A word of warning before you read further. This review contain spoilers for both episodes of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, therefore if you have not seen the end of the programme, you may wish to avert your eyes.
The heady influence of opium is as evident in the second part of this adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood as in the first, and is used to cover a multitude of sins. Rather than have Drood disappear at the end of the first part, as is the case in the manuscript of Dickens’ unfinished final novel, Gwyneth Hughes chose to show viewers what they though was his perverted and drug-addled Uncle Jasper strangling him with a necktie. This was a mistake, as it detracted from the mystery of Drood’s disappearance, and most of the second episode is spent waiting for Jasper’s crime to be discovered (even, it would seem, by Jasper himself). However, as with the opening of the first episode, Drood’s murder was shown to be nothing but a hallucination, a memory of another crime. While this red herring did allow for a series of surprise plot twists, including the discovery that Edwin’s long-dead father, Edwin Drood Sr., was not quite as long-dead as had previously been believed, these twists were neither as shocking nor as hard-hitting as they could have been.
Although the plot was somehow wanting, the acting in the second part was as stunning as in the first, with Bazzard (David Dawson), Mr Grewgious’s clerk, coming into his own in the attempt to solve the mystery, and excellent performances from the young Alfie Davis as Deputy the orphan boy and Ron Cook as Durdles throwing a little humour into the otherwise chilling mix. But of course, it is Matthew Rhys who steals the show, with his excellent portrayal of Jasper’s descent into madness (although even he cannot make the character sympathetic.
Not as captivating as the first installment despite the quality of the acting, Episode 2 of The Mystery of Edwin Drood left me with the feeling that Dickens’ last novel is better left unfinished.