‘The Essex Serpent’ Episode 5: Recap And Ending, Explained – What Causes Cora And Martha’s Fallout?


Last week, Episode 4 of “The Essex Serpent” somewhat concluded the storyline by blaming Cora (Claire Danes) for the attacks by the titular, mythic creature. The disappearance of Naomi (Lily-Rose Aslandogdu), the death of Cracknell (Christopher Fairbank), and the discovery of Cora’s serpentine burn mark sends the town over the edge and forces Cora to leave with Frankie (Caspar Griffiths) and Martha (Hayley Squires). But that’s not the real reason why Cora leaves; it’s because she’s known for being headstrong and not bending to the will of the masses. She leaves due to the intensity of her affair with Will (Tom Hiddleston) and since she thinks that it is going to make a mess of the already messy situation.

Major Spoilers Ahead

Cora And Martha Have A Verbal Battle

Titled “I Break Things,” “The Essex Serpent” Episode 5 opens with Will, Matthew (Michael Jibson), and the rest of the village looking for Naomi. Will goes to reassure Henry (Gerard Kearns) that they are going to eventually find Naomi, but Henry rubbishes that by saying Will said the same thing about Gracie (Rebecca Ineson). Will then checks in on the Seaborne household and sees that they’re all gone. Stella (Clémence Poésy) coughs up blood while packing for London. When Will asks why she wants to go to London, Stella reveals that she is sick and Dr. Luke (Frank Dillane) has agreed to see her without an appointment. After some trepidation about going and living with Cora, Will agrees to leave for London and live there with Charles (Nitin Ganatra) while Stella gets checked.

In London, Cora has confined herself to her room, apparently heartbroken and traumatized by the events at the village. Martha lifts her spirits by delivering the mail about the Society wanting to see her findings on the alleged plesiosaur. When Cora asks how they found out about it, Martha reveals she’s the one who sent her research to the Society. Martha inquires if there’s anything else for her from Aldwinter, which means she’s hoping for a letter from Will. She appears disappointed after knowing that there isn’t any, but doesn’t succumb to it and takes a trip to the Royal Geographical Society. On their way, Frankie sees a poster of a skeletal display of a blue whale and says that he wants to see it. Cora promises to take him there another day.

At the Royal Geographical Society, Cora presents the fossil she has found on the beaches of Essex. Professor Marchand (Raul Fernandes) is impressed by it and asks for more. When Cora says she doesn’t, Marchand advises her to return and look for more. On their way back home, Cora and Frankie cross the ominous red-sailed boat again. Martha introduces Sali (Deepica Stephen) to Cora. Sali asks Cora if she’s coming to her home with Charles to persuade him to fix it. Cora excuses herself by saying she is tired and essentially tells Sali to leave the house. Realizing something is wrong, Martha talks to Cora, who relays Marchand’s inference. Martha says Cora can’t do that, and she needs to forget about Essex. This leads to a quarrel between them.

Cora asks why Martha sent her to the Society. Martha says she did so because she thought it would help her return to reality. Cora says that she’s trying. Martha mockingly says that lying around in bed all day and crying over a married man aren’t the best signs of Cora trying to regain normalcy. Martha emphasizes that all this is going to gravely impact Frankie and that they need to move past this nonsense and focus on Frankie and his education. Cora makes an off-handed comment about Martha pretending like she and Cora are a couple. And Martha realizes that Cora is telling her to know her place. Martha, understandably furious, makes it a point to let Cora know what she has done and leaves. Cora ends up venting some of her frustration on Frankie, and as an apology, she promises to take him to see the whale the next day.

Martha meets up with George (Jamael Westman) to complain about her equation with Cora and how it’s now going to potentially hamper the plan to help Sali. Will, along with his family, sets off for London. John (Ryan Reffell) notices that there’s blood on the boats. Will realizes that it is Matthew’s doing because he thinks it’ll protect the village from the serpent. Will tries to wash it off but eventually gives up and focuses on reassuring his scared kids that Naomi will come home. They have to keep their faith. On their way to London, John shows interest in seeing the whale and asks why they can’t go to the museum as soon as they arrive. To avoid revealing Stella’s sickness, she says she and Will have some business in town. So, they’ll see the whale later. Jo (Dixie Egerickx) asks if they’re going to see Cora. Will promptly says “no,” but Stella tells Jo that they will see her soon.

Martha, Cora, and Luke Convince Charles To Repair His Constituency

Stella, accompanied by Will, gets herself checked by Luke, who is assisted by George. Luke runs some tests and comes to the conclusion that Stella is suffering from tuberculosis. Will says that the doctor at Aldwinter said it isn’t so serious, and Luke refutes that claim by saying that that doctor is a fool. Will recommends Stella to leave Luke’s clinic and go elsewhere. Luke recommends partaking in a radical experiment, which might just be her only hope of survival. Luke, Will, and George argue about whether to perform surgery on Stella or give her medication. Stella interjects and says that she doesn’t want to be treated. Luke warns her about the repercussions of that. Stella has an isolated conversation with Will and says that she doesn’t want to spend her precious time in a hospital.

Upon Stella’s request, Will takes Jo and John on their day out (while Stella goes and rests at Charles’s place), and Will has a transcendental moment in front of the skeleton of the blue whale. While walking through the museum, Will notices Cora and Frankie on the opposite end of the gallery. They meet in the middle to have an awkward conversation about why Will is in London, why Cora left for London, and then Will abruptly leaves with Jo and John. Back at her home, Martha welcomes her (because Martha knows she has to put up appearances until Cora visits Sali’s place with Charles. Will and his family return to Aldwinter, and Jo immediately departs to check if Naomi is back. But the only thing she finds is the dead body of one of Cracknell’s goats.

Will wonders if he is being judged for his actions via Stella’s sickness. For a second, it seems like Will is going to confess about having an affair with Cora. But Stella, probably presuming what Will is about to say, tells Will that he’s a good man. Cora asks Martha if they can brush their fight under the rug and reassures Martha that she’s trying to become normal again. Martha tells Cora that she has to stop thinking about things she can’t have.

The following day, Cora meets Luke, and Luke asks her why she didn’t write to him after returning to London. Cora asks Luke the same question. Luke responds by saying that he has an excuse, i.e., he is unreliable. They exchange smiles, and Cora talks about Aldwinter turning on her and deciding that she’s evil. Finally, they circle around to the topic of supporting Nev (Yaamin Chowdhury) and Sali, and Luke agrees to help them if Cora goes with him to a party where he’s going to get an award. Cora agrees to do so while returning the necklace he had given her on her birthday as a gift.

As a gesture of making amends, Cora brings Martha’s breakfast at her bed. Martha asks Cora if she’ll come with her to collect Luke. Cora politely refuses the proposal by saying that she’d rather have breakfast with Frankie. Martha proceeds to get an inebriated or tired (same difference) Luke ready for the visit to the slums. George subtly warns Martha about Luke’s situation. Luke tries to avoid going with her, but Martha, adamant as hell, gets Luke up on his feet. While George goes to get Luke a strong coffee, Luke and Martha talk about keeping George in the dark about their affair, if Luke was any good at sex (Martha says she has forgotten about it already), and not wasting Luke’s love on Cora because she won’t know what to do with it. Then, they proceed to the slums.

At Sali and Nev’s house, Martha urges Sali to give Charles a glass of water. Sali gives Charles tap water, and he gets the point that everyone is trying to make because the water is muddy in color. Luke points out that the water has poisonous gas mixed in it, the same thing that has blackened the window frames of the building. Luke asks where Sali disposes of the pots used for excrement. She says that it’s dumped in the sewage, and if it overflows, she goes further down to do the needful. Luke asks if the place is infested with vermin. Martha, speaking for Sali, says that, of course, it is. Charles says that this has been an informative visit and tries to walk away from the place. Cora, Martha, and Luke corner Charles and badger him until he agrees to talk to his colleagues and raise a bill for the repair of the slums.

Tragedy Strikes Cora, Martha, Will, And Luke

While preparing to go out with Luke for his award acceptance party, Cora mentions that it doesn’t feel right to do this. Martha says that feeling guilty and staying inside is not a solution. But joining the Communist movement is. Cora says that Martha is brilliant and she’s wasting her talents here. Martha says that she wants to do more and then supposes that Cora and Frankie won’t need her forever. Cora doesn’t answer. Martha warns Cora to be careful with Luke. Cora brushes off the warning by saying that they’re friends; hence, there’s nothing to worry about. And on that note, Cora and Luke leave for the party.

Talking about the party, it starts pretty well. But as Luke and Cora start to get more and more drunk, Luke proposes the idea of getting married to Cora. Cora obviously laughs, thinking that it’s a joke. When she realizes that Luke is being serious, she says that she can’t because her husband has been dead for a few months. Luke tells Cora to bugger her husband because she never loved him. Then, finally, Luke admits that he’s in love with Cora. Cora asks if friendship can be enough. Luke, getting furious little by little, says that that means he is only going to get “crumbs.” Luke then insinuates that Cora is waiting for Stella to die so she can marry Will. Cora doesn’t believe that Stella is dying, and Luke continues to taunt Cora about it.

Cora leaves the party. Luke feels humiliated and leaves the party too. Cora goes back home and complains about Luke’s proposal to Martha. Martha tells Cora that Luke is, in fact, in love with Cora. She even tells Cora that she has no idea how painful it is to love her. They get into a quarrel as Cora blames her dead husband for her confused state of mind, and Martha leaves, again. Cora furiously breaks the vase with the golden stitches and trashes her entire home. Luke gets mugged. Back in Aldwinter, Will prays to God and renounces his sins, and requests the Almighty to bring “her” back to him (which can be a reference to Stella or Cora).

See More: ‘The Essex Serpent’ Episode 4: Recap And Ending, Explained – Why Does Cora Leave For London?

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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