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Review: Arthur and George - Part 3

Last night saw the finale of the ITV drama Arthur & George.

At last we come to the conclusion of this fine drama. It has been brought (indirectly) to my attention by certain individuals that, in their opinion, this dramatisation has been inferior to the book. I find the idea that this should come as a surprise to me (or anyone else) to be rather odd. It is almost always the case that the screen dramatisation of any book falls short of the source material.

Yet this, and my other posts, have been reviews of the drama as a drama. They have not been assessments of how good an adaptation it has been. So let us move on.

We ended part two with the murder of a blacksmith, the revelation that George Edalji was mixing with some unsavoury characters and the rejection of Conan Doyle by Jean Leckie.
The physical action goes up a notch

We therefore opened the final instalment, bizarrely, with Conan Doyle fully focused on the matter in hand and seemingly unconcerned about his recent rejection. He throws himself into the investigation and drags a slightly vexed Woody from Surrey to London to Staffordshire and back again as he follows the clues.

Unlike the previous episodes, there are no flashbacks into Conan Doyle's life. The flashbacks are all into the lives of other characters and this does rather flag those characters up as important ahead of time. I'm not sure that this could have been avoided though. We see the racial prejudice of the local Chief Constable brought into sharp focus in a very well acted verbal fencing bout between him and Conan Doyle - a bout which Conan Doyle essentially loses. This is made all the more uncomfortable when it means the man with the prejudice has won (even if only temporarily). It is also strongly suggested that Edalji suffered physical abuse in prison and that this is responsible for some of his more questionable associations.

We see more results of the actions of the Wyrley Ripper although none are depicted actually taking place. This is one of the things that has impressed me. The opening episode essentially contained the only scene where we witnessed violence being inflicted on an animal by the perpetrator and yet it hangs over the entire drama, remaining fresh in our memories and thus removing any requirement to repeat it.

The battle is won
Ultimately, in some exciting scenes, the guilty parties are unmasked and Conan Doyle's faith in Edalji is proved justified. It is not really giving too much away to say that Conan Doyle's romantic life ends up back on track and Edalji is set firmly on the path to some level of justice.

Life back on track
The standard of acting was maintained with Clunes continuing to impress. Some reviews have criticised his Scottish accent but I think this unfair. My wife, who actually is Scottish, pointed out that even native born Scots often struggle with regional accents and the fact is that Clunes' accent does perfectly well.

I've already pre-ordered the DVD and hope that this heralds further dramas. ITV would be on to a winner if they handled it right.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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