraft and doing something to the children. “Whatever it is, stop it.” One of the women pleads. Given all the nets have been shredded too, it’s leaving a lot of them rattled and scared over what this means.
Cora tries not to be deterred though and eventually heads over to the Ransome household. Stella is concerned over why Jo is acting the way she is, as Garrett probes the idea of hypnosis to figure out what’s going on.
Will isn’t there though, given he’s actually at the church. He speaks to Matthew, who points out the very real, physical evidence of the serpent. He also throws shade at Will’s religion and faith, claiming he’s supposed to be helping to keep people safe. This cuts Will deeply, and with tears in his eyes, decides to go swimming out in the water.
Garrett does his hypnosis on Jo, who immediately has strange flashes of the water. She claims to have cast a spell, allowing Naomi to allegedly “let it in.” As she continues on, Cora claims that “It’s in us.” Suddenly, Will bursts in and believes Garrett is hurting Jo, pinning him up against the wall. Cora is flustered, Stella tries to talk him down, and Garrett is surprisingly calm. When Will lets go, Cora and Garrett hurriedly leave.
The next day, Cora drops off a note at Will’s place. It’s clear that Will’s anger is derived from his growing feelings for Cora, and as they speak outside, growing closer together, Stella happens to be watching them from the window.
The Episode Review
The third episode of Essex Serpent starts to deepen the character ties as the idea of faith and science clash together in uneasy and unpleasant ways. This idea of questioning one’s faith and doing so under the pretense of a potential monster lurking in the water is a really good one, and the show continues to build up its ideas around this ensemble of characters.
While the plot doesn’t really move along all that much, the character depth and dynamics certainly do. This is a fascinating series in many ways, taking ideas inherent with shows like Midnight Mass and running with that to form an interesting and thematically rich show. Let’s hope the rest of the series follows suit.