It’s been a year since Masterpiece viewers were introduced to the Durrell clan, lately of Corfu, Greece. As a recent convert to the charms of this quirky yet heartwarming family drama, I was asked if I would be interested in penning recaps for the second season of The Durrells in Corfu and I have happily agreed.
You may recall when we first met the Durrells, widowed mother Louisa (Keeley Hawes) had decided to uproot her four children from dreary, conventional Bournemouth to the bucolic Greek island of Corfu. Alas things didn’t instantly improve for the family upon their arrival. A delay in transfer of Mrs. Durrell’s widow’s pension forced the family to forage for food and reside in a house that was literally crumbling down around them. Never mind the troublesome lack of electricity.
Except for perhaps her youngest Gerry (Milo Parker), who as a budding naturalist flourished amongst the abundance of wildlife on the island, each of Mrs. Durrell’s children had some difficulties in adjusting to this austere new life and in navigating romance in their new homeland as well. In fact, Louisa had more misfortunes in this area than all her children combined. When she finally managed to find love with Swedish transplant and accordion player Sven (Ulric Von Der Esch), she realized right before their wedding that they were fond of one another, just not in the "right way".
Season 2 picks up a year on and Gerry has yet to set free his menagerie of animals, Lawrence (Josh O’ Connor) has writer’s block, Margo (Daisy Waterstone) is apparently no longer employed as the Countess’ companion and Leslie (Callum Woodhouse) still has a perpetual case of bad luck and (along with Larry) a very cheesy mustache.
The Durrells undertake a money-making enterprise. The family is still poor and I mean “a single loaf of bread to feed a family of five for breakfast” poor. Louisa announces that things must change and decides to sell their hodgepodge of produce - mainly anemic olives- at the local market. No one pays their stall any mind except a wealthy Englishman, Hugh Jarvis (Daniel Lapaine), who invites Louisa to press her olives at his olive farm. (That sounds a bit naughty!) It’s clear he’s trying to chat her up, but Mrs. Durrell refuses to be impressed.
Upon returning home from a dismal day at the market, Louisa finds a strange woman sitting at her kitchen table. She is the Durrells’ new landlady, Vasilia (Errika Bigiou), and she has come for the overdue rent. It’s obvious this woman has ax to grind seeing as she confiscates the family’s furniture until they can pay up.
With this additional financial pressure looming, Louisa formulates a plan to expand their fledgling home business to selling traditional English food. The children are put to work – milking goats, keeping bees and plowing the fields. But it isn’t until family friend Spiros (Alexis Georgoulis) steps in to educate Louisa on Greek methods of salesmanship ( i.e., flirtation and looking destitute) that her wares start to move.
Alas business doesn’t boom for long. Shortly after the villagers purchase Louisa’s comestibles, there is an outbreak of food poisoning ostensibly due to the meat in her secret weapon Scotch eggs going bad in the Corfu heat. Mrs. Durrell must face the wrath of her customers and refund their money, dropping her into dire straits once more.
In the end, Louisa puts it together that Hugh Jarvis was once romantically involved with Vasilia who now sees Mrs. Durrell as a rival for his affections. The jealous landlady may even be responsible for the widespread food contamination, since as rumor has it, Vasilia poisoned a lover who dumped her in the past. Fortunately, Spiros comes to the rescue again by lending Louisa the money to pay up her rent and get the spiteful proprietress off her back…for now.
The island is becoming an unsafe space for Gerry’s animals. The real Gerald Durrell was a naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, and the author of The Corfu Trilogy on which this series is based. In this episode, young Gerry is as enthralled as ever by nature. So much so in fact that his discovery of otter excreta has him practically giddy. Later while surveilling the pond, Gerry spots a playful otter and can’t wait to show his discovery to kindred spirit Theo Stephanides (Yorgos Karamihos). When he brings his friend back to the site, however, they find the otter has been killed in a fisherman’s trap. Subsequently, the two animal lovers embark on an otter breeding program and successfully capture their first specimen.
Gerry’s constant canine companion Roger found himself in harm’s way as well. In a demonstration of gun safety, Leslie accidently clipped the dog’s back leg. This was a problematic turn of events for me as I am one of those “I don’t care who dies in a movie as long as the dog lives” types. Fortunately, Roger’s wound wasn’t life-threatening and Leslie quickly got that poor animal medical attention at the Petrides’ surgery. To cover up his carelessness, Leslie tells Gerry that the Petrides asked to borrow Roger since they have no children. Gerry eventually discovers the truth and Leslie makes amends by fashioning a wheelchair of sorts for the pooch.
Margo explores her spiritual side. You may recall Margo’s encounters with a young monk when her family first moved to Corfu. He objected to her sunbathing until she offered him cigarettes. Now it would seem Margo sees Pavlos (Nikos Orestis Chaniotakis) in a romantic light because he’s sweet and talks about beauty and love rather than money, violence and poo.
Her family must break the news that monks take a vow of celibacy and therefore don’t make ideal boyfriends. In fact at dinner, Pavlos tells Margo that God is his girlfriend. With a desire to be as peaceful and calm as her monk pal, Margo decides to research what being a Greek nun would entail, and no surprise, Theo has a book on the subject.
Larry’s creative drought comes to an end. With a novel about to be published, Larry is under pressure to get writing again. He attributes his writer’s block to location and so packs up his typewriter to find an inspiring spot to weave a story. Unfortunately, nowhere seems conducive to creativity since his tapping annoys fellow Corfiots and solitude is not a helpful muse.
Larry steps away from his work to try and assist the family with their problems. Leslie tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s bookish and impractical and therefore the last person who could help. Setting out to prove his brother wrong, Lawrence decides to confront Vasilia about harassing his family which accomplishes little and merely leaves him feeling dazed and ineffectual.
Finally, while observing the chaos which regularly breaks out at his house, Larry finally realizes he’s been surrounded by more bizarre stories than he could ever make up. Larry's family is stranger than fiction and he just can’t stop smiling.
So what did you think about the debut of Season 2? Will we be seeing more of the rich, but somewhat obnoxious, Mr. Jarvis? Will Vasilia remain a thorn in the Durrells' collective side? Is Margo serious about a life of prayer and self-sacrifice? Has Leslie really given up weaponry? Share your thoughts about this episode and your hopes for the season as a whole.