in Blog Post, Film/TV Commentary, Review

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 2]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode Two

To continue my review of Desperate Romantics with Episode Two finds the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in a desperate struggle to further their artistic ambitions. Previously they had received the high praise needed from Ruskin. The next step was to obtain his patronage. This would grant them all the much-needed respect and social status needed to truly be considered great artists. Model Lizzie Siddal becomes even further entwined with the Brotherhood, and more so with one in particular.

So, adding to Aidan Turner“s page (as part of The List series), I”ll talk about his performance now. Of course, for this episode (as well as the rest) it will be impossible to talk about his performance without including that of Amy Manson who plays Lizzie Siddal, or “Sid” as Dante comes to call her. Click HERE for Episode One”s Review.

Some SPOILERS ahead.

Each member of the Brotherhood seem to be quite adept in playing off of and manipulating each other to their own benefit. All, I suppose, except Fred. He”s getting there though. But Aidan Turner”s Dante Rossetti appears to be the most deceptive and self-serving in his ambitions. In Episode One this was almost simply amusing to watch. But the amusement fades in this episode when Lizzie Siddal”s life is threatened.

Turner is given excellent opportunity to show Dante”s love of Sid and his intense horror at the prospect of losing his new obsession to pneumonia; a situation created by her modelling career. Turner takes that opportunity with such a command of his emotions and completely wins me over (again). I phrase it this way because he is playing Rossetti, a character that should make you dislike him. But yet, somehow, you can”t. We are caught up in his charm just like Fred. Just like Lizzie. I was actually brought to the point of audibly saying, “You are such a dangerous man.” Rossetti knows exactly what to say and Turner knows exactly how to say it. I mean, of course, that Rossetti is the dangerous man. Of course, Rossetti…

After Rossetti brings the soaking wet and freezing Miss Siddal to her parent”s place the Brotherhood is gathered at their usual bar (pub?). This moment is one of the few times that I actually believe Dante Rossetti is being real. He is distraught at the thought that Lizzie, the Sid, may die. But further than that, he”s heartbroken at realizing she will (most likely) never be allowed to model for them again. Rossetti claims, in an emotional rage, that all he has in the world is Lizzie”s affection. And I believe it.

Lizzie survives and with Dante”s charm and monetary negotiations she is allowed to resume her modeling career. She thanks Dante for this and he downplays it as just something anyone would do for their sweetheart. Then basically implies a marriage proposal. Doesn”t actually propose, mind you. Just implies it. And Amy Manson”s performance of the fiery, yet naive, Lizzie Siddal is perfect in her assumption that this is as solid as formal proposal – arguing that Dante”s artist temperament would never allow for such a predictable form of engagement.

This budding relationship between Dante and Miss Siddal is performed so extremely well that the best way I can describe it is like watching, in painful building suspense, for a terrible and spectacular train wreck. You want to tell Lizzie to stay away from Dante Rossetti, but Aidan Turner plays him with such a delicate balance of deception and genuine affection that you hypocritically want her to return that affection. And you can”t tell (and won”t until it”s far too late) which reaction is right. And so, like a Hollywood blockbuster, you wait and watch in anticipation for that train wreck, because it”s exciting and shocking. And it won”t disappoint, sadly.

I think it”s the ease that Rossetti apparently has in using his genuine warmth for manipulative means that makes me so uncomfortable when seeing it in his building relationship with Miss Siddal. This is especially true when the time period is brough into consideration. Lizzie has already pushed the boundaries of respectability by accepting a career in modeling. Her utter willingness to break past that boundary with Rossetti would mean complete and lasting ruin for the rest of her life. It”s horrifying watch. But like the spectacle of a tragic accident on the roadside, you can”t bring yourself to look away. That is the power of the performances both Aidan Turner and Amy Manson bring to these characters.

So, finishing touches (Episode Two):

Aidan Turner is a dangerous man. No, I mean, Dante Rossetti… Yeah, that one.

Amy Manson is strong and easy to sympathize with as Lizzie Siddal.

This relationship feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. Trains and Aidan Turner are rarely, if ever, a good combination. (But that”s just a reference to Being Human).

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