Malory Towers on TV: Episode thirteen

I’ve come to this last episode wondering how it (and the series) will end. Will there be a huge cliff hanger? We already know why Darrell was asked to leave her last school, Pamela’s story was abruptly resolved when she disappeared and the ghost has been explained. We should see Gwen being unmasked as Mary-Lou’s tormentor but beyond that? Will they be setting up for series two?

Gwen vs Darrell

As I thought the main story – the only story really – was about finding out who played the tricks on Mary-Lou. Playing out similarly to the book (at least at first) they discover the smashed pen and go to check the girls’ lockers for ink-stained shoes. Gwen gets there first, though, and inks Darrell’s shoes and hides her own.

When Darrell’s shoes are discovered most of the girls turn on her (stupidly nobody notices that Gwen has ink all over her fingers!).

In the book Mary-Lou stands by Darrell, and Sally too, while Alicia is vehement Darrell is no longer her friend. On screen only Sally stands by Darrell, while Alicia is slightly more ambivalent, though it’s clear she thinks Darrell could have done it. Gwen gets Alicia’s line about it being the “Straight-forward Darrell Rivers.”

The show has all this happen in a single day – the last day of term – while in the book, although it’s over a few pages quite a bit more time passes.

The girls try to handle it more fairly on screen despite the short time-frame. Katharine holds a vote amongst the nine girls, to see who thinks Darrell is responsible for the crimes. In the book she says;

I can’t believe it’s Darrell either. But – I suppose – until it’s proved differently we’ll have to think of her as the culprit. it’s a pity, because we’ve all liked Darrell.

Which seems a bit of a cop-out.

Unfortunately the ‘fair trial’ on screen doesn’t work out in Darrell’s favour. She is understandably hot-headed in her attempts to defend herself. Sally, Irene and Emily stand on Darrell’s side, but Jean, Katherine, Alicia and of course Gwen stand against her. Mary-Lou has run off (surely any vote must come from all the girls, though!) and Darrell isn’t allowed to vote for herself, so she is deemed the culprit.

Above: it’s all even until Alicia betrays Darrell.

Sally is the voice of reason on screen (again). She tells Darrell that this person has it in for her, not Mary-Lou, and that it must be Gwen. She also points out that the real inky shoes must be hidden somewhere. (We know Gwen wore her own shoes but it is possible that she could have planned ahead and used Darrell’s, so her logic is slightly flawed, but no worse than in the books).

The reason Mary-Lou missed the vote is she has run off to investigate. In the book she tosses and turns one night, some time after the incident, then goes shoe-hunting. On screen they go home in a few hours so she goes running pell-mell to Ron, to hear if he really caught a spider for Gwen, as Darrell had just revealed. She also finds Gwen’s shoes in the greenhouse (strange place for Gwen to hide them!), and rushes back to prove Darrell’s innocence.

I really wanted to see Gwen get her comeuppance but Darrell stops the girls taking the story to Miss Grayling and is altogether annoyingly magnanimous and empathetic. After everything Gwen has done and Darrell is kind in return. I know, I probably sound like a mean Gwen-like person! Being kind and understanding is probably what Gwen needs most but I wouldn’t be able to be so kind. I might not have taken it to Miss Grayling but I’d probably have had some strong words for Gwen. I’d not have been running around after her offering sympathy and encouragement.

Darrell is also surprisingly generous to Alicia, who she had offered to have to visit in the summer to save her from spending all summer with Matron. Alicia then turns her back on Darrell and votes against her – saying she believes that Darrell could be a cruel bully. Yet Darrell still invites her to stay after a weak apology from Alicia. Although Darrell says to Sally that Sally’s the friend she can rely on it’s a shame she doesn’t tell Alicia on screen that she will stick to Sally and Mary-Lou as her friends like she does in the book. Nor do we get the little insight into Alicia’s personality that we get from Blyton’s narration;

One by one the girls begged Darrell’s pardon. Alicia was a little stiff about it, for she felt really ashamed of the hard words she had said. But then, Alicia was hard. She had a good many lessons to learn before she could lose her hardness and gain in sympathy and understanding of others…

I think if you don’t mind, I’ll stick to Sally and Mary-Lou. I wasn’t always nice to them, but they did stick by me when I was in trouble – and they’re my real friends now.

The rush of it being the last day means that Gwen gives Mary-Lou her special hairbrush instead of buying her a new pen, but it’s nice as Gwen says that giving her hair a hundred strokes a night gives her courage so it might do the same for Mary-Lou.

Thoughts on this episode

It was good that this one stuck fairly closely to the book, even if it did speed up and dramatise it all a bit more. I had to flick though the book to check the details as it’s so easy to get muddled.

I did recognise Alicia’s line that’s a nice bit of spite for you, though.

Talking of Alicia she’s to spend all summer at school as Betty’s people can no longer have her. That’s the second time they’ve let her down (the first time was at half-term). Also, Matron is to give back all confiscated tuck as it’s the last day of term and Alicia is a bit worried as she’s already emptied her huge confiscated hamper! (If she hadn’t, surely a lot of the food would be inedible by this point, I mean it wouldn’t have been stuffed with preservatives like today!

It turns out to be a non-issue as Matron has clearly had a personality transplant and has refilled it as a belated birthday gift for Alicia, seeing as they will be stuck together all summer. Yet Matron also sits in the first formers’ dorm and falls asleep instead of supervising their packing as she is supposed to, so she can’t be an entirely new woman.

At last they found a real use for the gardener’s boy (who is called Ron, I could never remember that for past reviews). As above he is able to tell Darrell then Mary-Lou about catching the spider for Gwen and then about running into her that morning with shoes in a kit bag. Still, it’s odd to have a whole new character with so little importance.

In nitpicks:

There are more secret conversations held within earshot of other people. Emily and Katherine discuss Mary-Lou who is standing at the other end of the same piano, then Sally and Darrell discuss her from one bed in the dorm when Mary-Lou is not that far away.

Mary-Lou is front left with the pigtails, Emily and Katherine are standing at the back right.

When Darrell persuades Gwen to face the girls at assembly she quickly braids Gwen’s hair for her. We see her take a large chunk from the nape of the neck and begin a simple three strand braid. When Gwen runs inside with her, however, it’s a proper French plait starting at the crown. Later it’s back to being a loose, low braid (see above where Gwen gives Mary-Lou the hairbrush).

There is a somewhat silly song at the end assembly.

Four tall towers that train by esteem
Of the cliff corner view of the school of our dreams
Four tall towers teach us how to strive
To be women the world can lean on
Women who will thrive
They gave…

I love the Miss Grayling speech but it becomes a bit cringey when it’s turned into a twee song. Also since when did the towers themselves do any teaching?

As they board the coach (surely a school of Malory Towers’ size would need more than one small coach? I appreciate the difficulty in getting vintage coaches but I also think it’s the same one as used by St Hilda’s in a previous episode) we see a glimpse of two teachers who’ve never had a speaking line in thirteen episodes. I wonder, if we get a series 2, will the girls still be taught by Miss Potts, rather than Miss Parker?

I can’t find anything about a second series but I really hope they will do all six books.

I had intended to write a review of the series as a whole but I think I’ll leave it for another day as I’ve written rather a lot already!

Next post – Malory Towers on TV – a series overview

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13 Responses to Malory Towers on TV: Episode thirteen

  1. Sean J Hagins says:

    Alicia didn’t betray Darrell-I think she genuinely thought she was guilty. Mary-Lou seems quite a bit younger than the other girls. She reminds me of a friend of mine. I thought this was a great episode. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t as into these books as a kid, but usually books-to-TV fall flat for me. However, I think this series handled it quite well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fiona says:

      Thinking your good friend capable of such horrible acts (especially when they are innocent) is a betrayal in itself. The other girls betray her somewhat too, but they haven’t spent as much time with her as Alicia has so it is more forgivable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sean J Hagins says:

        I just took it as showing how insidious Gwen is. I think Alicia was genuinely fooled. Innocent people have been accused by well-meaning people before. I blame Gwen, not those who innocently made a mistake. I do agree that Gwen deserves to have been sanctioned for what she did, but maybe this lesson in forgiveness will help her repent. I’d like to see what they do with series 2.

        Oh, and you didn’t address my other statement. Do you think Mary-Lou is supposed to be younger than the rest? Not only does the actress look younger, but she seems younger (the character)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fiona says:

          Gwen certainly did a good job of laying false clues but:
          1. Gwen is shown to be selfish and mean several times while Darrell, although hot-headed has generally been kind, friendly and generous.
          2. Apart from the ink on the shoes there is no evidence Darrell had anything to do with the other tricks.
          3. Darrell provides information that there is evidence Gwen is responsible for the spider and it’s ignored by them all.
          In the books Mary-Lou is a small girl, it goes with her meek personality. She’s the same age though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sean J Hagins says:

            I know what you mean about Gwen’s track record, but Darrell DID push a teacher and get expelled (I know her reasons, but the girls might not be clear on it) I give them a pass as they came around later. I try to practise forgiveness, especially towards repentant people

            I know about Mary-Lou in the book, I just thought the show might be different, and I missed a mention. The other girls look a couple years older.

            She reminds me of a girl I grew up with-she was small and had that “innocent” look, but she was actually more mischievous than us boys! Hehe!

            Another thing to remember when it comes to these kids is that they are all really young and so I could see them being easily deceived. We can see how manipulative and naughty Gwen is, but I can see them not being cognizant

            I have to say though, I really am impressed with what I’ve seen of the series so far. They did not spoil it with misguided attempts to modernise it

            Liked by 1 person

        • Richard McGee says:

          I might be mistaken but I think the actress who plays Mary-Lou is one of the oldest of the girls in the series.


        • Millie says:

          I think that Gwen is very complicated..She is very ordered in her ways and unable to understand other people. The TV version is not thick or stupid. She has poor social skills though. She seems very troubled..She doesn’t fit with the sport-obsessed Alicia, Sally, Darrell, and Jean…She has been brought up with very different values and trying to be Upper Class…Forgiveness and a clean slate is Darrell’s solution. She did the same with Alicia and it was a good thing, inviting her to stay. What a bleak summer if Alicia was with Matron at school for weeks, with no friends.


    • Emily says:

      Alicia should have known that Darrell wouldn’t do that, but Alicia doesn’t understand her and her friendship isn’t that deep. Alicia being so quick and definite in her judgment is a betrayal. Sally stands by her and Mary Lou finds the evidence to clear her name. Alicia just said Darrell must be guilty, when Darrell would never hurt Mary Lou.


  2. Lapsed Blyton fan says:

    I really liked the intensity of this finale. As noted, the action has all been shifted to the last day of term, where emotions are understandably running high.

    In the book, only Alicia really believes Darrell to be guilty. Being fair to her, she is very angry about the pen, it was her idea to check the shoes, and she did initially suspect Gwendoline. But that solves Darrell’s friendship dilemma. Darrell decisively switches to Sally and Mary-Lou, bringing her a happy and calm end of term. She does offer Gwen a chance at redemption, but Gwen can’t bring herself to do more than the minimum of replacing the pen, so ends the term unhappy and ostracised. Only Katherine dangles the idea that her redemption might come eventually.

    In the series, it becomes The Trial of Darrell Rivers, with Gwen literally playing Devil’s advocate. Sally and Darrell twice produce evidence that implicates Gwen … yet Darrell is still found guilty by 4 to 3. We don’t see her reaction to Jean, but she definitely didn’t expect Katherine and then Alicia to vote against her. Although Gwen has been very devious, I think Darrell does share some blame and knows it. When she lost her temper with Mary-Lou over the photo in Episode 11, I got the feeling then that people were thinking this is happening a bit too often.

    As to why Darrell is then so kind to someone who has just tried to destroy her, there are no easy answers. But I think their relationship is meant to be one of those complicated ones that is surprisingly common in real life, where they tear strips off each other in public but when no-one is watching they kind of are friends. They are both outsiders, and can see things in each other and challenge each other in ways nobody else can. That’s left on a mini-cliffhanger, because they shake hands for peace but Gwen has her fingers crossed.

    A few other things I noticed:

    – When Ron asks Darrell what she’s done to face expulsion, she says “nothing – this time”. She has denied pushing Miss Gale down the stairs, so that leaves open the question of what really happened.

    – Gwen saying a hundred strokes a night gives her courage puts a different cast on what had appeared a silly affectation.

    – The school song is truly terrible, but then most school songs are so perhaps that’s deliberate.

    – Emily is awesome in this episode. That is all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Millie says:

      The courage thing was very 1940s, women in the face of war put great stock on putting on their lipstick and doing their hair to facing the world, whether it was in the factories, driving ambulances, walking past bombsites…


  3. craftysofiya says:

    I have all of the Mallory Towers series, but I didn’t know there was a tv series! I love Mallory Towers series. So niceee.
    I love your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    I still really wish there to be a new series, but from the storyline (The girls having a midnight feast for example, which didn’t happen in the books) it seems sort of unlikely. The TV series has grown quite popular though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Richard McGee says:

    I really enjoyed this series. Compared to the awful New Zealand productions of “Adventure” and “Secret” series of books this beats them hands down. The acting and casting is superb, and the adaptation sticks more or less to the books. Full marks to the script writers and producers. I think the actress who plays Mary-Lou is one of the oldest girls in the cast if I’m not mistaken. I really hope they continue with the rest of the books although they will have to be quick because the cast will age.


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