The Larkins' third episode, "In Which Ma and Pa Go on Holiday," is basically exactly what it says on the tin, and no one is likely at all surprised, or even remotely upset, by that fact. Part of the appeal of this show is its quiet straightforwardness, which sees its characters navigate the sort of small, domestic adventures that are easily solvable in a forty-five-minute runtime. As you may have guessed, this installment involves the Larkin parents going away for the weekend, which allows us, as viewers, a chance to see the pair of them in a new light, even as it creates the opportunity for shenanigans of all sorts during their absence from the family farm.
The relationship between Ma and Pa Larkin is one of the best things about this show - most couples of a certain age on television are lucky to be seen as anything beyond basic wallpaper, let alone imagined as beings that still have rich inner lives or do anything as openly human as flirt with their longtime partners or (gasp!) experience sexual attraction. But The Larkins embraces Ma and Pa's relationship, casting it as the engine which powers literally everything around them, from the family they're raising to the village they live in and even random gatherings of strangers they encounter on vacation. It's also unafraid to show them being both loving toward and attracted to each other. (Ma makes a sex joke in this episode! I cannot!)
Yet, both Pa and Ma are good-hearted people and kind, but more importantly, they are open to adventure - even fun - in a way characters in their particular age bracket are often not allowed to be, and even when they inevitably mention how much their miss their quiet life in Kent while on holiday, both affirm that taking time for themselves and their relationship should be an important part of their lives together.
For a show that leans so hard into its kitschy old-timey appeal, The Larkins is surprisingly modern in a lot of ways, and that's been a real delight to see.
That the two find themselves embroiled in the drama of a shotgun society wedding while on holiday shouldn't surprise anyone, it seems to be how all the Larkins kind of roll. What is surprising is how genuinely they seem to care about the people involved, from the secretly pregnant daughter of a duchess to the below-her-station-suitor she wants to marry. Like they're not just busybodies who love drama. This is, perhaps, why their constant interfering isn't as annoying in practice as it seems like it should be on paper.
Is it a little weird how easily everyone seems to accept these gregarious strangers barging into their lives and personal business? Probably. But I also feel like Bradley Walsh just generally exudes the sort of vibe that could make you want to tell him all your secrets and get some comforting advice, so...sure?
Yes, the bit where they're literally running away with a couple who aren't ready for the wedding their parents are forcing them into is a bit (okay, kind of a lot) silly, but none of their care for the two young people feels false or disingenuous, and their determination to let them decide their future for themselves is both genuine and sweet. I want Ma and Pa Larkin to give me life advice, is really what I'm saying.
Elsewhere, with the parents away Mariette is left in charge of the Larkin brood - and strangely, enough so is Charley, now established as a sort of pseudo-boarder who is, I think meant to be helping Pa get out of his tax debt, but seems to spend most of his time learning about the simple pleasures of farm life and mooning after the elder Larkin daughter.
Given what we see in the rest of the episode, it's apparently not strange for the family to pick up strays in this way, and I suppose the fact of Charley's presence is more important than the reasons for it, but it is...well, I wish we'd maybe seen more of his thinking about his decision to fake a sick note so he can stay on the farm with the fam. (He doesn't seem like a person who regularly fakes being ill to get out of work, so I don't know it feels like this should be/is important?)
Given Charley's profession, it's hard to grasp how he's somehow even more naive and less worldly than the Larkin children, who spend their lives hustling on a farm in the middle of nowhere. He gets swindled playing snooker, burns breakfast, and ultimately seems 100% incapable of doing basic domestic tasks. In a way it's charming, but he's so clearly meant as part of a love interest for Mariette that it's hard to get a sense of who Charley is in his own right.
As for Mariette, she finally goes on a date with Hot Tom, which I am very supportive of simply because he is hot, but it's sort of derailed by a sudden and public face-off with her former BFF Pauline, who waitresses at the restaurant he takes her to. Before it's all ruined, though, the date did seem to be going fairly well - and Tom offered Marriettte a job at his new hotel, so at least it doesn't look like this love triangle is going anywhere anytime soon.
Marriette's falling out with Pauline feels so true to the idiosyncrasies of small-town life, though, and their blow-up gives Mariette's desire to escape her village and reinvent herself the emotional heft it lacked in the first two episodes, where it seems like she just wants to travel and wear a beret. Though I do wish Sabrina Bartlett didn't immediately take Mariette up to eleven in this scene, ready to brawl and throw wine at a moment's notice. There's something much more intriguing about she plays her later when Mariette admits she doesn't want to live the rest of her life with these same people she's known forever, and who know everything she's ever done.
There's still no way she's actually leaving home, but - well, I get her desire to do so more than I did before.
New episodes of The Larkins arrive Mondays on Acorn TV.