A bereft husband walks along the bank of a river until he comes to his wife curled on the ground, crying for their deceased daughter. He doesn't run to his wife. Instead, he only picks up his pace slightly as he takes off his coat and puts it over her crumpled body. He helps her up and looks over the marsh as a gentle wind blows the reedy grasses haphazardly about. "I'll take you home," he says. "Okay? I'll take you home."
The husband's gesture is rooted in futility and pain, beauty and kindness. As Thomas Wolfe once wrote, "You can never go home again." This is particularly true when you live in Southcliffe--a quaint but provincial town set in gloomy, fictional England. A lone gunman has gone on a killing spree, murdering a number of community members without ceremony or fanfare. One neighbor is working in her garden. There are no witness to her murder. Only a single bullet from afar.
The husband and wife crying along the river bank are just two more of town's victim-survivors, grappling to come to terms with what's left of their life. The mass shooting and the murder of their daughter took place more than a year ago when the scene is presented. You can never go home again.
This is how the four-part miniseries unwinds for its viewers. It is a slow and patient drama that jumps from past to present and back again. It is a masterpiece of pace and elliptical pauses. The acting is heart-wrenching and brilliant. The script soars with unadorned language in which some of the most vicious and touching lines unfold in the spaces between words.
For T.V. Journalist David Whithead (Rory Kinear), who has been sent back to his hometown to cover the unfolding tragedy, Thomas Wolfe's famous quote means something entirely different. As a boy growing up in Southcliffe, he was routinely bullied by the townsfolk in the wake of his father's sudden and unexpected death. He knows Southcliffe to a brutal and unforgiving place wrapped in the niceties of dishonesty and pretense. Yet, at the command of his manager, return he must. In the year that follows, we watch him--and several others in the community--struggle with the tragedy's psycho-emotional aftermath: Were the shootings really random? Did we, as a community, do something to deserve them?
The husband's gesture to take his wife back to their home is beautiful and kind--not because things are going to be any better when they walk through the front door--but rather because the husband is committed to suffering eternally with his wife and the town of Southcliffe.