Review: My Mother and Other Strangers – Episode 5

December 12, 2016

After a rather tetchy review of episode 4, the fifth and final episode of My Mother and Other Strangers ramped the drama up to 11 and surprised us all. At least, I think it did. It surprised me, but in retrospect it probably shouldn’t have.

The episode started with Rose feeling neglected, unable to get in contact with Captain Dreyfuss and convinced he must be avoiding her. Michael, on the other hand, is having legal trouble from a dastardly cousin and is about to lose his pub and livelihood. Meanwhile, young Emma was going through the awkward courting stage with her student doctor.

My Mother and Other Strangers hasn’t been the easiest period drama to watch – desperately slow at times, even the stellar cast hasn’t always been able to rescue poor early character development and an uneventful script. As I’ve seen online here and on social media, the historical inaccuracies also frustrated a few viewers, with good reason (torches and spotlights during the wartime blackout?).

However, if every episode had been like episode 5, there would have been far higher viewing numbers for the season finale. For one, the wonderful score was truly allowed to shine in this episode, with composer Natalie Holt’s work given the crescendo it deserved. The episode also careered vibrantly between the joyous scenes of the aircraft hangar, bedecked festively for Christmas, to truly delicate scenes. Take for instance one highlight – the beautifully sad scene of Kitty (played by the underused Antonia Campbell-Hughes) as she reveals to Rose the bruise inflicted by Seamie’s dad, before stating: ‘It’ll heal, Mrs Coyne. It always heals.’

Captain Dreyfuss, despite being absent for much of the episode, got more screen time than we’ve really seen so far. He’s still lovely, dealing patiently with the ornery Ned Hanlon whilst also showing a quiet restlessness that harks back to the unhappy American Lieutenant of the first episode. The reveal about the true reason for his absence comes as something as a shock, and yet it shouldn’t really. He’s been as restrained as Rose, with seemingly no reason to be until the truth emerged.

Still, the ending came as another surprise, so spoiler warning to those who haven’t seen it yet. Michael, who I’ve grouched about for 4 and a half episodes, suddenly decided to turn things around. Unfortunately at that moment, Rose had run down the country lane, met Dreyfuss and made one very decisive statement. I did actually feel a bit sorry for him.

Despite this, it was really quite a romantic ending. Now too, with hindsight, I realise I should’ve seen it coming all along. The narrative device of old Francis actually gave away more than I’d really realised – referencing the fact that his mother had written Emma letters and that his father, not his mother, had recalled the court incident in episode 2. Even the title shouts it, My Mother and Other Strangers: I took it to mean that he didn’t know about her secret affair, but in truth it was probably referencing her decision from then on. Full marks for being inattentive there.

Like many other viewers who voiced their opinions online after the episode, it did feel as is everything finally started to happen and we were left abruptly at the starting line. I have more questions than answers, and feel that a better drama could be made of the after-effects of a disrupted family. What about Dreyfuss’ wife? Did Francis see his mother at all after that? I can’t see her leaving the children completely. Was she really content with her new partner or did losing the rose tinted glasses in a new place reveal some mistaken impressions?

Answers on a postcard I suppose, unless Barry Devlin can manage to up the budget and take us over to the States. My Mother and Other Strangers hasn’t been the truly romantic wartime drama hoped for, and the initial scenario offered up far more than was claimed. With the exciting new period dramas due during the festive holidays, this has kept us fans occupied enough but ultimately just ready for something far more developed.

Read all our reviews of My Mother and Other Strangers in one place at this link.

More about Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler is a magazine journalist, film critic and the founder of Lost In Drama. With degrees in both English Literature and Digital Journalism, she has experience of writing for popular print and online publications. Jen is also devoted to her metaphorical novelist aunties - Aunt Jane, Charlotte and Jo are particular favourites - and is usually found with an Earl Grey tea in hand.

    1. I completely agree about the ending. I think the show had potential to grow and see how the changes will affect the family.
      I would have liked to know how Emma would handle her mother leaving while she also has to go to college and keep her relationship with the doctor boyfried. And what about Barney? He was a good lad.
      Dreyfuss’ myserious wife was a shocker. I didn’t imagine he would lie considering how much of a gentleman he is.
      I also thought Rose’s sister was very interesting. I wanted to know more about her past and future. She was quite charismatic!
      I actually felt sorry for Michael. He may be ignorant of many things going on with his family, but he was a decent man. His wife literally left him the same time he was losing his property and business? That was harsh.

      If only there were more episodes! 🙁

      1. I agree with all those points – so many unanswered questions! It’s been a very good series for setting up plot situations but it’s left more than it completed. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that they may do another series.

        1. I agree to a point! Men can be quite oblivious to a women’s heart and mind at times. Case and point, Michael so transfixed on providing for his family failed to notice subtle changes with his wife. It became clear that Rose was weak enough to become captivated with the constant visits by the Captain. Vera only brought out the feelings in Rose, elevating feelings to a new level. Do I think Rose could completely leave her family? Of course not, but that won’t stop her from adultery! This liaison should have happened in episode #2! Writers, be careful and step it up!

    1. I love theser story sure hope there is another series I really look forward to seeing another season!!!

    1. Wasn’t interested until Roses sister appeared, until then dull, dull, dull.

      Tilly the nurses accent. ugh. She seemed sweet on Captain Dreyfuss and did her best to screw things up, not for reasons she gives.

      Perfect casting as far as Rose and the Captain and their attraction. I believed it 100% Everything conspires to make Rose lose it and allow passion its day.

      The Captain seemed more reserved than Rose who throws herself at him.

      I really only watch episode 5 as the others bored me. Roses eyes were bulging which made me feel sorry for her dilemma, but also seemed very real.

      She wanted a great passion in her life which had passed her by.

    1. I enjoyed the slow pace of the show. I hope to see another season.

    1. I enjoyed the show tremendously. The show felt fresh and different, lulling you into a sense of ordinariness and a calm pace of life, and then hitting you unexpectedly with something uproariously funny or something very real and poignant. Kudos to the writing and directing in this show and to the wonderful actors.

Speak your mind, dear reader.

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