SPOILERS and all that. Click HERE for Review of Episode 4.
If you thought that I was always going to retain some small bit of sympathy for the charming, deceptive Dante Rossetti, well this is the episode where I lose it. Continuing my reviews of Desperate Romantics with Episode Five, we finally watch the House of Cards falls. And not just fall, but also scatter in the winds of deception, betrayal, and karmic payback. The talented Aidan Turner and Amy Manson reveal they have even deeper reserves to draw from. Their characters are pushed even further in this episode, starting at the highest heights and falling nearly as far as the grave. Turner and Manson never miss a stroke of the brush, bringing every scene painfully to life.
With Ruskin”s patronage, and therefore the money from that, has afforded Lizzie and Dante a wild and extravagant life. They party and parade their success around, forgetting entirely that they are meant to be producing art in return for this social and monetary support by Ruskin. Of course, dear Fred Walters (who continues as our narrator) does what he does best and writes of their escapades in the Illustrated London.
Naturally, this draws Ruskin”s attention. Now, he is a man of the conviction that women should be tame, settled, and quiet – especially if they are associated with him. That would include Lizzie now. So she and Dante are reprimanded by Ruskin and Lizzie is given certain terms to comply to. Practicing her art at his house and returning to her parents house when she finishes. You see, Ruskin doesn”t like that Miss Siddal and her fiancée, Dante Rossetti, are…. Well, he finds them stark naked, sleeping in, and muttering about insatiable desires. He was not pleased.
Thing is…Lizzie has developed an insatiable desire…for laudanum. Dante is too self-absorbed (as usual) to notice. He takes Lizzie”s compliance to Ruskin”s terms as allowing herself to be controlled (ignoring that this is what he, himself, does to her) and accuses her of becoming just like one of them. In truth, Lizzie was taking full advantage of her options and this just points out to Rossetti that she is the more successful.
Dante is not without self-awareness though. In an apology to Lizzie he says, “Jealousy makes me petulant to the extreme.” And he told Fred, “You took advantage of my shallow nature.” These moments have Aidan Turner speaking in simple, natural deliveries that makes the character of Rossetti feel so real. A character like Dante Rossetti could easily have become ridiculous and more like a caricature than anything believable, if Turner had not grounded him so firmly in truth. And he does it so well you never think about it; you just believe it. Bravo, indeed, Mr. Turner.
Amy Manson”s character Lizzie Siddal is equally grounded in truth. We see even more of the character”s frustrations, rage, and complete despair. In this episode Lizzie nearly drinks herself to death with laudanum. Fred finds Dante with another woman to inform him of Lizzie”s sickly state. Such are Fred”s affections for Lizzie that he tells Dante to express his love for her. This leads to Dante proposing (again, since it had briefly been called off). Lizzie shows she is not void of her own awareness and asks, “You”ll forsake all other lovers?” When Rossetti agrees, she agrees to marry him. Then her sister promptly beats the hell out of Dante screaming, “You”re killing her!”
Well, if you think that maybe Dante really does love Lizzie and this was a wake-up call…then hear this. On the day of the wedding he”s having a panic moment, confessing he can”t do it (naming fidelity and the prime concern). His friends ask him why he proposed then and Dante says, “I panicked! I thought she would die before I got her to the altar.”
Okay. Let me at him. It”s MY time to beat the libido out of him!
Anyway. Whatever. There”s no stopping this train-wreck wedding…and so it goes. Interesting for Aidan Turner and Amy Manson being the one”s involved in the marriage massacre. But that”s just another reference to Being Human.
Final touched, Episode Five:
Aidan Turner plays Dante with excellent balance of subtly and extremity.
Dante is a live-wire grounded in truth.
This episode would make a great gender issues study of Lizzie Siddal. Just sayin’.
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