The Woman in the Wall – Season 1 Episode 4 “The Cruelty Man” Recap & Review

The Cruelty Man

After the explosive ending of Episode 3, the next episode of The Woman in the Wall begins ominously for Akande. Massey is livid with the detective’s unhinged behaviour. Not only did he break into Lorna’s house, but he also kept on pressing her with accusations. In Massey’s mind, Lorna budged after the pressure got too much. He swears to report Akande, which would send him packing to Dublin.

Niamh visits Lorna. News about her confession has spread. And now, Niamh is concerned that it could hamper their progress with James Coyle. She asks Lorna to stay put, even as Lorna mutters she needs to “find Agnes’ grave.” After promising not to leave the house, Lorna heads towards the registry office. Massey, who is stationed outside her house, unsuccessfully tries to stop her. He also learns that Olivia isn’t who she says she is.

Akande goes back to Dublin, as expected. He has been suspended pending an enquiry into his actions. For now, he is relegated to a desk job. However, that doesn’t stop him from going to Father Percy’s house, which is still a crime scene.

A flashback to when Akande cleared his detective exam and went to Percy’s to celebrate exposes the dead clergyman’s conceited ways. Percy specifically mentions that he has no contacts at Lazarus House when Akande wishes to find his birth mother. That is the place he was born. But in the present, Akande finds a register that has numeric entries in pound terms in that name. After further investigating the house with another colleague, Akande deduces that someone took Percy’s phone. The police did not find anything. No phones have been registered into evidence and that is odd.

Lorna’s sojourn to different registry offices doesn’t bear fruit. She cannot find any record of Agnes’ death. The staff isn’t helpful either, even calling security to shepherd her out. But once the office closes, Lorna breaks in and steals the physical copies of the records. She brings them back to her place, laying out everything on the floor of her living room.

Akande, now back at his parents’ house, wakes up screaming at night. The episode’s title, The Cruelty Man, is a monster that has been tormenting him for years. His mother doesn’t seem to know anything about it. But she does mention that Percy put them in contact with the Sacred Shepherd adoption agency. Akande is stunned into silence and wakes up with renewed energy to figure out how everything is connected. He phones Massey to inform him of the new discovery. This effectively means that the agency went underground after it was officially closed in 1979, continuing to operate for several more years, as early as the 1990s. 

The agency must have facilitated countless illegal adoptions, which the duo now have to investigate. Some digging reveals that Bishop Brendan Rice, who oversaw the operations at Lazarus House before it burned down, was familiar with Father Percy. He visits Rice shortly. When he mentions the agency’s name, Rice’s warm demeanour turns cold at a moment’s notice. He gets defensive, doesn’t give any more answers, and reports Akande’s antics to his superiors. Now he is given a leave of absence. 

Lorna enlists Michael’s help to figure out the mystery of missing death records. There are two chief possibilities: either the new-borns are buried at the convent somewhere, or the records have been falsified and many of them are still alive. For now, the duo only finds three children who have graves according to the records…3 out of 298. She believes it is the former and heads over to the Kilkinure convent.

Akande breaks into the now-abandoned Lazarus House. While exploring the place, he falls through the floor in one place that has an opening. He lands in what looks like a tunnel.

Meanwhile, Lorna is confronted by Sister Eileen in a dark room. But instead of apologizing or expressing any regret, Eileen admonishes Lorna for being a failed mother. She walks toward her ominously saying that Lorna could have been with her child but chose not to.

Lorna defends herself but is confused about what to say. She settles down in confusion with tears rolling down her eyes as Eileen phones Massey. He takes her to the station, where he offers Lorna tea. However, what Lorna says next stumps Massey and is symbolic of law enforcement apathy in the whole saga. She says that Massey also offered Clemence a cuppa when she came all the way into town to tell him what happened. Regardless of him being a green, newly appointed Garda, Massey failed in his duties to protect the vulnerable. This will sit deep with Massey, who still has a long way to go in the investigation.

Elsewhere, Akande realizes that the tunnel from his dreams is real. He goes back home to confront his mother, who confesses that they smuggled Akande out using the tunnel. He was kept in the “reject room,” a space where kids whom no one wanted were placed. The following day, Akande goes to the county registry office. He finds a piece of paper that he brings all the way back to Lorna’s house. It is a death certificate of Colman Ivers – his mother’s surname.

This gives the duo renewed hope that perhaps the certificates Lorna found at the wailing woman’s house might have been falsified. 

The Episode Review

“But you’re alive…” is arguably the most hopeful Lorna has been in the series. It is a moment to celebrate as a viewer because there is still an outside chance Agnes is alive. Episode 4 takes the show in a new direction that is more upbeat and possibly redemptive in nature. What Eileen said at the convent isn’t wholly true but from this perspective, it gives Lorna a chance to put her demons to rest, if she has any. Even if there is a whiff of doubt or regret in her mind, this can help her correct it. 

I applaud the makers for choosing to approach this story in a complex, wholesome manner. This episode encapsulates the many underlying conceits about good policemen remaining silent at the time of their duty, and the men of God indulging in trafficking in their holy saviour’s name. Although the black-and-white characterization is a little populist, the difference in impact is marginal.

Pairing up Akande and Lorna has created a sweet bond that everyone can relate to and root for. I hope the murder investigation doesn’t get sidetracked, which remains a possibility.

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