|The Essex Serpent|
|Based on||The Essex Serpent|
by Sarah Perry
|Developed by||Anna Symon|
|Directed by||Clio Barnard|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||47-50 minutes|
|Production company||See-Saw Films|
|Original network||Apple TV+|
|Original release||May 13 –|
June 10, 2022
The Essex Serpent is a 2022 British gothic romance, period drama, miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Perry. The series was written by Anna Symon, directed by Clio Barnard, and starred Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston in the lead roles. It premiered on Apple TV+ on 13 May 2022.
The Essex Serpent follows London widow Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes) who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. She forms a surprising bond of science and skepticism with the local pastor (Tom Hiddleston), but when tragedy strikes, locals accuse her of attracting the creature.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"The Blackwater"||Clio Barnard||Anna Symon, Clio Barnard, Juliette Towhidi||May 13, 2022|
In Essex, a young woman wades into marshy water asking for forgiveness. She tells her young sister Naomi, watching from the shore, that she was tempted by the serpent. Frightened, Naomi runs away to the sound of Gracie's screams. In London, Dr Luke Garrett attends the opulent house of Michael Seaborne, who aggressively refuses lifesaving surgery. Michael's wife Cora is affectionately comforted by their maid, Martha. Michael dies and Cora informs their young son Frankie, who is unsure whether his mother is sad because she isn't crying. After the funeral, Cora sees a newspaper article about sightings of the Serpent and travels to Essex with Martha and Frankie to investigate. On arrival, she helps a man rescue a trapped sheep. He thanks her, but tells her to go home as there is no Serpent. When invited to the vicarage for dinner, Cora discovers the man is local vicar Will Ransome — he apologises for his earlier rudeness but they continue to debate. Cora and Frankie get on particularly well with Will’s wife Stella.In church, Cora has flashbacks to her husband's abusive violence and Will's sermon is interrupted so the congregation can search for Gracie in the marshes. Cora discovers Naomi cradling her sister's body.
|2||"Matters of the Heart"||Clio Barnard||Anna Symon||May 13, 2022|
Mourners pay their respects to Gracie's family, but rumours spread that she was taken because of her sins. The villagers put up defences against the Serpent. Cora decides to stay and rent a cottage, and Martha returns to London to collect their belongings. She shares the train journey with Luke and his colleague George Spencer, and discusses her socialist views. Luke performs a pioneering heart operation on Nev, a young immigrant. Martha explains that he is too poor to be able to recuperate properly and takes Spencer to visit Nev and sister Sali at home. After seeing the deprived conditions of the slum, Spencer agrees to help Martha try to persuade local MP Sir Charles Ambrose to help.Cora and Frankie meet Mr Cracknell, who is shunned by the village because he doesn’t attend church. Frankie bonds with Stella, and Cora hints to Will about the abusive nature of her marriage. Cora attempts to explain fossils and evolution to the local schoolchildren, but when the Serpent is mentioned they become hysterical. Naomi has a seizure. The children verbally turn on her and then begin fainting, one by one. Will's daughter Jo runs home but is unable to speak.
|3||"Falling"||Clio Barnard||Jess Brittain||May 20, 2022|
Naomi's father Henry and other fishermen are attacked at sea by an unseen creature. Cora invites Luke to visit to see if he can provide a rational explanation for what happened at the school. Frankie spends time with Cracknell, learning to milk goats. Cora finds an exciting fossil in the cliffs, but on the way home she is confronted by villagers who correlate her arrival with that of the Serpent. Will and Stella are worried about Jo's ongoing silence and Cora consults Luke, who suggests hypnosis. At the vicarage, Stella consents to the treatment. Martha recommends waiting for Will but Cora is indignant at needing a man’s permission. Under hypnosis, Jo talks fearfully about the Serpent.In church, Will comes across the curate in tears, praying. He accuses Will of not taking their fears seriously. The villagers light fires to banish the darkness and protect themselves. Will returns home, is furious when he sees Jo's emotional state and sends Cora and Luke away. Martha tells Cora she must apologise to Will, Cora disagrees but leaves him a letter. He follows her outside and they argue passionately — Stella watches from the window as they kiss.
|4||"Everything Is Blue"||Clio Barnard||Hania Elkington||May 27, 2022|
Luke throws a birthday party for Cora. As Cora chooses a dress, she carefully covers the scar on her neck inflicted by her husband. Will is reluctant to attend, but Stella insists. That same evening Naomi searches the village for Will to confess her sins. At the party, Luke realises Stella is hiding a serious illness and advises her to see him in London as soon as possible. Will and Cora avoid each other, but Stella makes them dance and their mutual attraction becomes clear to everyone. The party quickly breaks up. Cora is unsettled and walks alone all night. Luke and Martha carry on drinking, sharing their frustrations about Will and Cora. They have sex, with Martha commenting that they are both thinking of Cora. Frankie wakes up and goes to see Cracknell, but finds him lying concussed on the ground after falling down steps – Frankie lays down next to him and holds his hand as he dies. Naomi wades into the sea, holding Gracie's cross.In the morning, Luke leaves for London. Cora finds Frankie's muddy clothes and is troubled by his account of the night, especially the matter-of-fact way he tells of Cracknell’s death. Henry searches for Naomi, but instead finds Cracknell's body. The frightened villagers are angry and turn on Cora as she attempts to help. Will follows Cora, declares his love, and they too have sex. Afterwards, Will prays tearfully in the empty church as Cora frantically packs and leaves with Martha and Frankie, while the curate uses goats blood to paint crosses on the houses.
|5||"I Break Things"||Clio Barnard||Elinor Cook||June 3, 2022|
As the search for Naomi continues, Stella reveals the seriousness of her illness to Will as her condition has worsened to the point where she is coughing up blood. The Ransomes travel to London to take up Luke on his offer of diagnosis at his hospital. Cora has confined herself to her bedchamber back in London. Unable to process the events at Aldwater, she finds herself in a heated exchange with Martha. When Luke diagnoses Tuberculosis at the hospital, Stella declines any form of treatment. Will takes the children to the British Museum where he has a chance encounter with Cora that leaves her shaken.Luke agrees to accompany Cora and Martha to meet Charles in the slum if in exchange she accompanies him to a BMA party where he is due to receive an award. At the event Luke declares his love for Cora and proposes to her only to be rejected. Hurt, he divulges the terminal nature of Stella's condition and accuses Cora of holding out until such a time that Will becomes available. In the aftermath, Cora returns home and proceeds to ransack the place, whilst Luke finds himself attacked by a street urchin at the railway station.
|6||"Surfacing"||Clio Barnard||Anna Symon||June 10, 2022|
With her health fading fast, Stella reveals her wish to be reacquainted with Cora and Frankie. Will writes to Cora expressing the sentiment but indicates it would not be in anyone's interest for her to return to Essex. With his hand wounded, Luke's career as a surgeon appears all but over. When Cora learns of the calamity that has befallen him from Spencer she agrees to visit, but her offer of friendship is not enough for a forlorn Luke.
Cora returns to Aldwater to see Stella and the two women broach the subject of Will. Whilst Cora goes to face Will in the churchyard, Stella takes Frankie to her boat and persuades him to cast her adrift so that she may finally meet the serpent or her maker. With the boat sinking Will swims out and rescues her. Naomi, who has been hiding out in Cracknell's cottage, spots the carcass of a whale washed up in the estuary. Mistaking it for the Serpent, she returns home to declare the scourge is no more. Stella dies peacefully at home.Six months later Cora and Will are reunited with the knowledge they would have had Stella’s blessing.
In August 2020, it was reported that Apple gave a straight-to-series order for The Essex Serpent to See-Saw Films.
When The Essex Serpent was announced in August 2020, Keira Knightley was set to play the leading role of Cora as well as serving as executive producer, however in October 2020, she chose to leave the project due to "family reasons". In February 2021, Claire Danes signed on to play Cora replacing Knightley. Tom Hiddleston joined the cast the following month. In April, Frank Dillane, Hayley Squires, Clémence Poésy and Jamael Westman were added to the main cast.
Filming had been originally expected to commence in late November 2020 before Knightley exited the series. Filming for The Essex Serpent began in February 2021 in a number of Essex locations, including Alresford, Brightlingsea, North Fambridge and Maldon, as well as across London, including Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. Filming for the series concluded on the week of 27 June 2021.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 76% approval rating with an average rating of 7.1/10, based on 41 critic reviews. The website's critics' consensus reads, "Distinguished by biting performances and coiling ambience, The Essex Serpent is a highly accomplished Gothic romance." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, has a score of 69 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The miniseries was nominated for two Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards for outstanding achievement, one for Design — Titles, and one for Production Management.