The Essex Serpent – Episode 5 “Break Things” Recap & Review

Break Things

Episode 5 of The Essex Serpent begins with the villagers in Essex out in the pouring rain, desperate to find Naomi. She’s gone and there’s been no word of her. Will tries to reassure Henry, telling him she’ll come back. But then, given Gracie didn’t, then his promises fall on deaf ears.

When Will returns home, he learns that Stella is ill and her hacking cough is becoming harder to disguise. Stella is going to leave and see Dr Garrett in London, and as she tells Will this, he finds it hard to swallow. “We could see Cora?” Stella encourages, and eventually he agrees to leave with her for London in the morning – but vehemently declines to seeing Cora.

As for Cora, she heads out with Freddie to visit Professor Marchand. In a  huge library, they sit together and discuss her findings. The excavated remains of this perceived plesiosaur certainly pique his interest but Marchand admits that he can’t do anything with such a small specimen.

Marchand encourages her to head back to Essex and keep digging for more. Given how much she’s vilified by the villagers, that’s not exactly an option right now.

Since coming back to London, something has changed in Cora. Martha senses it and whether it be the serpent, Essex or Will Ransome, she’s much more unhinged than before. The latter, of course, is now bound to London with Stella, who shows up to see Dr Garrett.

Unfortunately, Dr Garrett confirms the worst. Stella has tuberculosis. When Will brings up the doctor in Aldwinter who had an alternate theory, Garrett calls him a fool. However, he does bring up a solution. Luke wants to operate, collapsing her infected lung and doing surgery. Given no one has actually survived this before, Stella refuses.

Stella refuses to spend all her time in the doctors and decides to make the most of what time she has left. So they head back to Essex, ready to face the inevitable.

Back in London, Dr Garrett and Cora have a rather awkward reunion. She hasn’t bothered writing to him in all this time but they do soon get back into the swing of things.

Cora admits that those in Essex have turned against her, and that’s why she’s back. However, Cora is clearly still dwelling on how things ended with Will, with Martha admitting to her later on that she should stop “dwelling on that which she can’t have.”

But dwell she does. And in fact, so too does Dr Garrett as he tags along with Cora to his big celebratory evening. Cora is adamant that they’re just friends but we do know that Luke feels very differently toward her.

As they end up getting drunk together, Luke speaks plainly to Cora and tells her he loves her. The mood changes immediately, especially when Luke brings up Will and what’s currently going on with him. He coldly teases her about how Stella has TB (which she wasn’t aware of up until this point) and eventually calls her a coward as she hurries away.

Cora slips away and heads home, where she runs into Martha and expresses how incredulous she is about the whole ordeal. Martha bitterly retorts how clueless she is about love. As a result, Cora begins smashing up her house while Dr Garrett heads out and runs into a mugger. He holds a knife up to Luke and demands he hand over his wallet.

Despite pleading with him not to hurt his hand, the man slashes wildly across Luke Garrett’s palm, leaving his future in medicine doubtful.

The Episode Review

So the penultimate episode of Essex Serpent moves away from London and as a result, grinds to a halt when it comes to the horror, folklore and the general mood and atmosphere of this drama.

Instead, the whole ordeal plays out like a standard period drama. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, this episode doesn’t have a whole lot of substance to make that jump enjoyable.

To be fair, the ending does go some way to alleviate those concerns, with Cora finally understanding what Luke’s true intentions are and beginning to settle into her role. Beyond that though, the series tends to meander into these subplots that don’t have a lot of function other than chewing up time. Martha’s social housing bill, for example, is a nice inclusion but serves absolutely no function to the story.

However, the ending does hint that we’ve got lots more drama to come in the finale, which promises to be quite the dramatic affair.

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You can read our full season review for The Essex Serpent here!


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