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.
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
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