The Rook: S01.E02. “Chapter 2”

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The second episode of the Starz miniseries The Rook hit television screens in these United States on Sunday, 7 July 2019. Based on a novel written by Australian author Daniel O’Malley, the American television series is set in the British capital.

The title character, played by Emma Greenwell, is Myfanwy Thomas. She works for the Checquy. The Checquy, a covert branch of the British secret service, employs individuals with supernatural abilities.

The Rook Image Credit: IMDb.com
The Rook Promotional Poster. Image Credit: IMDb.com

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet seen the second episode, stop reading now. There are spoilers ahead.

Opening Scene…

Chapter 2, with a brief flashback scene set in 2004, opens a window into Myfanwy’s past. Myfanwy is hanging out on the back lawn of the Thomas residence with her friends. The teens, possibly eighteen at the time, are lounging on the lawn drinking, smoking and pretty much having a good time.

While the legal age for consuming alcohol in these United States is 21, the same is not true for the United Kingdom. Eighteen is the legal minimum drinking age. Since the miniseries is set in the British Isles, the production probably reflects established laws across the pond, not in America.

The song that can be heard being played in this scene, emanating from the Apple device seen on the lawn, is the Killers performed ‘Smile Like You Mean It.’ While the song was released on the 2004 album Hot Fuss, in September 2003, it was the B-Side of the single Mr Brightside.

Accidents Happen…

During a casual game of football, the ball is accidentally kicked ono the roof of the garage. Since Myfanwy lives at the house, she volunteers to get the ball off the roof. When Myfanwy is on the roof, her parents return home to find her retrieving the ball. Naturally, because Myfanwy has apparently been told not to climb onto the garage roof, her mother (Caroline Sheen) is not happy.

Myfanwy attempts to climb down from the garage but accidentally falls. On seeing his daughter fall, Myfanwy’s father (Lucas Hare) rushes to her side. Myfanwy powers seem to manifest and cause the accidental death of her father. Cue opening credits…

Staff Meeting…

The episode, immediately after the opening credits, picks up the story from where the series premiere ended. Myfanwy looks fine. When I reference the word fine, I am not talking about the character’s physical appearance, nor am I using a sexual connotation. She looks f***ed-up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. This is not the way O’Malley wrote the character.

In O’Malley’s novel, even though Myfanwy is suffering from a significant bout of amnesia, she was not the nervous emotional wreck we see in this television adaptation. Consequently, what we see on screen is a weighty departure from that which the Australian author put to paper.

While the Brits are working hard to keep the American interloper out of the loop, Reed is aware of something which her hosts have not yet picked up on. One of the victims that died at the Millennium Bridge was an American agent named Marcus Kevler (Luke Roberts). When Reed lets her hosts in on the intelligence, British Home Secretary Jennifer Birch (Gina McKee) is visibly less amused by the situation.

The comment Birch makes to Conrad Grantchester (Lester) towards the end of the meeting, considering what we know of their personal relationship, has a double meaning.

Dissociative Amnesia…

Dr Dev Rao (Amerjit Deu) tells Myfanwy she is suffering from dissociative amnesia. According to Stanford University School of Medicine professor Dr David Spiegel, MD, “Dissociative amnesia is a type of dissociative disorder that involves an inability to recall important personal information that would not typically be lost with ordinary forgetting. The cause is usually trauma or stress. Diagnosis is based on history after ruling out other causes of amnesia.”

The Miniseries Also Stars…

Further to Greenwell, the miniseries also stars Joely Richardson, Jon Fletcher, Ronan Raftery, Catherine Steadman, Adrian Lester and Olivia Munn as Lady Farrier, Alex Gestalt, Robert Gestalt, Eliza Gestalt, Conrad Grantchester and Monica Reed, respectively.

People familiar with the source material will recall Munn’s character is relatively minor to the narrative. At the expense of a few characters O’Malley’s created, Reed is elevated. Consequently, the adaptation is a pale reflection of the source material.

A Possible Alrich…

I was initially thinking the Reed character was elevated at the expense of the vampire Alrich. However, when one of the dead bodies from the bridge incident awakens, it suggests this could be a version of Alrich but personified from a different perspective. Is, for the television adaptation, Marcus and Alrich the same person? It is not as if Marcus does not use multiple identities.

Final Thoughts…

As The Rook Myfanwy, Greenwell has the unenviable task of presenting a believable character to the television viewing audience. Do not forget this audience includes fans of the source material. Consequently, the task is increasingly difficult.

Greenwell is charged with personifying a character which must find a way to balance her character’s confusion with that of her unflappable work life persona. As the episode progresses, the anxiety on Myfanwy’s face is telling. The struggle on her face is readily apparent.

Rediscovering one’s own identity can be a traumatic affair. The more Myfanwy delves into herself, the more anxious the Rook becomes. As a result, the character is frequently seen standing at the edge of a metaphorical precipice. One wrong step could therefore be catastrophic for Myfanwy.

We are only two episodes into the eight-episode miniseries and the narrative device which we see the past-Myfanwy communicating with present-Myfanwy is becoming increasingly tedious. Is it possible past-Myfanwy could have predicted every move her future self would make? This is what the series writers are asking us to believe. What will The Rook do next? Ask the past-Myfanwy because she seems to know everything.

What are your thoughts? Is the miniseries worth watching? Will you stay with it until the end of the eighth episode? Please comment and let us know what you think.