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ETV Episode 10: The Ghost of Wyther Grange

Episode 10, The Ghost of Wyther Grange welcomes Special Guest Star Phyllis Diller as Great-Aunt Nancy Priest!

And the cast page on IMDB tells me even more. It tells me that Dean Priest is in this episode!

(dances around happily)

The cast page also lists Beatrice Burnley and Leo Mitchell, and you know what that means!

You don't?


. . .

It's winter in earnest now on PEI, and Emily is reminiscing about the events of the episode we are about to see, as she did in Fallen Angels. Elizabeth pushes a letter under Laura's nose, then asks, “Who else would drench a letter in cheap French perfume?” Cheap? Aunt Nancy?

ETV Aunt Nancy appears otherwise to be essentially like Book Aunt Nancy. She refers to “Caroline and I,” cites boredom as the reason why she wants Emily to come for a visit, and says she wants to see a photograph of Emily before she visits. If she's homely, Aunt Nancy doesn't want to see her at all.

“What has she got against homely children!” cries Emily, who has of course been eavesdropping. Emily, this is getting ridiculous.

Nancy's “scandalous reputation” seems to be a little overplayed here. In the book, wealth and old age, not to mention a long marriage to one of the disagreeable Preists, have made her wholly respectable, if not well-liked.

Anyway, here's some credits.

In the barn, Emily's trying to get Jimmy to tell her what the word “Jezebel” means. I guess someone told the writers to brush up on their Canadianisms, because she spells it with a “zed” this time. And Aunt Nancy buried six husbands? That's news to me.

I like all the farm and kitchen labor everyone is always doing in this series. Laura and Elizabeth are dyeing a pinafore by dissolving plants in water and mashing it around with big wooden paddles. I would never have thought of that as a thing to do. They're talking about what will happen to Emily when they die, and maybe she should go to Wyther Grange so that Aunt Nancy will get to like her and maybe leave her some money. Then “Jarback Priest” comes up and Elizabeth has a rant about him traipsing all around, witnessing the Black Mass eating foreign food and consorting with heathens. “He'll die before he's thirty,” she says. Are they making Dean younger as a de-creepifying attempt? That is the opposite of reassuring.

Emily-in-the-Glass objects strenuously to Emily-out-of-the-glass cutting a bang on herself, and doesn't know what a Jezebel is, either.

Oops, guess the bang didn't work out as well as Emily hoped! Now she has to have her picture taken with the mess she made of her head! Emily laments that she's ruined her chance to meet her aunt, and Martha MacIssac's acting is really off here, but it might not be her fault. Luckily Ilse is around to save the scene. Her father thinks all beautiful women are bad women. Sometimes she thinks her father hates her. There's a somber moment, and then they run around in the snow to diffuse it. Then Teddy shows up for no good reason. Emily doesn't want him to see her hair disaster, so she runs away.

Have I mentioned that in the TV show, the Disappointed House is sunk into the ground and can only be entered through the windows? Well, it is.

Teddy shows up again. “I don't care what your hair looks like,” he says. Oh, Teddy, how do you manage to make everything you say sound vaguely creepy? Then he draws her a picture to send to Aunt Nancy. It isn't very good. Emily kisses him, and he says “What was that for?”

“I'm practicing to be a Jezebel.”

Writers! Stay in the right century, please.

Well, at least they're letting Jimmy do some more exposition. Then Emily and Ilse talk about Ilse's mother. Her dad won't talk about how she died, and Ilse has never even seen a picture.

All right, enough exposition! Time to see Aunt Nancy!

Wisely, they skip the tedious stereotype fest that is Old Kelly the peddler and just have Jimmy drive her. Caroline is a huge ham. Nancy is even hammier, like a church theater production of Auntie Mame. They dress Emily up and fix her bangs and have a tarantula for some reason. The writers have also decided to sabotage any femslash fans in the audience by changing the book's “Caroline here never had a beau in her life,” to “Caroline's never been kissed.” Now, why would they go and do a thing like that?

Huh. The Pink Room was Alan and Beatrice Burnley's bridal suite? Why would they come to Wyther Grange? What does that have to do with anything? There's a picture of them there by the bed. . . and I guess the titular Ghost of Wyther Grange is going to be the literal ghost of Ilse's mother. ETV, you were doing so well! We had two whole episodes without a single ghost, and now this?

The Ghost of Beatrice tells Emily she's been keeping her tears in a purple bottle for Ilse. She gives Emily the bottle. Then Emily goes wandering the halls and runs into Dean Priest, who is way younger than in the books and is also wandering around Wyther Grange for no good reason. What is he wearing? It looks like a monk's cassock. That's interesting. I like that he uses the phrase “inshallah,” though; that's a nice Deanish touch. You guys, I just realized what a gigantic sledgehammer the name “Dean Priest” is. How did I not notice that before? Ok, it's not a cassock; it's just a shirt and trousers that are the same color.

What a dick Dean is to Emily here-- much more so than when they met in the book-- and Emily's instant dislike of him adds an extra layer of unpleasantness. It's like they've grafted a rom-com Meet Surly onto the Emily/Dean story, and making Dean look nineteen instead of thirty-six (or thirty-four; the books aren't totally consistent about how old he is) does nothing to make it less icky. Maybe they'll drop the whole love interest angle and keep Dean on as a harmless Annoying Cousin character. It wouldn't be any worse than declaring Oliver Wallace's son or turning Lofty John into a grief-mad recluse or having Aunt Elizabeth throw the cat out of the buggy, and seriously, Emily is a very young eleven-or-twelve here, and TV Teddy is creepy enough for everyone, so let's just leave it at that, ok, writers?

Why is Dean a drunk in this continuity? We already have a drunk in the cast. Why are Aunt Nancy's husbands gold-diggers? Why does Dean, rather than Mr. Carpenter, nickname Emily "Jade"? Coming from Mr. Carpenter, it's a bit of friendly banter; from Dean, it's a giant steaming pile of eroticized Orientalism. We had quite enough of that without your meddling, writers.

Anyway, now Emily gets to hear the (ALLEGED) True Tale of Beatrice Burnley nee Mitchell, via flashback! N.B.: In this continuity, Aunt Nancy likes to murmur salaciously about men's “bums.” N.B.: All the Mitchells have giant manes of straw-blonde hair, apparently. Beatrice and her cousin Leo look like a Swedish pop band. Leo was in love with Beatrice, and she ALLEGEDLY was pretty attached to him as well. Anyway, ALLEGEDLY Beatrice left Alan and Ilse for Leo on his ship. She went out to say goodbye, and never came back! Then the ship sank and everyone died! The end!

Incidentally, Nancy is wearing an AMAZING blouse in this scene. It must be seen to be believed.

Emily doesn't believe that awful story, of course, and she thinks Nancy and Caroline are horrible for telling it. Her anger at hearing the story is a little less convincing here than in the book, considering that in the TV version she demanded to hear it.

Well, now poor Emmers is running through the woods all distraught about Ilse's mother, and she falls down, and I guess Dean is going to have to rescue her now-- no, she's fine, inshalla. Or not? No, she's broken her ankle or something. No, her foot is caught in a snare! That's crazy grim, writers! She's all trapped in the cold and it's getting dark! And by the time Dean shows up, she's calling for her father? Sigh.

Dean shows up, gets the snare off, says some creepy things about fate, and carries her away up the hill while she shivers in his arms. And that's the end of the episode, not a moment too soon.

The Ghost of Wyther Grange promised a lot, but delivered mostly disappointment. Dean is made douchier with no corresponding decrease in sketchiness, and certain decisions may have actually increased the sketch factor. Great-Aunt Nancy is too odd and capricious to be really appealing, and without the appeal of being at Wyther Grange, without the delicious permission and the real-not-cambric tea and the thrill of being let into the grown-up's confidence, the emotional impact of learning the story of Ilse's mother is lessened considerably. It's as if the writers wanted to give Emily an easy excuse for not believing in it. Something is lost, too, in simply declaring that Emily can see ghosts, and multiplying the number of possibly-supernatural events, and letting the ghosts come on screen and tell her things, instead of allowing for a skeptical interpretation as the book did. But my inner Highland Scotch ancestress predicts we'll have plenty of time to discuss that issue with the next episode.

The next episode is called A Child Will Lead Them, and it will probably consist of Emily using her


to solve The Mystery of Ilse's Mother, plus some additional Dean Priest creepiness if the thumbnail screenshot on YouTube is any indication.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2013 05:04 am (UTC)
Dean’s got a helluva nice manicure.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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