My overall impression of this miniseries from the beginning–which remained my overall impression at the end–is this adaptation is the well-acted, well-paced story of two very unlikable people who are still oddly compelling to watch.
We start by getting a look into the everyday life of Thérèse Raquin. She’s married to her sickly cousin Camille and lives with him and his mother, the aunt who raised her. Basically Thérèse is super bored with these people.
To the show’s credit, just based on the first several minutes, I can see where the milquetoast Camille and his well-meaning but nervous mother would irritate the hell out of someone on a daily basis while also still being perfectly nice people, so though I understand why Thérèse is miserable, she also comes off as being petty.
Even worse, they play dominos every Thursday night with other well-meaning but annoying people.
She’d rather hide downstairs and play with the cat. I actually don’t blame her on this. As a very introverted person who is not much of a cat person, I’ll take one-on-one cat time any day over a domino party I don’t want to attend. Also, her cat’s name is Francois, which is the most perfect French cat name ever. Too bad the scene is too blurry for a good screencap of Francois.
But fortunately Thérèse Raquin is not really the story of a woman who hates dominoes and loves cats, so an old childhood friend of Camille’s materializes. His name is Laurent, and coincidentally he now works at Camille’s office, though Laurent really wants to be a painter when he grows up.
Since the Raquins have no other friends except the Thursday Domino Crew, Laurent is quickly welcomed into their exclusive social circle, and he shows off his mad painter skills by doing a portrait of Camille. (On a side note, I always welcome any Brian Cox appearance–he will always be my favorite Hannibal Lecter–and it amuses me to no great end that, throughout this miniseries, you can hear traces of his Scottish accent that just get even more pronounced the more shit hits the fan.)
And then we get our first Rickman sighting. The Rickman is Laurent’s painter friend, Vidal, and as quickly becomes apparent in his handful of appearances throughout the miniseries, he is the greatest relationship advice giver this side of Dear Abby.
The scene features Dear Abby Vidal and Laurent in a bar, with Rickman peevishly wondering why Laurent hasn’t already slept with Thérèse. The Rickman is not impressed with Laurent’s lack of action and responds with a gloriously sneering rejection of his reasoning: “Only because what? You don’t really love her? What other excuses have you got?”
Laurent actually has some legitimate but selfish excuses–he doesn’t want to screw up the sweet gig he has, what with the family feeding him and putting up with him. Dear Abby Vidal continues to not be impressed and reassures Laurent that you can totally screw the other guy’s wife and stay in the family’s good graces.
Inspired by the shamelessness of Dear Abby Vidal, Laurent starts doing extracurricular things with Therese, which bring her alive. So, basically, they have lots of sex and continue to hide it from her family while also being pretty blatant about it.
This continues for some time, with the highlight for me being her weird as hell “Francois ratting out Laurent and Thérèse to Camille” cat impersonation/monologue. It’s every bit as fucking weird as it sounds.
Of course, the salad days of Laurent and Thérèse’s affair are endangered when Laurent is told he can’t keep cutting out of work in the afternoon for random BS aches and illnesses. No shit, Laurent. How long did you think they’d let you do that?
Laurent is distraught, so he turns to Dear Abby Vidal for quality adultery advice in a moment of despair. Laurent bemoans the fact he can no longer see Thérèse except for during chaste domino games when her husband is present.
Dear Abby Vidal tries to point out to him that he has other options.
When Laurent goes into a sulk about how he is completely enraptured with Thérèse, The Rickman sees he’s dealing with a lost cause, sneers at him for being “a slave” to a woman, and points out that, you know, you can sleep with her at other places/times besides her house during his work hours.
Laurent invites her over one time, which she manages to show up for. But then they realize this can’t happen again because it’s too suspicious. They’re really distraught and then decide that they should just kill the inconvenient Camille.
If Laurent had any reasoning ability, he would have run this theory by Dear Abby Vidal first. Undoubtedly, Dear Abby Vidal would have had a better plan or at least brainstormed some alternative plans of action.
Anyway, after some scheming and angsting, the adulterous duo murder Camille during an outing. Kudos to this show for absolutely nailing the murder scene. (Pun only marginally intended.) The scene does a wonderful job of capturing the inherent tension and horror.
Next page: “Episode 2”