The promise of a period drama set in a remote town in Essex, starring Tom Hiddleston, Clémence Poésy, and Claire Danes, sounded amazing. But it landed with a thud last week as it did nothing other than prove that “The Essex Serpent” has wasted the opportunity to make the most of its premise and talent. Episode 2 concluded with Cora (Claire Danes) trying to educate the town’s students about fossils in an attempt to drive away any kind of myth-building activities. However, that goes horribly wrong as Naomi (Lily-Rose Aslandogdu) suffers from a seizure, thereby cementing the superstitions about godless women acting as a magnet for the titular Essex serpent.
The First Signs Of Cora and Will’s Intimacy Emerge
Directed by Clio Barnard and written by Jess Brittain, “The Essex Serpent” Episode 3 opens with another “Jaws”-Esque sequence where a fisherman falls into the water after something swims under the boat. The seagulls start squawking. The fishnet gets dragged into the water. It seems like something is going to get the fisherman, but in the nick of time, the fisherman manages to get into the boat. In the Seaborne household, Cora and Martha (Hayley Squires) discuss the details of what happened at school with the children. Cora blames herself for the fiasco, while Martha tries to pacify her. In the Ransome household, it’s revealed that the whole experience has traumatized Jo (Dixie Egerickx) enough to rob her of her ability to speak.
Stella tells Will to talk to Cora about Jo because she was there when the incident happened. Martha sends Frankie (Caspar Griffiths) to Cracknell’s (Christopher Fairbank) to get some milk. But that’s only to keep him away from the discussion about what happened at the school, what’s up with Jo, and why Luke (Frank Dillane) is coming. Well, on his way out, Frankie does encounter Luke but doesn’t dwell on it. Cora and Luke rush to the school. Cracknell teaches Frankie to milk the goat, while Cora explains to Luke what happened. Luke tries to rationalize the children’s behavior, but Cora says that there wasn’t anything remotely rational about their behavior. Matthew (Michael Jibson) chances upon Luke and Cora and again blames her for poisoning the kids with her “heretical ideas.”
Will tries to get a word or two out of Jo on their way to school but fails. At the school, Michael confronts Will about the incident because he knows about Will’s friendship with Cora. Will asks him to not spread rumors. Matthew talks about the attack on the fishing boat to insinuate that the Essex serpent is real. When Matthew sees Naomi arrive, he casts her out because he thinks she’s trouble. Naomi, who is grieving and traumatized, leaves, and Will reprimands Matthew for his idiotic behavior. Naomi is seen walking by the shore, crying. On their way back from school, Luke and Cora talk about the serpent. Luke oscillates between the ideas that the serpent is in Cora’s head and that she should be more passionate about proving or disproving the existence of the serpent instead of worrying about what others think of her methods.
Will meets up with Cora to check on her after what happened at school. It seems like Will wants to say something other than the incident, but Luke keeps interrupting him from the other room. Will leaves for his home, and Cora goes after him. They talk a little more elaborately about the incident at the school, and Cora admits that she made a grave mistake and scared the children. Eventually, they arrive at the topic of helping Jo and resuming her ability to speak. Cora suggests letting Luke have a look at Jo because he’s a doctor. Will agrees. But before she leaves, Will notices that Cora is out here without a coat and gives her his scarf (in a visibly romantic way). The moment lingers long enough to suggest they are developing feelings for each other, but then they go their separate ways.
Essex Gets More And More Superstitious
Cora thinks about the potential moment of intimacy with Will. But she’s distracted by Luke, who offers her a drink and talks about her birthday party and how he’s going to throw one for her since she’s so disinterested in organizing one. Then Cora brings up the topic of Jo and her inability to speak. Luke says that he wants to try hypnosis on Jo in order to bring her back to normal. Cora wonders if it’s safe. Luke assures her that it is and even demonstrates it by hypnotizing Cora. We don’t get to see the end result. What we do get to see is Will looking at his sleeping wife, tucking her in, and then looking out of the house, probably at Cora’s general direction, thereby hinting that he is, in fact, falling for her but is guilty about cheating on Stella.
Cut to the next day, when Luke and Cora go to the spot where Will found the fossil in order to look for more signs of the serpent. When Cora comes across something that makes her feel good about her research, they return to the town’s shores, and Naomi spots Luke and Cora. Cora asks the women there about what has transpired. They tell Cora about the incident with the fishermen. Some of the men working there get aggressive after noticing Cora being so inquisitive and insinuate that she knows more about the serpent than they do. The women there double down on the superstition that Cora is some kind of a beacon for the serpent and tell her to stop whatever she’s doing. Luke pulls her away from the conversation, and they go home.
Naomi goes to the bar to meet with a guy, and they get a little intimate outside. Naomi bails on him, saying that what she’s doing is sinful, and the guy slut-shames her and her sister. Naomi goes home and prays to God for forgiveness. The following day, Michael and some of the other villagers arrive at the barricade that was built to catch the serpent and see that it has been broken. Martha, Cora, and Luke pay the Ransome household a visit to look at Jo. Luke proposes the idea of hypnotizing Jo to Stella in order to get her talking again. Jo agrees to it. Martha wonders if they should wait until the man of the house comes, i.e., Will. Cora says Stella’s consent will suffice. Luke notices Stella’s coughing.
‘The Essex Serpent’ Episode 3: Ending Explained – Does Stella Notice Will Cheating On Her With Cora?
Will goes to the church and notices Matthew in there praying and sobbing. Will tries to reason with Matthew in the hopes that he’s going to calm down and not rile up the townsfolk with all that talk about a serpent. But that doesn’t work because Matthew is just too far gone. He connects everything from the scratches on Gracie’s body to the attack on the boat to Jo’s inability to speak to the existence of a mythical serpent that is causing every problem in the world. He accuses Will of failing to keep people safe, thereby appointing himself as the protector of the town. Will takes one look at the cross and then takes to the shores and swims into the waters to prove that there’s no serpent. And, surprise, surprise, the seagulls start squawking. The camera behaves in a way to give us the idea that something is looking at Will from below, but nothing comes for him.
Back in the Ransome household, Luke hypnotizes Jo, and he gets her to talk. Luke asks Jo whether what happened in the classroom upset her or not. Jo says that she feels like she should’ve stopped it to prevent her friend Naomi from being embarrassed and shunned. Luke assures her that she did nothing wrong. Jo talks about doing the spell with Naomi and how she thinks that that brought the curse and the serpent to Essex. Next, Jo says that the spell was supposed to be a secret and that she thinks that the serpent is in Naomi and herself. Sensing that things have gone too far, Luke tells Naomi to exit the trance. Will enters his house and gets angry upon seeing Luke hypnotizing Jo and attacks him. Cora leaves with Luke and reunites with Frankie and Martha. The following day, Cora meets Will. They get into an argument but get a little intimate. “The Essex Serpent,” episode 3 ends with Stella noticing Will and Cora getting close.