This week, the three-part series Rillington Place evolved itself from harrowing to completely unnerving with the final episode. As Tim Evans fought for his life in front of a judge, he found his word counted for little in the face of an already biased courtroom. Meanwhile John Christie began to become more reckless than ever, whilst Ethel’s dissent against her husband’s actions proved to be fatal.
Tim Roth was even more creepy and terrifying than ever in a episode that finally showed his actions from his own perspective. It wasn’t nice to witness, that’s for sure, and coupled with Christie’s whispering voice, he was a threat that seemed impenetrable to judgement from others. His unaffected face as he carried out some of his heinous crimes were genuinely unnerving, and though the show didn’t seek to explore why he may feel driven towards these crimes, perhaps it was showing that sometimes people that commit these crimes don’t have to be prompted by one big event. It’s a scary idea, that many serial killers don’t even have a unjustifiable reason for their crimes, but one that’s backed up by years of examples.
However, as much as the horror of John Christie has dominated a lot of the episodes, focus has also been on Tim Evans, and the miscarriage of justice that caused his execution to be one of the key factors behind the abolition of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. It’s painful to watch someone so out of his depth, who is stunned by the so-called evidence against him and can’t formulate intelligent answers to match ruthless lawyers and biased judges. Just because he wasn’t able to keep up with their arguments and offer counter-answers, his innocence was passed over, leading to his death.
In a day where justice still isn’t always guaranteed and our prison system is deeply flawed, it’s still a valuable reminder that capital punishment isn’t an answer to those problems. Christie suffered the same fate as Tim but showed no real remorse, nor admitted to the murder that Tim was ultimately convicted of. His death was simple removal but likely without the closure that the families were hoping for. In a way, he was in a position of power over them before his death, knowing that he could divulge as little as he wanted when there was nothing left to live for and no need to live with his crimes.
It’s been a very tough and dark three hours of television, but Rillington Place became a strong reflection on the impact of capital punishment. Aided by powerful performances, particularly from Roth and Samantha Morton, it’s brought up a lot of reflection and provoked discussion beyond just scaring the living daylights out of everyone. It did that too, but it excelled its original premise as a gruesome reenactment of true crime.