Following the overwhelmingly smackdown super-Magnus episode that was ‘Breach’, I think impassioned Sanctuary viewers everywhere could barely expect another episode of such a sheer amount of epic. The utter ferocity of Amanda Tapping’s physicality in that episode, combined with the combination of unbelievably brutal fight choreography and the quiet and poignant humanism left fans all over the world breathless! To exceed the nuclear effect of this episode was inconceivable. And then the following happened:
Though perhaps the most anticipated episode of this third season of Sanctuary, nobody could possibly comprehend what it entailed. Was it a grossly epic plot? Was it the character catharsis? Was it historical flashbacks? Was it the fantastic visual effects of Amazing Anthem? Was it the personal chemistry? The passionate depths of emotion? The nuances of the sublime actors? The directing?
Truth is, it was every single one of those. Every. Single. Blasted. One.
Unlike ‘Breach’, ‘For King and Country’ started at a measured pace. The initial energy was urgent, carrying on from the close of ‘Breach’, but did not inspire the edgy mystery that the former episode did on opening. This enabled we anxious viewers (perched on the edge of our sofas, chewing our cushions anxiously…nothing unusual here, carry on please!) to be drawn into the plot immediately and smoothly. Sucked right in. Unknowingly. Into the powerful depths of their clutches. And then the mouth-gaping arc began.
Helen Magnus’ (Amanda Tapping) defensive, agitated and emotionally charged state creates a perfect bridge between ‘Breach’ and ‘For King and Country’. As she gradually calms from being smacked around concrete walls by a dead classmate, her determination to understand it all begins a new series of action…
The depths of history that this episode burrows into, the emotional arc and personal development of characters, the beauty and attention to detail of the production, all make this episode feel like an entire film within the space of forty minutes. The tasteful abundance of Anthem’s work helps give the narrative the weight it deserves; they have captured the atmosphere of 19th century London gorgeously, while the costume design (Christine McQuarrie) and attention to detail is authentic and beautiful.
Not just the changing fashion of the clothing as they progress through the eras, but also in style , where it authentically reflects the social and class status of the Five. The superb directing of Lee Wilson, and the tasteful post-production work, created a succinct and clear narrative despite the constant flipping in time periods! The editing is well thought out, as every single scene in the episode fills out the plot arc fantastically, and at the same time allows the full weight of human interaction, and the importance and consequences of those interactions.
It feels like an entire film, so much information crammed into forty minutes, yet at the same time we’re taken on an incredible personal and emotional journey. Even Andrew Lockington, the musical genius, and the glorious work in the music editing reflects the changes in time period sumptuously (including a repetition of a particular theme from ‘Breach’, which catches my inner drum every time!). There are so many important aspects to consider in this episode, that the task leaves me gasping for air. Where in Hollow Earth do we BEGIN?!?!
Let’s begin with the crowning glory of genii: The Five. Back in their ‘young and passionate’ days these five, talented individuals assembled and set to work with a common purpose in mind. Helen Magnus, following in her father’s inspirational footsteps, had a brilliant and inquisitive mind, shrewd, cautious, and passionate in her study of abnormal life. The lightning-quick James Watson (Peter Wingfield) was not far away, dedicatedly putting his brilliant genius to work in abnormal research.
The arrogant and witty Serbian ex-pat, Nikola Tesla (Jonathon Young), dedicated his genius to their brilliant work, but we are still to gain light on why exactly John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) and Nigel Griffin (Vincent Gale) were active participants. Druitt may have been there simply as Helen’s lover, but are there more scientific reasons to his interest? Jack the Ripper was an avid anatomist…hmmmmmmm thoughts?
The earlier flashbacks in which we see them all together are just delicious, as they labour away at the source blood, trying to unlock its secrets, then interrupted by the nuisance of Adam Worth (Ian Tracey). After Druitt rids them of him, the cocky humour is positively bouncing off the walls:
Druitt: “You have to admit he’s brilliant!”
Griffin: ” …and British.”
Magnus: “Does anyone else notice something …odd…about Adam?”
Tesla: ‘He just pointed it out, he’s British *winks*”
The entire dynamic between the members of the Five, and also in their contact with classmate Adam Worth and the outside world, is really given weight in the narrative. As Nikola aptly pointed out, they were young, and even a tad arrogant (young, self-confident, invincible!), and their actions and attitudes remind me a little of the ‘Trust Fund’ kids in Season 2’s ‘Sleepers’: Young, self-confident in their brilliance, feeling invincible, and somewhat cliquish. Although *AHEM* it must be said they they do comprehend the consequences of their actions…at least to some extent!
Adam Worth was more than capable of pushing their work forward, yet they bar him from their ‘club’. After Druitt menacingly drives Adam from their lab, the scene between Helen and Worth, as she watches him work a chemical compound on the wall, is key in their attitude toward such an ‘outsider’.
In true Magnus sensitivity, she sincerely appeals to his vanity, to try and soften the blow of their final decision. It will be interesting to see what the more sound reasons for refusing him were, as Magnus said ‘we’re heading on different paths’, after noticing ‘something odd’ about him. Perhaps they already sensed a dormant obsessive darkness in him?
From that moment on, it seems that the deep chasm between the Five and Mr. Worth began to push apart. Adam was forced to build a desperate bridge in the bid to save his beloved daughter, and despite Helen’s and Watson’s best efforts, the Leukaemia won its war. Was it the loss of his daughter that caused the rift in Adam’s personality? Or, as Will suggested; a betrayed rage at Helen’s pursuit and attempted assassination? Perhaps both. Over to you, Will!
Either way, Adam needed someone to blame for the premature loss of his daughter (much as Helen did), and it fell on Magnus’ and Watson’s shoulders, for their inability to save young Imogene (Margot Berner). The memory is a heart-wrenching revisit for Helen, “The loss of a daughter. It’s a wound that never heals”.
Adam seems to be dealing with it a lot differently to her; the continuing post-trauma of his loss seem to have caused Adam’s hatred grow to irrational lengths, while perhaps his spatio-temporal dimensional travel has adverse effects on his mind? Let’s wait and see….*stuffs fists in mouth anxiously*.
There is definitely a sense of sympathy between Magnus and Adam; she is much more forgiving than most of the men around her, and the grief for Ashley that she nurses could help her to form some sort of bond with him. But to do this, she must speak Adam’s language. Hence ‘Breach’ showed the violence that she needed to get through to the beast, contrasted with the soft humanity she employs in this episode to talk to the gentle genius: “I want to help you, Adam”.
Helen sincerely regrets the awful action and betrayal she had made a hundred years ago; it goes against all her principles and instincts. Now, Magnus and the Five’s sacrifices for the sake of their work have come back to bite them in the behind, the moral sacrifices they have made have brought a huge threat to the very work they meant to protect. The irony wears a bit of a rough edge!
How much the Five have all changed over the past 100 years! And how much has changed…the devastating loss of the bright James Watson feels pacified a little by his return from the past in ‘For King And Country’, and it was utterly delightful to see him in his original habitat, surrounded by his ambitious peers, and to see his working relationship with Dr. Magnus. We don’t tend to feel the loss of Nigel Griffin so much, as we’ve had very little light shed on his veiled past (AS OF YET!).
Obviously, the greatest change has been in Helen and, through the angst of their relationship, Montague John Druitt. The history of their tearing apart by his demon, the resulting fear and resentment, and the loss of their daughter, has really put them through the mill.
Will Zimmerman, poor laddy, is desperately trying to play catch-up in the presence of these ancient genii, yet despite his overwhelmedness, he has learned quickly that he also has his own respectable and capable place in their work. Robin Dunne has, over the entire series, developed with his characterisation the bumpy growth of Will as he continually encounters situations that he simply never imagine possible.
He is loyal to Magnus, but not blind, and has an immensely strong moral integrity…especially for his age! His frustrated confrontation with the fatally ill *WAILS* Magnus shows an ethical consciousness and strength, which is something that the Five seem to have lacked over a century ago. He confronts Magnus with his bitterness: “To protect society, or your work?”. Magnus is not impressed, he’s just a child after all…
His sensitive understanding of the complex and fluid psyche is invaluable in a jungle of chemical and biological scientists. Even Helen admitted, throwing her hands in the air, “We didn’t understand the mind back then, Will! We saw him as a threat!”. Yet she has the unique ability to quickly adapt to new and changing concepts. I think her iPhone speaks for itself…BY the WAY. Is Henry’s iPhone app from ‘Bank Job’ available on iTunes yet?!
At this point, I feel the overwhelming urge to hit PAUSE, and pay awed homage to the phenomenal actors in this episode.
Guest artist Ian Tracey…why on EARTH have we not heard about him before this series?! The man IS Adam Worth…both of Adam Worth! The softly gentle Irish nuances are juxtaposed harshly with the rough and crude ‘bully’ within him. While his character is modelled after Jekyll and Hyde, the original writing (James Thorpe), combined with Ian’s humane characterisation, brings the fable to a living and believable reality.
Ian Tracey IS Adam Worth, a slighted genius traumatised by the loss of his daughter, betrayed, and on a century-old mission for revenge. Ian’s sudden, but smooth, transition between the two personalities are breathtaking, and are so rapid that it takes you a moment to register the change. He is subtle, there is no affectation in his portrayal, but the character opens up in the most organic and quietly natural way possible.
The personal crumbling and fury appears as a natural progression from 100 years ago, to the present day…the actor manages to show 100 years of continuing torment in just a few minutes. The same, of course, can be said for Amanda Tapping, Chris Heyerdahl, and Jonathon Young. Can’t wait to see more of Ian!
Amanda Tapping’s acting especially floored me in this episode. Her expression of the 159 year old Doctor carries so much weight, so much versatility and so much poignancy. Throughout ‘For King and Country’, Amanda’s delivery felt completely organic, unforced, and Magnus’ physical exhaustion, sickness and emotional torment was heart-touchingly real.
It’s the little things that have the most drastic effect, as Amanda once said “small pebbles cause great ripples” and the inconspicuous glances, gentle throw-away comments, and even the moments when Magnus doesn’t speak at all, managed to convey over a century of growth and experience in one fleeting instant.
For Amanda and her character, this episode was a direct contrast to the one which preceded it; a contrast between the raw and gritty physicality, and feminine strength and vulnerability. A sublime delivery, absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps the most beautifully touching scene in the series to date, Helen’s intimate moment of fleeting tranquillity with Druitt is a perfect example where no words are needed, and yet so much can be said.
With the impending doom hanging over their heads, the angst of the past and the uncertainty of the future seem to cloud around their aura of closeness, and come colliding above them during her moment of touching, human need.
Here, Helen is not merely a scientist, but a woman. She is vulnerable, and seems to seek comfort in the relief that he is alive, in the familiarity of his nearness, and the basic need for human comfort. I watched my television screen shudder and melt with ripples of emotion. The delivery was simple, and honest.
It was utterly FANTASTIC to have the sumptuous James Watson (Peter Wingfield) back in the fold, his familiarly suave brilliance reverberated in his classy wit was just DELICIOUS to welcome back. And ever so British. His languorous nationally iconic humour was reflected delightfully in that of Druitt and Griffin, and contrasted even more appetizingly with the Serbian Nikola Tesla, who basically used his own particular brand of wit to throw their comments right back in their faces. The typically English humour is sharp as a knife:
Druitt: “It seems Victoria was wrong, the old boy DOES have a backbone!”
Watson: “He’s not a LORD, he’s a King. And no…go to hell, MISTER Prime Minister”
I think this is one of the most delicious exchanges in the episode.
Everyone’s favourite ‘Magneto’, Nikola Tesla seems to have found a new setback: his outdated knowledge. He just doesn’t DO humble, and his final admission of finding Henry’s (Ryan Robbins) expertise in tech rather daunting heralds a new kind of emotional maturing. The 160 y.o. genius who finally hit puberty?! Well maybe not in a physical sense, but definitely in his cranial juices. To humble himself enough to make an admission that, just maybe, he isn’t Captain Invincible, is ringing little tingling bells of emotional growth.
Yet he constantly returns to his usual, self-centred, egotistical, conceited…at the expense of his colleagues. Once again, poor Magnus is blinded from the truth by his deceit (“And you are nothing, if not a man of your word!”, though he had good reason for it. Nevertheless, let’s hope it doesn’t go too far though, we love his infuriating snirks!
“I was wrong, there is a God”!
Needless to say, the loss of his Vampiric traits dealt an enormous blow to Mr Tesla, and ever since then, much of his egotistical bravado has been overshadowed by disappointment and a sense of failure. It is as if Nikola has begun to rediscover his new self, and found that he has, like all other humans, his own set of flaws. To live as a Vampire for a century, and then suddenly find oneself mortal, the withdrawals must be enormous!
Even his physical attitude has changed, as we can see in the flashbacks juxtaposed with the present timeline: His normally ramrod straight posture, serenely self-confident, snobbish manner has been melted into a more relaxed and uncertain air. You could even say, more…scruffy-looking. More like a professor and less like Dracula. Even his accent (obviously) has been muted from a strong Slavic “I-vant-to-suck-your-blood’ to sharp-tongued American drawl. Kudos on the accents Jonathon!
Druitt. Oh, Druitt, great to have you back, torn man that you are. Christopher Heyerdahl is a man of mouthgapingly incredible talent. Not only in his versatility with prosthetics and character work, but in the subtleties of his delivery. He has a magnificently theatrical, spellbinding magnetism on the screen. From an over-drugged state, we saw so many stages in his development as an individual in this particular episode.
His character seems to swimming in cruel irony. From that moment on the bridge, in foggy London (thank you special effects!), the fateful promise: ”And when we are done, you and I will begin our dance anew”, to the exchange in the river, where he finds himself (unknowingly) at the mouth to Hollow Earth:
Adam: “She will hunt you forever”
Druitt: “I hope she does”
How will he act from here-in? THE NEXT EPISODE COULD NOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!! *chews fingernails*
But back to the plot. Oh dear goodness, what’s in store?!?! Plotwise, ‘For King and Country’ has the nerve-wracking feel of a season finale cliffhanger. As we’ve discovered, Adam purposefully lured Helen Magnus into his interdimensional wormhole, in the vengeful hope of contaminating her with radiation. Devious b****!!
With the two of them heading down the dark tunnel toward the heavenly (or otherwise!) light, drastic measures to save Helen’s life are no doubt just out of reach of our vision *CHOKING SOUNDS*. Poor Will has been slammed with world-changing decisions, and though Tesla’s actions through the Sanctuary Charter may seem “dude, that is cold”, it may (or may not have been) a wise decision to make. Even Helen does not protest, though looks somewhat frustrated, but knows she is helpless against the Charter which she herself wrote.
Although Magnus’ work constantly puts her life in the line of fire, this is the first time that she is in direct peril….well actually….dying. Helen Magnus, DYING?!? Now all of their fates, the fate of the Sanctuary network, and the life of the beloved Magnus, lies on the young Will Zimmerman.
Helen Magnus and Adam Worth are dying, the remaining members of the Five are back together, and the only chance to save the head of the Sanctuary network is to go to Hollow Earth. The teetering, violent and unpredictable Adam Worth seems to be their only guide.
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