Deadwater Fell is a series that’s deeply interested in forcing us, as viewers, to confront our assumptions and prejudices about the kind of story we’re watching.
Thanks to procedurals and true crime podcasts, we’ve all been conditioned to immediately assume one thing: If a woman is dead, the husband is guilty af. After all, it’s usually true. They’re the people who are most likely to have a motive, means and access, and we’ve all seen too many dead-eyed, control freaks just like Tom Kendricks who end up hurting women they’re close to.
Thanks to a combination of clever writing and a sly, layered performance from star David Tennant, it’s difficult to know for certain if Tom is the monster we initially expect him to be. Isn’t it equally possible that he’s just a grieving husband and father, laid low by the loss of his girls and his inability to save his troubled wife? Or shouldn’t it be?
Deadwater Fell’s second episode is largely filtered through Jess’ perspective, who seems to want nothing so much as to validate her suspicions of Tom’s predatory and aggressive behavior in part to alleviate her own guilt over having slept with her best friend’s husband. Through her eyes, we see various moments from the Hendricks’ marriage recast as dangerous warning signs. Once Jess starts suspecting Tom, everything suddenly becomes a sign of his guilt. He’s too impatient with his mother, too flippant toward his wife’s obvious unhappiness, and a serial adulterer to boot.
Now, to be fair, she might be right. It’s really easy to see how that story could play out narratively, and not one of us would be surprised. And there’s clearly something wrong with a man who feels the need to keep sleeping with his wife’s friends in order to keep her isolated and lonely. That doesn’t mean he’s a murderer though.
It doesn’t mean Kate is either, obviously, but there’s every hint that there was something dark going on with her too and that was apparent well before the hour-ending flashback that revealed that she was the one who dragged her runaway daughter back in the house the night it burned down.
Clearly the town itself realizes that too, as many of the Kirkdarroch residents choose sides at the Kendricks’ family funeral. Everyone’s mourning the girls, of course, but despite the suspicion that’s swirling around Tom, people don’t necessarily seem to think Kate’s so innocent either. Granted, there are probably better ways to express that than boycotting her part of the memorial service or defacing her grave marker.
Really makes you wonder what these people really thought of this supposedly golden family.
Elsewhere, Jess confesses to Steve that she slept with Tom, and he takes it about as well as can be expected for a man who just went to an IVF session with the wife who just told him she’s been unfaithful. The arrival of weirdo town local Dylan – first spotted wandering naked through the episode’s opening moments – at the police station to tell Steve that he saw Tom out in the woods the night the Kendricks’ house burned down turns things on its head, until it doesn’t.
Because it turns out he’s a liar – Tom wasn’t in the woods that night. Kate was. Given that Dylan has only just arrived in this story it’s impossible to get a solid read on his motivations. Is he claiming to have seen Tom because he has some sort of axe to grind? Was he drunk or on drugs? Or is he trying to cover up his own involvement in the fire in some way?
After all, the idea of an unlikely stranger or robber being responsible for the fire and all those depths is only preposterous if it doesn’t turn out to be true.
What do you think of Deadwater Fell’s second installment? Any theories on what’s going on? Let’s discuss in the comments.