It seems unlikely that anyone is watching Acorn TV's The Larkins for its high-stakes drama. There really isn't any. Each episode usually features an overarching plot, but none of them are what you might call deep. This week, the hour's larger "story", such as it is, involves Pa Larkin turning his sweet grifting skills to saving the town railway station, a move that involves encouraging local school children to take educational rides together as a class, getting town train enthusiasts to help, and bringing in the family's excess strawberry crop to serve as the refreshment cart.
On paper, so little about the Larkin family (and Pa in particular) makes sense - how they're surviving, let alone somehow keeping most of their village afloat at the same time, exactly how it's possible for them to be on-paper broke, yet so consistently unconcerned about the basics of day to day living, exactly what it is that Pa does all day, that kind of thing. And yet, when the word begins to spread that the Littlechurch train station is about to shut down, he springs into action, with the same determination with which he tackles every other problem, despite the fact that we've literally never heard him mention the word train before.
But, though this episode is technically about what it says on the tin - Pa's grand scheme to save the local railway station from closure - it's not really the primary story of the episode or a task that has any real tension in it. We all know from the start that his zany plan will be successful, despite the fact that there's little reason it should be. (A couple of artificially full rides seems unlikely to solve the railway's long-term ridership problems, but happily, Pa also discovers that the local stationmaster has been skimming off the top, so perhaps the trains will survive after all.)
Instead, most of it actually focuses on Mariette's love life. Charley the tax accountant is still a pseudo-boarder at the Larkin home, still clearly sweet on the elder Larkin daughter, and debating what to do about his future. (And the fact that someone's going to notice eventually if he keeps calling in sick to work.)
He decides to help with Littlechurch's annual strawberry picking because he's a guy in a show like this, where things like that happen. Multiple women have noticed that Charley is both new in town and male, so they're throwing themselves at them accordingly - stripping down to their bras to pick fruit in the fields and openly leering at him as they pass by his tallying table.
Even Mariette's former BFF Pauline is getting in on the act, making vaguely sexually suggestive comments and going on about how maybe it's time she dates a guy who isn't a complete jerk. Mariette, naturally, is jealous that other women are flirting with Charley, and basically forbids him from dating her ex-friend. It's interesting that The Larkins seems to want to push the idea that there's an actual love triangle happening here between Charley, Mariette, and Tom, when for all that Tom's the Good on Paper Guy she should probably be into, it seems evident that she's going to pick Charley in the end.
I mean, I will not say no to shirtless Hot Tom during the show's attempt to actually make this triangle a thing that's actually happening, but given that everyone else on the canvas is essentially openly shipping Mariette with Charley, it's just...it all feels kind of pointless. (And I say this as one of the only people who is actually Team Tom in this situation.)
I wish the show were actually doing more when it comes to Pa and Ma's meddling re: Mariette's love life. Ma, in particular, seems mostly interested in backing whichever man she thinks will be more likely to keep her daughter in Kent than actually make her happy and though she's partial to Charlie, I think she'd literally be in favor of anyone that could get her to stay home. (Which you know, makes you think she would be Team Tom, as he's the one actually constantly campaigning about the virtues of Kent to her?)
Perhaps it's the seeming inevitability of the Mariette/Charley situation that makes the ongoing fallout between the elder Larkin daughter and her former friend feel so much more interesting to watch. On the one hand, the fact that this is the second catfight between the two women in as many episodes is a bit eye-roll inducing, yet, it certainly feels like whatever is happening between them goes well beyond some boy, and one can only hope the show will delve further into this at some point.
Because even though the episode ends with Charley woefully watching Tom kiss Mariette, it still feels like it's only a matter of time before he ends up with her. (And what will happen to Hot Tom then? He's a little old for Primrose...)