SPOILERS and all that. Click HERE for the Review of Episode Three.
So this is the episode when tides begin to turn on Aidan Turner”s character Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He also starts to go to other…models…for, well, for “inspiration” (if you catch my meaning). As usual, Dante is able to talk his way out of most of the repercussions of these betrayals (I call “em like I see “em). And this is frustrating. No. It”s infuriating. But perhaps that”s because I”m a woman and Dante is evil. (Haha).
Alright. So Aidan Turner does a fantastic job of playing the subtly between his character”s disappointment and complete frustration, both of which he tries to make (most of the time). You see, this is the episode when Lizzie Siddal”s artistic career – and we”re not talking modelling anymore – shoots far beyond that of Rossetti”s. Right, basically Dante had manipulated the situations to put himself next in line for Ruskin”s favor (and therefore patronage). It all appears to be going well at first. Ruskin stops by when Rossetti is away from the studio, leaving Lizzie to talk to him and showing him her work. It seems Ruskin is impressed with Rossetti”s work and promised to stop by again. Aidan Turner plays Rossetti”s with an infectious enthusiasm. Then, in this mood, Dante proposes to Miss Siddal. And she accepts.
Thing is, Lizzie still wants Rossetti to do the proper thing and talk to her father, as is the custom of the era. He agrees and does so. His smile is sweet. His happiness at the consent given appears genuine (and probably is). But certain aspects of this interaction unnerve Dante. So he talks this through with Lizzie, right? Ha! No. Oh no. He “deals” with this anxiety by leaving the Siddal house. Returns to his studio (a place he broke into, not renting). And promptly has unbridaled…inspiration…with William Hunt”s (ex)fiancée.
I”m going to avoid simply walking through the plot points of this episode, but this next point offers a small sense of justice. When Ruskin returns again, he is so impressed with Lizzie Siddal”s art that he offers her his patronage and gives Dante Rossetti a teaching position. Sid is so in love with Dante that she views this as a success for both of them. She intends, as a natural course of thought, to use the pay from Ruskin to supply them both with paints and such. But Rossetti struggles to set aside his selfish ambitions to allow Lizzie to truly feel her happiness. Instead she is comforting him with…inspiration.
Still, Rossetti uses his friend”s (Millais this time) pain to make himself feel better. This is also a great episode for Fred Walters (our even faithful and sympathetic narrator). Amy Manson has wonderful character moments in this episode as well and she plays them with profound delicacy. Rossetti”s proposal is one of those moments. You get a full sense of what this means for her: security, protection (having given her, well, innocence, to him), and Dante”s commitment – something he had previously never been willing to do before her. It”s as beautiful as it is horrific (given what we know that she doesn”t).
Aidan Turner never falters in his performance. Playing a character like this, I think, is probably the most difficult of character types to play. We all want to be liked, so there may be the urge to soften the terrible flaws the character has. But Turner doesn”t do this. As I said about the previous episode, his is bold with his dialogue and actions. He doesn”t make them overtly cruel, which is the other instinct, I think.
It”s fun to play evil. It”s great to play the hero. But Dante Rossetti has to retain likeability despite the horrible betrayals and deceptions. Aidan Turner proves to be more than capable in this tightrope walk. Really, I”m amazed I still care about Rossetti this far into the series. But Turner”s commitment to truth does it. He makes Dante so real – the flaws, the frustrations, all of him – that even after all he”s done you are still able to sympathize with the artist who is feeling left behind by the Brotherhood (and now his own fiancée). In a word: Amazing.
Finishing touches, Episode Four:
Dante is evil. Or a liar and a cheat, at least.
Aidan Turner shocks you with the truth of the character and still makes you fall for him. Fall for the character, of course…
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