Quirke: The Silver Swan

“Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.”

Philip Pullman


A long but engrossing episode of Quirke, this one. The second of three, it concentrates on Quirke’s daughter Phoebe’s bid for independence from her smothering upper-class family as she moves out of the comfortable townhouse the Griffins inhabit, into a one-room bedsit in a seedy neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the good doctor Quirke himself is busy investigating the mysterious and drug-addled deaths of two young women whose husbands seem overly keen to cover them up.

The aura of the “crime drama” was much more pronounced here than in the first ep, Christine Falls, without losing that lurking sense of Gothickry that made Christine Falls so atmospheric, which is, I’m pretty sure, the reason it succeeds much more as a drama. There’s more of a purpose, more of a story, and more of a reason to care about our characters. More urgency. There’s the sense that there’s everything to play for here, including at one point the life of one of the Griffin family.

The supporting characters are excellent: Lee Ingleby (Bacchus from Inspector George Gently) is very convincing as drug-dealing conman Leslie; Charlie Murphy is quite heartbreaking as Deirdre, the woman he seduces; and Branwell Donaghey is nicely endearing playing her husband. Geraldine “Lily Potter” Somerville gets to be more than a ghost, but only briefly, and the sibling rivalry between Quirke and Mal is well-developed without intruding too much onto the plot.

The ending threw me off, though. Was the thing between Quirke and Lily Potter ever a thing? Or was it all in his head? Or what? I feel like questioning the sanity of our protagonist is a fairly major step to take in the last fifteen minutes of any programme.

I’m mildly looking forward to the last episode (though I have a feeling I may have missed it), if only to explain what the hell is going on here.


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