THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE (UK) Series 1 Episode 1 Review

The Crimson Petal and The White - episode 1

THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE Series 1 Episode 1 – Made for the Free Your Mind: Books on the BBC season, The Crimson Petal and the White is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Faber.

Episode one introduces us to the main characters: Sugar, a young prostitute who novelizes her frustrations; William, a writer and reluctant businessman; Agnes, William’s mentally unstable wife; and Henry, William’s older brother who wishes to help prostitutes like his friend, Mrs Fox, does.

When unproductive writer William is pushed away by his wife (presumably not for the first time) and cut off financially by his father, he seeks out comfort with the renowned prostitute Sugar. She’s intelligent, caring and – most importantly – encouraging, and soon William is a thriving businessman asking to employ her services for him alone.

But Sugar wants more. She find William’s address and, seeing that he is a man of means, declares “William Rackham. You’ll keep me better than you do now.” Looks like changes are afoot for the pair next week.

The Crimson Petal and the White is shot beautifully. The use of colour adds to each characters personality, especially the pale Agnes Rackham and the red-headed Sugar, and at times the lighting makes the contrast between the murky dark underworld and the bright expensive houses even more jarring.

The story is wonderfully written, slowly revealing Sugar’s ulterior motives for aiding William and the reason behind Agnes’ reluctance to see the doctor, a huge contrast to the relative openness of William and maybe even Henry’s characters. I’m hoping we see more of Henry and Mrs Fox next week, though. Mrs Fox especially seems like she could be quite an intriguing character. Why is she so interested in helping prostitutes?

The acting is definitely worth mentioning. Romola Garai plays Sugar in such a way that she’s both alluring and frightening and it’s brilliant to watch. Chris O’Dowd’s William is a really sympathetic character when he could so easily be pathetic. And it took me a few minutes to work out that Mrs Castaway was Gillian Anderson – between the make up, hair and her accent she was near unrecognizable.

Episode 1 was a fantastic start and I can hardly wait to see episode 2 next week.

What did you think of episode 1? Let us know in the comments below!

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