Third Episode

An episode of entrances and exits. Enter the Professors. Exit headmaster De'ath, not quite in the same manner as in the books, but close enough not to quibble about, and exit Nannie Slagg, in a manner entirely different from the books, for no obvious reason. Enter new headmaster Bellgrove, excellently (and accurately) played by Stephen Fry. The professors, played by a gaggle of Britain's top comic talent, make the most of their brief appearance. If the series is true to the book they will only really appear in this episode, though they might be seen in the background of later scenes -- only Bellgrove is destined, thanks to his entanglement with Irma, and his friendship with Titus (decidedly underplayed in the series), to become anything like a substantial player.

Other new faces: Titus -- now a school-boy, and rebelling against his ordained place as the Earl, subject to all the rituals of Gormenghast. The Wild Girl -- briefly seen twice, once within the castle itself, in the Hall of Bright Carvings (making a belated appearance -- those who have read the books might have thought, as I did, that it had been lost altogether).

The plot moves on. Steerpike, in a fit of pique, has abandoned the twins to starvation (a pointless change from the book), and has poisoned Nannie Slagg (an equally pointless change). Titus has met up with the exiled Flay -- the series gives Flay the chance to see Titus' eyes and hence to realise who he must be from their colour (in one of its rare slip-ups the book never explains how Flay, who last saw Titus when he was still a baby, manages to recognise him).

Gertrude enlists Prunesquallor's aid in tracing the source of the 'evil' that she feels has invaded Gormenghast. Unfortunately Sessions continues to play Prunesquallor as a bumbling buffoon, and does not bring out the serious side of the doctor that should be emerging at this point. The wonderful scene between Irma and Prunesquallor, ending with her flinging a knife into the ceiling, is bizarrely placed after the meeting with Gertrude, so that the exchange between her and Prunesquallor concerning the knife in the ceiling was removed altogether. Ah well, at least we still had the goat ("Wrong sex, you idiot!").

Irma's party -- one of the comic highlights of the books -- was inevitably abbreviated, but most the essentials were still there, and it all worked rather well. Which is probably a fair summation of the whole episode, and indeed of the whole series so far.

Click here for my reactions to the fourth episode.

You are visitor