As the series gets underway, Flora Berryman (Vanessa Redgrave) tells Adam (Julian Morris) about a cottage she owned. Flora explains that the cottage was Adam’s grandfather’s and that she never really cared for it. We jump back in time and see Flora Talbot (Joanna Vanderham) receive a letter from Michael Berryman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Michael is in the military. One night, Michael comes across a wounded soldier, Thomas March (James McArdle). Michael meets up with the man in the infirmary later. Michael explains that the man was lucky. He was saved by his sketchbook. The couple begins hanging out more frequently. Michael tells March about Flora back home. He insists she is like a sister to him.
The two men meet behind a tree one night. Thomas gives his new friend a kiss. He also tells Michael to find him when the war ends. Then, Flora learns that the war is coming to an end. Her students celebrate. Michael leaves and tries to visit Thomas. He is introduced to the landlord, Lucien (Adrian Schiller). The man is flamboyant and doesn’t attempt to hide it. Michael heads upstairs to the studio and reunites with Thomas. The men waste no time getting romantic. Before we know it, they’re naked in bed together. Michael explains that Flora doesn’t know he has returned yet. The two travel to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. The men chat about sending letters to one another. Thomas admits he wrote letters, but never sent them out.
The men spend several days at the cottage. When they prepare to leave, Michael breaks the bad news that he is set to marry Flora. He invites Thomas to the wedding. Thomas isn’t happy, but he attends the event anyway. He also brings along a gift. After the small wedding, Flora, Thomas, and Michael share dinner with Daphne (Laura Carmichael). Michael and Thomas escape to the bathroom. After a quick make out session, the two wind up arguing. Michael seems convinced he has to go through with the marriage. Thomas seems to believe otherwise. Flora gets sex advice from her sister. That night, Flora and Michael give it a try. It seems Michael is a tad too rough. The following day, the couple hangs new blinds. We get a glimpse of Thomas’ gift. It is a painting of the cottage.
We jump forward and see that Flora has gotten pregnant. The painting has also been hung above Michael’s desk. Flora begins cleaning the desk and finds letters between Michael and Thomas. She burns them immediately. Then, Flora meets with Daphne. She learns about a local man being arrested for homosexual activities. When asked about her problem, Flora keeps it a secret from her sister. Michael learns about the discovery later. Flora forces Michael to get rid of the painting. Flora goes into labor. Michael contemplates visiting Thomas, but doesn’t go inside. Then, he visits a local bathroom. He gets lots of strange looks from other men and rushes out. When Michael returns home, he learns that he is a father. The couple decides to give the boy the name of Robert James. Michael holds the boy at Flora’s request.
Later, Michael meets with Lucien. He learns that Thomas has been arrested and given a year in prison. Michael is urged to pay him a visit in prison. He does so. They speak briefly, before Thomas tells Michael not to visit again. Michael visits Thomas’ mother. She shows him all of her son’s paintings, including one of Michael wearing an orange shirt. The painting remains unfinished. Michael takes the notebook with the bullet hole. Michael learns about a small house in France. Thomas’ mother suggests Michael and Thomas could move to Cassis together and use the house. Michael admits that Thomas doesn’t want to see him again. When Michael returns home, he finds Flora with the baby. Michael begins writing letters to his pal. The baby grows up quickly.
Flora meets with her sister. Daphne explains that she saw Michael boarding a train earlier. Flora returns home and calls the bank. Michael isn’t there. Flora breaks down and cries on the floor. Meanwhile, Michael waits outside of the jail for Thomas. Thomas is released and leaves with a group of friends. He sees Michael in the distance, but doesn’t approach him. When Michael returns home, Flora tells him that she doesn’t want details. She also admits she can live with being the sister that mothered his baby. Later on, the family visits a shopping mall. Michael has a strange encounter with another man, before the family leaves. Outside, the family runs into Thomas.
Thomas gives Robert a gift. He also explains that he is residing in Cassis. Once Michael and the family board the bus, Flora stares back at Thomas.
Man in an Orange Shirt Review
The opening episode of Man in an Orange Shirt wasn’t bad, but it could’ve been much better. First and foremost, the first ten minutes or so were nothing, but repetitive sex scenes. The episode moved too swiftly and made it very hard to develop any real connection with the characters. One minute, Thomas is nearly dead. The next, he is up drawing again. With a single kiss, the couple has fallen in love. Without any significant connection with the characters, it is difficult to sympathize with them.
Nevertheless, the episode was bleak and depressing. It feels like Flora is going to be the one to sacrifice here. I understand that the series is only two episodes and that probably led to the lightning fast pace. Unfortunately, that is also its biggest downfall. The episode wasn’t bad by any means, but there were plenty of room for improvement. A 7.5 out of 10 is awarded to the opener.