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.