London, 1940. As German bombs begin to fall, Dorian's past starts catching up with him. Something is gathering in the rubble-strewn streets of the capital: something dark, malevolent and all too familiar. Something with a score to settle...
Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Lorna Rose Harris (Rosina Sawyer/Miss Haylock), Gary Russell (Alfred), Rebecca Newman (The Lost), James Goss (ARP Warden)
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After last week's episode I was definitely hooked, but there were elements of the series that couldn't be judged from a single episode. Who exactly Dorian was as a person, and how he would develop, for one. How the changing historical backdrop would be integrated for another. I was exceedingly eager to hear this one and start to piece that puzzle together.
Very sensibly, the second episode is largely focused on fleshing out the former issue. The Houses in Between is predicated on painting a solid picture of the person Dorian used to be, thus allowing us better understanding of who he is and where he is coming from in the continuing series. The series remains enshrouded in a palpable air of secrets and mystery - literally, the occult - and so of course it does not furnish us the answers to every detail of Dorian's past. Instead, just like the first episode, every expository detail also serves theme and plot, and so our understanding is filtered through the action of the moment. A smart approach that keeps everything fresh and relevant, as I remarked last week.
On that topic, I would say the Houses in Between is not quite as tightly woven as was This World. Going back to my opening comments, I was intrigued to see how the blitz background would feature in the tale. I don't feel like the time period needs to be a pivotal aspect of each episode, since that would create an era-of-the-week formulaic feel, but to my mind the blitz is a very prominent historical backdrop, and so I would have expected it to be quite predominant. It is certainly well evoked and by no means irrelevant, however I think it's the idea of a burned house that is really important to the play, rather than something more singularly related to the blitz.
With that said, it's still a great tale being told. There's one element I found a tad trite, but it did not heavily mar the story at all. The atmosphere remains richly gothic, and the story is still multi-layered, with lots of significant images and ideas lingering throughout. I feel that 'regret' may be a key theme of the series, and I wonder how much Dorian does regret... And why. Alexander Vlahos continues to fully inhabit the role, and even as we build a much clearer idea of Dorian's personality during one period of his life, Vlahos refuses to let his performance become easily nailed down. In every moment of darkness, he shows the strangest flashes of nobility - in moments of goodness, he calls his own nature into question. I was also pleased to see Dorian taking an extreme course of action at the end of the play - I think it stands to reason that when your life is set apart from any other person's in such a huge way, you would be destined to find yourself taking actions that no other person would ever be in a position to take.
The Houses in Between has assured me that the splendid opening episode was no fluke, and that this is a series being produced with a clear, smart vision. Every aspect is polished and on target; the music in this week's episode was beautiful and haunting. Houses is not quite as potent a package as This World Our Hell, but it's still excellent drama. 8/10.