The previous episode went for a very modern sci-fi feel, which was miles away from the original story. This time around they seem to have gone for a ghostly one, which doesn’t sound all that far from the book, but manages to be entirely different all the same.
It actually reminds me of a couple of Murder She Wrote episodes, namely A Killing In Cork and Nan’s Ghost. That would be partially down to the location – which just so happens to be Ireland… yes, Ireland. I think I’d better go back to the beginning, hadn’t I?
THE OPENING SCENE
Charlotte is to visit and write about some Irish castles and so invited the Arnold crew plus Ruby along. (Why four children of that age need a nanny when they are travelling with their father and another adult is not clear.)
Castle #1 on the list just so happens to be Caislean Geall. Sorry, I mean Moon Castle, though both names are on the sign. Caislean, as I imagined, means castle, but geall seems to mean pledge or wager. Google Translate tells me that the Irish for moon is, er, moon, but elsewhere I’m seeing it as gealach or gealai so geall isn’t far from that.
Castle Wager/ Moon Castle is set up as being haunted by the opening scene with a ghostly horseman (and random drunk shouting SEAMMMUUSSSS!) It is also surrounded by what looks like the bog of eternal stench, but is later revealed to be a mostly harmless peat-bog.
A chap who I assumed to be Guy Brimming is angry with a woman I took to be Mrs Brimming, the caretaker. He is furious that she has advertised the castle for rent, but she argues that it will be fine. She’s lonely there as not a soul ever visits. This is in opposition to the book, where Mrs B (and her two sisters) as well as Guy don’t want anyone in the castle.
As it turns out these two are actually Mrs (or Ma) O’Moon and Fin O’Moon. Because you’re not Irish enough without an O in front of your name! They are the same characters though, just re-named. They must own the castle, as their ancestor Fin Bar O’Moon is mentioned a lot. Mrs O is dressed up like a vampire practically, I just have to add that.
Fin is still a mad scientist type, but he seems to be working alone to produce a ‘magic potion’ – I kid you not, those are the words used. The cat laps some up and leaps from the top of the tower without injury, so we’re definitely into something weird.
TWANG, DONG, PLINK AND HONK
That unsettles the Arnolds as they arrive, especially Laura who thinks the castle doesn’t want them there. Unsurprisingly she is the one to harp on about ghosts the whole time. It doesn’t help that for the majority of the episode she is the only one to see green eyes lighting up in the portrait or the ghostly horseman outside. Though she says “it looked at me,” instead of “a green light shone from the eyes” so everyone thinks she’s just being silly.
Lots of weird things do happen, though, sort of like in the book. Suits of armour fall over. The musical instruments do indeed go TWANG and DONG, but also PLINK and HONK. It’s so terrifying that Ruby manages to fall down some stairs and hurts her knee. That’s the perfect excuse for Mrs O to give her some of the magic, (sometimes smoking), luminous green potion. Ruby not only thinks that’s entirely normal but also quite delicious.
Unfortunately for Ruby it only serves to make her battier than ever – she has extreme amounts of energy and almost flies over the bog, then later nearly dances off a cliff.
Back to the ‘weird things’ though, and lots of the Arnolds’ things go missing. A cassette player, a teddy, a cardigan, socks… Laura naturally blames the ghost. There are mini-earthquakes that send books flying from the shelves.
Mrs O blames pretty much everything on the castle being built on a bog. IT’S THE SUBSIDENCE! is heard a half-dozen times at least. But in private, she blames Fin, who denies pretty much everything.
The children’s leaps of logic are quite astounding, really. They realise that someone came in to open their curtains so that they were guaranteed to see the horseman in the middle of the night. That must mean that someone is trying to scare them off. And you know what THAT means. There MUST be a secret passage in their room! This has slight hints of the book where the curtains are deliberately drawn so that someone can sneak in and access the secret passage there, but the children take their time to mull it over and come to a clever solution to a puzzle. They also decide that there must be someone else involved, someone who goes up into the tower where Fin and Mrs O say they can’t go as there is no key.
As with pretty much every episode my attention waned around this point. I must have been forty or fifty minutes in – the episodes are a ridiculous hour and a quarter or something. Anyway, they find the secret passage, some of them get kidnapped, Prince gets ill, Ruby gets kidnapped or trapped with the children. there’s more earthquakes, and then there’s some reveals about who is involved with the mystery in what capacity.
The green stuff is a potion for eternal life… or eternal youth, something like that. The mastermind is actually Ma O’Moon herself, and she brought the Arnolds in to test the potion on them, to make sure it was safe for her to take.
She and Fin argue over it all and it turns out Fin did the object stealing and horse-riding to try to scare the Arnolds away. He didn’t want them to end up like ‘the others’ who jumped from the tower believing they could fly. Ma isn’t best impressed when he denies the twang dongs etc. For some reasons she still says ITS THE SUBSIDENCE again for good measure and he insists IT’S FIN BAR HIMSELF.
And it turns out he’s right. There really is a ghostly presence, and it’s Fin Bar their ancestor who wants them to stop their bad ways. He even talks to them through the painting to say NO MORE.
So that is the main ‘plot’ of the episode, not that it makes a great deal of sense. There is also a Charlotte/Thaddeus sub plot, naturally. This time it’s more romantic than dramatic. Long story short, Charlotte proposes (I think we should get married, Thaddeus. Everyone thinks we’re a couple, and it would save on bedrooms – but I suspect some of it was tongue in cheek, or I hope so at least) and Thaddeus pretty much does a runner. She goes looking for him and thus they miss much of the action at the castle while they mope and brood and argue. I predicted them having a relationship from the first episode, so this is hardly surprising, though there has been few, if any, romantic moments or anything official on them dating before this. It’s almost Bill and Allie-ish in the lacking romance department.
It takes just a little bit of over-dramaticness – Charlotte sliding down a tiny cliff – for Thaddeus to realise he does want to marry her after all.
And now, for the things that I couldn’t work into a plot synopsis.
Jack finally gets adopted into the Arnold family at the start as all the official paperwork has come through. Took them long enough!
Mike barely features in this episode – remember he was laid up in bed for most of Killimooin as well! This time he swaps places with Tom the gypsy boy. Tom wants to go visit a castle and Mike would rather go to the horse show with Tom’s father, so he’s there for two minutes at the start and end. It doesn’t make much difference either way as all the children are pretty interchangeable.
There’s so much melodrama it’s ridiculous. Laura is about to fall into the bog? NOOOOOO, cue slow-mo running. That’s Fin this time, but the children use shouting NO as a primary method of stopping things. Like Ruby falling off a cliff, or drinking more potion. And it’s entirely ineffective. Prince tries to do a Lassie and fetch help and instead causes Thaddeus and Charlotte to drive off the road. Ruby nearly dances off the castle tower at the end, only to be SUNG down by Laura. But of course she slips anyway. For the drama.
And lastly, we need to update our geography maps badly. They seem to drive from Spiggy Holes to Moon Castle. I think they’re trying to pretend that it’s all been set in England the whole time. Even so, they still drive from ‘England’ to ‘Ireland’ without so much as a mention of a ferry.
I think on the whole we can call this another ridiculous instalment and move on. They cut the Brimming sisters, turned the scary and creepy moments into melodrama, there’s no Prince Paul, no mines with men in suits, no pins and needles… all so they could write their own stuff about potions for eternal life (which turn your shed skin cells green – a Bad Science candidate for sure) and add real ghosts and a bog which seemed at first to be important and then had nothing to do with anything.