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Great Expectations

Great Expectations season 1

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Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

Thirteen-year-old Pip lost his parents a few years back from smallpox. Now he lives with his angry, abusive older sister, Sara, and her kindly blacksmith husband, Joe. 

He dreams every day about a vast world beyond the moors of England–the kind he reads about in his books and memorizes from Shakespeare. 

One day, that world is opened to him when he is invited to the “haunted” home of the mysterious, wealthy Miss Havisham. His paid job, Pip believes, is to become a playmate for this woman’s daughter, Estella. But when he arrives, he finds that this isn’t really the case. His job is actually to obey whatever Miss Havisham asks of him, and that never includes spending innocent, harmless time with Estella. Slowly, he learns that there is always an ulterior, often twisted motive. 

Eventually, Miss Havisham asks Pip what he is expecting to gain from this arrangement. And he tells her that his desire is to learn to become a gentleman. 

So she trains him as such. But soon Pip learns that to lead the life of a gentleman he must confront everything Miss Havisham has ever taught him and face the fact that he lives in an immoral world that refuses to be tender. 

A Dickens Horror, I Say!

Welcome to the bleak, dismal, demented twist on Charles Dickens’ popular novel, Great Expectations. 

You may be asking, why Hulu would want to take a classic and butcher it until it is nearly unrecognizable? Well, because it seems that producer Steven Knight must enjoy shows like Peaky Blinders and Vikings and that he fancies showing viewers the evil that lurks within humanity. And, it seems, he and his crew are bent on exposing it with praiseworthy acting, eye-catching scenery and the upheaval of morality. 

This modern adaptation, encapsulated in a six-episode miniseries, takes a well-known classic and twists it into something many viewers (especially those familiar with Dickens’ book)  may, in fact, hate. It’s filled with abuse, shuddering violence, a hefty stock of profanity and more than one terrifying wink at sadistic sexual fantasies and encounters that border on the demonic. 

Perhaps the most horrifying element is how gleefully the show wallows in this content. Two episodes in, I was nearly convinced that the entire point of this series was to force brutality on its viewers and scoff at the very idea that they may not enjoy what they’re seeing. 

If Dickens had the ability to watch this adaptation, he’d find that the miniseries contains some similar elements to his book (and this is a stretch). But he would much rather turn in his grave than be subjected to how the show twists them. And you may too.

Episode Reviews

Mar. 26, 2023 – S1, Ep1: “Episode 1”

Pip yearns to leave his dismal, hopeless town where he feels trapped in his sister’s home. But meanwhile, the boy is asked to frequent the home of a mysterious woman to become a playmate for her 13-year-old daughter. 

Two prisoners fight one another, and one says that when he gets out he will find the man’s wife, insinuating acts violent in nature. One prisoner sets a ship on fire and he and his nemesis escape. Later, these two men attempt to kill one another in the mud. (We do see a brutal fight, including stabbings.) 

Pip’s sister, Sara, threatens to whip Pip if he leaves her house. Pip doesn’t fear her, as it’s clear he’s used to the abuse and has become desensitized to it. Joe, Sara’s husband, asks Sara not to strike him again. When Pip goes to the house of the mysterious woman (Miss Havisham), he’s asked to play with her daughter.  But Miss Havisham watches and directs their play as she blindfolds Pip. The game is meant to show Pip that love is not fair, but there is a sadistic undertone to the entire scene as the mother tells both children “sometimes I have sick fantasies about what I want.” 

Pip’s sister, Sara, tells Pip that bringing in holly berries is the same thing as summoning the devil. An escaped convict threatens Pip, telling him he has the ability to “burn [his] brains and twist [his] beliefs.” He also threatens to kill Pip and his entire family. Pip asks Estella, Miss Havisham’s daughter, if ghosts roam in her home, to which she replies “ghosts would be afraid to come.” 

The opening scene shows a young man tying a rope around his neck and jumping from a bridge (we never see if his attempt at suicide was completed). 

The f-word and s-word are used four times each. Other profanities and insults include “h—,” “a–,” “burn in hell” and “gutless rat.” A teenage Pip admits to drinking alcohol. 

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kristin-smith
Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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