Great Expectations (episode 3): Show me the money

But Pip! Me 'air's long now, an I looks like a gentleman.

So the Beeb’s Xmas showpiece reached its conclusion last night with Pip in a jam. Not only was the arrival of Magwitch a serious embarrassment to a young man with pretensions, but it left him with the problem of how to get rid of a villain wanted by both the constabulary and the rascally Compeyson. The latter, who was the ruffian from the fens and Miss Havisham’s old swain, had offered a reward of £1000 for Magwitch. Enough to tempt Orlick from the forge into making some mischief. Though to be fair Pip had crossed Orlick so many times he’d likely have interfered for nothing. How would Pip to get Magwitch to safety? Why, by leaving it to Wemmick and Herbert of course, while he was left free to make pained expressions and high-mindedly refuse anymore of Magwitch’s lucre.

Pip’s facial rictus became yet more pronounced when he found that Estella was to marry Bentley Drummle. This pushed him to stop forelock tugging and finally tell Miss Havisham a few home truths. Whether it was this or her continued rejections by Estella I’m not sure, but Miss H was inspired to test the flammability of her old wedding dress (while wearing it), giving Gillian Anderson a terrific death scene to top a riveting performance.

Let go! I want to marry that Drummle over there. His sneer's well-cool.

Generally things were conspiring to grind Pip’s (by now extremely taut) face in his former smugness, and the revelation that Estella was actually Magwitch’s daughter was just one of many hammer blows. From here we rather galloped to the denouement, leaving quite a few loose ends along the way.

The first problem was Orlick. Deciding that a metaphorical hammer on Pip’s skull was insufficient, he had a go with a real one. However, like many working class rowdies in literature (the weasels in Wind in the Willows spring to mind) he proved to be a coward when the gentleman fought back. Pip laid him out with a couple of choice punches and that was then end of his threat. Forever. I can’t help feeling that, even by the low standards of guttersnipes, it was a bit wimpy of him to give up quite so easily.

Then there was Estella. In the book her arrogance was brutally ground out of her by years of miserable wedlock with Drummle. I’m not saying I wanted her knocked about or anything but all we got was a shot of her looking a bit sad while Drummle was mean to to a horse. Then one of the gee-gees obligingly kicked him in the head leaving Estella free to walk off with a fortune. Nice work if you can get it.

In contrast Pip’s comeuppance continued as he rowed Magwitch down the Thames right into the open arms of Compeyson. This open armness turned out to be a mistake as Magwitch, more resourceful than Pip, was tooled-up for the occasion. A quick stab in the ribs left Compeyson dead in the Thames. From there the only way was Newgate and we saw Pip selling all his yuppie trappings from Episode 2 to ease Magwitch’s wait for the gallows. Leaving aside the fact that Pip hadn’t been arrested as an accessory to several crimes, there was a more troubling loose end at this point, namely what happened to that big bag of fivers Magwitch brought from New Zealand? I mean Pip was kept out of debtors jail by Joe for goodness sake. Surely he could have swallowed his new-found pride and spent some of it? And where did the bag go in the end? More importantly is it still there?

With the dangly bits duly noted though the finale was of course about true love. Joe’s for Pip; Pip’s (in the end) for Magwitch; Pip’s for Estella; and (at last) Estella’s for Pip. Unlike the book Pip got both the girl and her money. Let’s hope it was enough for them to redecorate Satis House as Miss Havisham had rather let it go. Perhaps that’s what the bag of fivers was used for after all.

Posted by Dr Crane


Filed under Drama

3 responses to “Great Expectations (episode 3): Show me the money

  1. inkface

    On a large screened telly, you could see that Estella had some nasty looking bruises on her actually, so even if it was foreshortened, Drummle’s brutality was clearly implied. I loved how she kissed the horse’s nose and said ‘thank you’ for killing her husband.

    This was a terrific adaptation, I loved it. Gillian Anderson, Joe & Pip just three magnificent performances in an excellent cast. Really enjoyed your reviews too.

    Welcome to the Pauseliveaction team Dr Crane, delighted to have you on board!

  2. Dr Crane

    Happy New Year Inky. Clearly joining the PLA team will require something better than the current 12″ portable. All the better to catch the subtle hints of Victorian domestic travails.

    Estella probably the weak link for me in an otherwise v satisfying adaptation. Joe shone so brightly with moral rectitude that I almost felt I was letting him down too and it will be a long time before I forget Miss H’ veiled walk to her fiery grave.

  3. Loup

    Seriously though…. What did happen to the bag of money?

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