This is the finale of Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo, where we find out what's been happening for reals in our sleepy Scottish bedroom community. We've got murder, adultery, crooked cops, domestic abuse, we're running the gamut in Deadwater Fell, but there's a compelling mystery driving us along and has led to my recapping the last three episodes back to back. Without further delay, here is the recap of the last installment of the Deadwater Fell mini-series.
To recap, we have an entire family destroyed by fire, the lone survivor Dr. Tom Kendrick (David Tennant) mourning the loss of his three children Emily (Orla Russell), Charlotte (Lilac Jackson) and Iris (Felicity Keenan) along with the more complicated death of his wife Kate Kendrick (Anna Madeley). Kate has been the leading suspect in setting the fire all along if you go by evidence, but it was Tom who was arrested and subsequently released. Some basic facts to catch us up and the evidence of Kate being the most likely person to have set the fire:
- The door the the children's room was padlocked shut; Kate was spotted on CCTV purchasing a similar lock just before the fire
- Kate was suffering from postpartum depression, as diagnosed by a doctor other than her husband, who also had her on several other medications
- Kate had just been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which was presented as a clue to her state of mind, that everything was coming at once
- Kate had just been in a serious car wreck with her best friend Jess Milner (Cush Jumbo) and the three Kendrick children. She was to be prosecuted for the same, given that her blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. She believed this was due to the unknown medication her husband was feeding her
- Tom was in the habit of psychologically abusing his wife
- Tom had recently had sex with Kate's best friend Jess mentioned above, and taunted Kate with that knowledge. This was also not the first time he had slept with one of her close friends
- Jess's boyfriend is Sergeant Steve Campbell (Matthew McNulty) and not only was he close with the entire Kendrick clan, he saved Tom's life in the fire and tried to save Kate and the girls. He's also been involved with investigating both the car crash and the fire. His feelings overcame his sense of duty when he learned of Jess and Tom having sex he arranged for an eyewitness to incorrectly identify Tom as the parent scooping up a scared child running through the forest, when it was actually Kate that was seen
So: Kate was in a deteriorating mental state, was facing prosecution, had lost her best friend and support, was enduring domestic abuse, purchased the padlock used in the fire and was seen bringing one of her scared children back to the scene of the crime fifteen minutes before the fire was set. If you look at all of that, there are only two actual pieces of evidence, one being the padlock: is there any other possible explanation of that? The other is the eyewitness account of her scooping up Emily and bringing her back to the house, but do we know that's where she was taking her?
The rumour mill in town has it both ways: the police thought it was Tom and moved to arrest him based on faulty evidence, everyone else thought it was Kate, partially thanks to Tom flogging that storyline from the moment he could breathe on his own.
Let's carry on!
It's another day in Not-Glasgow-But-Definitely-Scotland, Dr. Tom Kendrick carefully smoothing his hair and dressing precisely while Jess Milner does laundry and contemplates her life. Tom removes his wedding ring and Jess reaches into her pants, finding evidence that her latest round of IVF has not taken.
Given the state of her relationship with boyfriend Steve, thank the gods. We don't even know if he's alive still, last we saw him he was drunk, high and standing on top of a cliff feeling sorry for himself. Alright, he's alive enough to survey the Not Pregnant confirmation but he looks as though he wishes he were dead.
*This is what I don't understand. They're in a committed relationship as grown adults. She slept with someone else, an important someone, but one who manipulated her into the sex and it was never repeated. Jess tells Steve relatively soon after and instead of some kind of discussion, hurt, pain and healing after, he throws a massive fit, attempts to physically and sexually intimidate her and uses his job to go after the former best friend he now sees as a rival. He uses his JOB. He's not a teenager.
Tom's not happy to hear his mum Carol Kendrick (Maureen Beattie) chatting away in friendly fashion with his public defender Nicky (Anneika Rose) while icing cupcakes for a fundraiser. Carol's voice falters as she explains that they're for a memorial gazebo for the girls, but it's Nicky who's got Tom's most unwelcome news. Tom will be in court in 8 weeks, never mind the witness tampering. There was other evidence against him.
Which would be his own words, I guess, saying he remembered being injected with insulin by his wife in front of his dead children, none of which matched any of the physical evidence at the fire. This looks like a case of trying too hard, if he'd just shut up he probably would have been okay, the abusive bastard.
He can't believe he has to go to trial, he's not guilty! Well, I suppose they should just take his word for it, pip pip jolly good and all that.
Over at Steve and Jess's house, he continues to cover himself in glory by taking his personal frustrations out on those closest to him, this time trying to force his youngest son to eat oatmeal. I want to feel bad for him, I understand that there can be a lot of societal pressures on men to act a certain way and parent a certain way, but that sort of shite can fuck right off. You're not making a man of your child by attempting to physically force him to eat something he doesn't want to, you're passing on your internalised traits of toxic masculinity and teaching him that bullying is a tool.
An awkward meeting with Lynn Denham-Johnson (Julie Miller) alerts Tom that things are about to be very different for him in town, he's not happy.
Tom's out, but only on bail and there are conditions to his behaviour that can land him back in without warrant. One of those conditions is driving, which we just saw him do, so it's really just a matter of time.
There's a memorial to his wife and daughters planted at the local school, he sits and looks at it when he realises someone else is staring at him. It's Lewis (Bradley Connell), Steve's youngest son, the one who doesn't like oatmeal and Jess wanders over to see what he's looking at. She and Tom stare at each other then she guides Lewis away from the scary man.
Hm, is Lewis a witness? Steve immediately shouts that Tom has breached his bail terms by being near Lewis, perhaps I missed something earlier.
Steve and Jess stop their loud fighting long enough to break into the bathroom where Lewis has poked himself in the arm hard enough to draw blood.
The Kendrick family was all injected with insulin immediately before the fire, it's what kept them sleeping when the fire started. Perhaps Lewis was emulating that.
Young Lewis has been picking at his skin, Jess suggests they take him to a counselor. Steve doesn't want to, he's only 6 and anyway: why didn't his ex-wife Sandra McKay (Lisa McGrillis) notice? Jess lobs that back: why didn't they notice? Steve doesn't think Lewis needs to talk about his feelings about losing his three friends horribly in a fire, he just needs to get over it (at six), maybe the way Steve has so not gotten over anything about the same circumstances.
*I have to work hard to keep my radical feminism at bay (sometimes unsuccessfully) but watching Steve deny his son's need for help and blame it on his ex is bringing me close to referencing toxic masculinity again and we're not even halfway into this finale.
Steve is finally able to talk about his feelings with his partner, he cries tears of shame explaining what Kate told him about Tom, that he was medicating her and was afraid he'd kill her. Steve didn't believe her and brushed her off coldly. Jess does not give Steve the absolution he is asking her for, walking away instead.
*I'd like to applaud Steve being able to express his emotions in a safe space and all that but Jess is staring at a man drinking in the morning crying over his own guilt. Perhaps she was feeling worse for her best friend, who was being forcibly medicated and was terrified for her life, which was ignored when she expressed her feelings.
Tom muses to his mum: he should just pay for the memorial gazebo, not have a fundraiser. Carol stares at him, non-plussed. A) since most people think he's the one responsible for killing his family, that's slightly tone deaf and B) with what money? He has none and has already borrowed every penny he can. She carefully ventures that maybe this is the time to start being honest, she knows about the debt. He says nowt and helps himself to her money as he leaves.
The fair fundraiser for the gazebo is doing well until Tom shows up like a turd in a swimming pool. Principal Simon Wells (Jamie Michie) whom was very close to Kate and has suspected Tom from the beginning will probably make a scene.
Everyone is kind to Carol, but even Tom's partner Dr. Mark Denham-Johnson (Stuart Bowman) is visibly discomfited. I was wrong, it's Jess and Steve showing up is what sets off the powder keg that is this town, not Simon glowering from across the room.
Steve lunges at Tom, if he goes near his kids again, he will end him! Literally Lewis was looking at Tom, and nobody was going near anyone. THERAPY will help Lewis more than this bullshite, Steve, honestly.
Tom leaves, but not before trying twice to donate to his family's memorial garden. Simon blocks him first, but when Tom screams out the news that Steve got a witness to lie, everyone takes a breath and Tom is able to shove in some money.
Tom is gone and Steve is the new object of scrutiny, you can almost hear the "did he? Did he lie too?" He leaves quickly and angrily but with his head down. Jess follows him out and a huge row ensues, ending with her blaming him for abandoning Kate.
Random thought after this whole series: surely Steve would have had time to shave properly even once in this whole time?
Tom has Nicky over again, he wants a restraining order against Steve but she advises against it. She thinks this is him playing victim, juries aren't stupid. Tom and I finally agree on something.
Tom loses his temper alone in the quiet of his room, memories of Kate talking to her boss Simon at the village dance whirling around his head. He really, really did not like Kate having good friends, as evidenced by his growing rage at Simon and Kate's friendly conversation. Too bad he couldn't just screw Simon like he did the rest of her close friends.
Jess chats with Steve's ex-wife Sandra at the fundraiser, where Steve is quietly playing with his kids. Sandra draws the parallels between Lewis and Steve and not talking about feelings, then things veer south. Sandra and her new boyfriend Luke (Jack Greenlees) suggest they take the boys for awhile, Steve's all over the place. They're not wrong. Sandra chooses to defend Tom, shocking Jess, Tom's always seemed like such a nice man.
If Tom was so bad, why didn't Kate just leave him? Okay, Sandra, since we're discussing life choices here: why did Tom abuse Kate? Once you've got that sorted, we can talk about why Kate didn't leave.
Jess goes home to stare at the laundry hanging out (same clothes, through rain and shine, been about a week now), about to open a bottle of wine when a knock sounds at the door. Oh look, there's Tom driving himself to a witness's house, just begging to have his bail revoked.
She tells him to go away, but he needs to tell someone what happened at the end and that catches her attention. As it would. She lets him in.
He talks in generalities about what a good husband he was, what a great father, their house was so full of life. Right up until it was filled with death, Tom, get to the point. Instead he tells us of his background, a young boy abused horribly by his dad. He partially blames his mum for not stopping the abuse.
Does he have survivor's guilt? Or. Is he testing theories out, using the litmus of Jess's face to determine what will hold water? He feels his way through an explanation of what happened that night; if he had known what had happened to his girls...
A gentle, "just needed to tell someone" and he's off, light as a feather having dumped that psychic nightmare on Jess. She runs to lock the doors behind him.
Jess finds Steve in his usual watering hole, drunk as a skunk and looking exactly as smelly. He starts to cry, he feels like he let those little girls down. She realises what she did, blaming him for Kate, and comforts him, they all let them down, the whole town.
She takes him home and puts him in a bath while he tells her of his nightmare dreams and PTSD. Finally they're able to talk about her infidelity, why did she sleep with Tom? She was lonely, Steve never shared much or talked about his feelings, she doesn't even know if he even wanted another child. The night Tom and Jess slept together, she'd just found out her first round of IVF hadn't worked.
He knows she wants a child, he wants to make her happy. But that's a copout, Steve, you both have to want the same things, especially when it's something huge like a child. Ah a lovely heartfelt conversation at last, working through the problems in their relationship that are impossible to see from the outside.
She doesn't want to continue the IVF treatment, she needs a break from feeling like a failure.
Jess goes looking for Tom at his mum's place (for sale), but he's off asking for a form to take over his mum's pension in town so she has to wait. Jess brings up Tom's abusive dad to Carol's confusion, Tom's father was not abusive in any way shape or form. "Why would he lie?" wonders Carol, but I think we're starting to see that it's like breathing for Tom. Whatever will garner sympathy or get him what he wants.
Jess attacks Tom as soon as he walks in the door, first with words then with her hands. He defends himself verbally but not physically, calling for his mum to phone the police. Jess leaves, followed by his mum, who did not call the police, even with his screaming dead in her face.
Instead, Jess takes Carol to the police station to share what she knows with DC Gemma Darlington (Laurie Brett) and DCI Spencer Collins (Gordon Brown).
Tom calms himself down from his temper tantrum by scrubbing up carefully and showing us what set him off that fateful night. He was able to check Kate's voicemail messages, one from her boss advising that her paycheque would go elsewhere from now on and the other from a firm of lawyers ready to represent her in her divorce.
That was when he took that video of his face looking thunderous. He didn't waste much time putting a plan into action. He asked Kate to pick up that padlock and zipped some insulin into his briefcase (that's what we were watching when we first met him, he'd already decided how and when he was going to murder his whole family).
Tom confronted Kate after supper about Simon and the divorce, threatening her as Emily found them. Kate ran after and brought her back, not to a fire but back to her own room. Kate apologizes to Tom for an unknown reason, he brings Emily upstairs.
I thought Tom was carefully grooming himself in the present while he reflected back on the night, but instead he is mutilating his cuticles, blood pouring everywhere. He's not under control at all.
Back on the night, Kate comes into the girls' room where he sits, finding her daughters non-responsive and panicking before Tom seizes her arm and injects her too. He tells her "they deserve better than you" as she dies. He lays her body in the hallway outside their door and heads down to the kitchen to do a final cleanup.
Remember there was a call from Kate's phone to Carol late that night that they set the time of death by? Carol said she heard nothing on the other end, but she was lying too. Tom spoke to her from Kate's phone, he wanted her to know he tried his best. Of course she lied, he's her son.
The fire was already burning when he injected himself, did he want to die too? Or was this a complicated plot with him as the sole survivor?
He woke up panicking in the hospital, we snap back to the present where he is arrested once again on the evidence his mother gave the police.
Lewis draws pictures with a therapist while Jess and Steve watch, we're out as Jess imagines a happy and smiling Kate as rain falls on her restored plaque.
Well. That was a lot. It makes perfect sense that the abusive husband would have committed the crime, and also that Kate's boss would have immediately suspected him, given that he was privy to the fact that Kate was planning to divorce Tom.
I'm trying to sum up the feeling of the whole series, we got several closeups on rainwater which had to mean something but I'm not positive they let us know exactly what. Unless that's dead..water...falling? That Fell perhaps?
I have to give David Tennant snaps for playing it absolutely straight; he could have slunk into hilarity at any second but maintained his menace throughout. Cush Jumbo was impressive as our complicated moral compass; Maureen Beattie as Carol stole almost every scene she was in with those large and dismayed eyes. I enjoyed seeing Laurie Brett in a role where she wasn't coughing constantly (especially these days) but Matthew McNulty should know that I will politely attack him with a proper razor should he wander into my orbit.
Thanks for reading along, everyone, now that I've got that out of my system I can switch back to something with glittery frocks and nine pounds of glitter. Cheers to everyone.