Singapore, 1956. A simple game of mahjong exposes Dorian to a whole pantheon of ancient demons. But why is he actually visiting Pulau Ujong? And what is his connection to the mysterious Isadora Rigby?
Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Katy Manning (Isadora Rigby), Wilf Scolding (Alasdair Bellamy), Gary Russell (Ernest), Antonio Rastelli (Bertie)
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Confessions continues to demonstrate the tight vision and consistent quality that makes it such an excellent series with this release, though the Twittering of Sparrows is the most variable of the tales thus far. In some aspects it is the best of the run, with the best material for Dorian thus far, and performances that raise the bar even higher.
Yet whilst the Dorian-centric elements of Sparrows are the most exciting and intriguing we've yet been furnished with, this is the release which devotes the most plot focus to its supernatural story. It's the supernatural story that comes across a little oddly at times. Not poorly, just oddly. In tone it's more like straight fantasy than the prior stories and so it doesn't quite feel inkeeping with the tone of the series at a couple of moments. Still, it's pleasing to see the series drawing from wide-ranging inspirations for these elements, not falling into the trap of repeating the same basic gothic tropes again as could so easily be the case.
When the spotlight does fall upon Dorian, though, he gets his best material yet. Alexander Vlahos puts in a performance which is even better than previously - I am sure in no small part due to having such a great series of obstacles to face. His reunion with Isadora raises a whole slew of questions for Dorian - and furnishes us with some more answers - and he's forced to deal with his own history and the immediate mysteries of the presence at once. The ultimate dilemma he's presented with is an astonishingly powerful study of the character, with some great lines from Isadora, and I only wish there had been some space in the story between the conflict arising and the conclusion, so that Dorian's response could be further analysed. Due to the time-spanning format of the series, these events will be long past by the time of next week's episode, leaving this as the only chance to explore the impact of this week's events, so I only wish there was more time to do so. This may be the only major weakness with the series, and the bookend narration of each episode is obviously a partial solution to the issue.
On the subject of Isadora, Katy Manning is pitch perfect in this story. People familiar with her as Jo or Iris, or aware of her personality in interviews might have expected a larger-than-life character that would shake the series' framework. In fact Manning is wonderfully, soulfully understated in the role, demonstrating the great range of her skills. I also I enjoyed Wilf Scolding as Bellamy, and thought he evoked a wonderful warmth and caring between Bellamy and Isadora.
Regarding the Singaporean setting, it's becoming apparent that the places and times selected for these stories are not the focal point, but rather a springboard for a theme or metaphor that will underlie the story. The blitz itself was not a vital element last week, just as Singapore is not this week. But just as the blitz prompted the significant symbol of the burned out building in Houses, this week Singapore gives us Dorian's fascination du jour for explorers with unfortunate ends. In the end I think this is a better way to go for the series, rather than try and pick out every important event in history and somehow tie Dorian to it - I love the Flashman books, but this is a different kettle of fish - places and times of greater or lesser significance simply generate a taste of atmosphere that complements the tale that week. (It might be nice to have one story show Dorian directly tied to an event, as a one off, though.)
The Twittering of Sparrows, then, is the most variable story in what is nevertheless such a consistent range that it really marks no particular dip in quality - and indeed carries the highest quality performances yet heard in the series. A few strange notes hardly mar the overall story, making it another easy 8/10.