The Crimson Petal and The White continues to be the highlight of the TV week for me. Episode two kicks off with another of Sugar’s (Romola Garai) fantasies whereby she wakes William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd) with a red-hot poker. In reality it’s a gentle hand on his chest, and she’s soon planting the seed in Rackham’s mind of acquiring more salubrious surroundings for their liaisons. “I’ll be carried off by the cholera by the time I’m twenty five,” she warns him, when he moans about the smell in her rooms. She’s well aware that Rackham is worth a bit, having rifled through his briefcase whilst being – ahem – taken from behind in the last episode, (commendable multi-tasking) and checking out his address.
Meanwhile, Rackham’s brother, Henry (Mark Gatiss) continues his visits to Mrs Fox (Shirley Henderson) – who happens also to be the sister of the evil doctor Curlew played menacingly by Richard E Grant. Poor Mrs Fox is clearly ailing, though Henry seems oblivious to this fact, so captivated by her that the first rule of period drama completely eludes him (the first rule being; if someone coughs, they’ll be dead by the end of the episode). When this is finally pointed out to him, Henry questions his very faith, and burns his bibles and himself, fantasising in his final moments about finally getting it on with the Foxy Mrs F.
Mrs Rackham (Amanda Hale) visits a pale and emaciated friend, with something of the Lady Gaga about her, who introduces her to a new health regime – a diet of green beans, supplemented by the occasional spoonful of well strained oxtail soup (no doubt it will feature in the Daily Mail health section next week). Basically, we’re talking anorexia, with added pills (no doubt opium) washed down with ‘Godfrey’s cordial’. By the time she gets home, Mrs R is as high as a kite, looking strangely serene at dinner with her husband, until she reveals that the reason for her newfound calm is that she has a ‘guardian angel’ (this being Sugar, spied from her window at the end of episode 1). Poor old Rackham – it put him right off his grub.
It turns out that Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson, reminding me, at times of an evil version of Dorcas Lane from Lark Rise to Candleford – not sure why) isn’t just Sugar’s ‘Madam’, but is her mother as well. When Rackham announces that he wishes to take Sugar away from her, their parting is choked with words left unsaid, although Sugar’s initial joy at being given a place of her own is very touching. Feeling out of place and lonely however, she keeps popping back to see her old friends, one of whom asks if she’s actually fond of Rackham. Sugar responds that she’s ‘used to him’, and when he’s away, ‘misses the world that comes with him’. Despite her protestations, one gets the impression that Sugar is becoming quite fond of Rackham. Although he has the cash, she clearly wields the power in the relationship. Continue reading