At the beginning of the series, we hear someone getting sworn in to testify in court. Tim Evans (Nico Mirallegro) is then shown pleading his innocence. Evans is told the jury has found him guilty. Evans is led to the noose by Pierrepoint (John-Paul Hurley) and executed, despite maintaining his innocence and claiming Christie done it. We jump over to Ethel Christie (Samantha Morton), who is now staying with Harry (Christopher Hatherall). Ethel receives a letter from her husband, Reg (Tim Roth), who she hasn’t seen in many years. Ethel reads the letter and then meets up with her husband. She admits she thought he was dead, after disappearing for 9 years. Reg reveals he was ashamed. The pair contemplate a divorce, but quickly decide against it. Ethel explains how she contacted Scottland Yard regularly to ask about him.
Reg manages to sweet talking his wife and convince her to return to him. They head across town and Reg shows Ethel their new home. It is truly a disaster, but Reg admits it is only temporary. They look around the property, before heading out back. Reg seems adamant that they’ll be able to have their own garden one day. Later, they head to the theater together. On the way home, a woman outside of a club yells a Reg. He denies knowing the woman and continues walking. The next day, Ethel returns to work. Her colleagues chat with her about men and keeping them around. Later that day, Reg and Ethel go for a stroll. Reg surprises her with a necklace. Then, they dance the day away. The next day, Reg says goodbye to the dog, Judy, and Ethel helps him get dressed in his police officer uniform. Reg tells Ethel to get to the bomb shelter, since it is likely there will be attacks that night. She follows his advice and cuddles with a group of strangers. When Ethel returns home, she finds the bed stripped and reeking of perfume.
Ethel finds Reg digging in the garden. He insists the dog made a mess on the bed and he covered up the smell with perfume. Ethel complains about her husband using half the bottle. Next, the couple chats in the living room. Ethel tries to find out whether or not Reg slept around on her while he was away. He surprises her with another gift to keep her quiet. Ethel grabs a chocolate from the box and drops her questions. Ethel is disturbed from her sleep that night. She heads downstairs and calls out for Reg. He reveals that someone tries to jimmy the window. With a hammer in one hand, he urges Ethel to return to bed. He enters a side room and the light flips on. At work, Ethel is invited to Mrs. Hodges birthday party. She admits she cannot attend, since Reg isn’t a party person. When Ethel returns home, he finds a briefcase under the sofa. She is on the verge of opening it, before a disturbance outside stops her.
Ethel rushes outside and discovers that Reg has been beaten. Inside, Reg reveals that he was attacked outside of the station and nobody helped. He complains that the sergeant believes he is sleeping with his wife behind his back. He insists the real culprit is the one who placed the blame on him. Ethel coddles her husband and tries to get him to go upstairs to sleep. Reg yells at her wife angrily and sends her away. That night, she follows her husband out of the house and into a pub. She spots him mingling with two women, before rushing back home. In the morning, Ethel questions her husband about his night. He denies the accusations and insists Ethel must’ve been dreaming. He encourages his wife to see Dr. Odess (Tim Bentinck). At work, two other women ask Ethel whether or not she knows what men want. She admits to being married for almost 15 years, but says little else. Later, Ethel visits with Dr. Odess and complains about her husband’s state of mind. Ethel admits her husband won’t step foot outside of the house, since he lost his job.
The doctor gives Ethel orders to give her husband better care and more attention. Next, Reg contemplates taking his wife out to the pictures. He admits he wants to celebrate his new job. Reg also confirms he wants Ethel to meet two new friends. The couple heads out with Arthur (Chris Reilly) and Muriel (Sarah Quintrell). After the movie, they return to the Christie house and chat about the war. Arthur and Ethel leave the room. Reg quickly begins to flirt with Muriel. Reg asks the woman about her catarrh and offers his assistance. He insists he studied to be a doctor before the way. Ethel returns moments later and admits her husband lieks to exaggerate. She reveals he only spent a short stint with the ambulance service as a volunteer. Later that night, Reg confronts Ethel in the kitchen and accuses her of making herself look like a fool. She complains about her behavior towards the young girl. Reg quickly loses his cool and begins to choke his wife against the wall. He lets her go and Ethel crumbles to the floor.
Ethel quickly packs up and returns to Harry. Harry complains about Reg and admits he would like to ring his neck. Ethel spends several days with the couple, before receiving a letter from her husband. She reads it in private. Harry asks her about the letter’s contents later that night. Ethel reveals her husband is sick. She admits she should probably return and make things right. While Harry doesn’t like the idea, he has no choice but to let her go. He agrees to help her get back home. They surprise Reg the next day. Inside, Reg tells Harry about his time in the army and being told he was an asset to the force. Before Harry can leave, Ethel tells him she has something for him. She rushes upstairs and finds the bed stained and reeking. She grabs the Christmas gift, before spotting a drop of blood on the edge of the bed. She returns to Harry and gives him the gift, without saying anything about the mess upstairs. After Harry is gone, Reg admits he is glad his wife is back. He also tells her he wishes he had time to clean up before she arrived.
Reg tells his wife about his recent visit to Doctor Odess. He leaves his wife downstairs and cleans up the bedroom. Later, they receive a visit. It turns out to be Arthur, who cannot find Muriel. Arthur reveals that Muriel was supposed to visit Reg. Nonetheless, Reg denies seeing the woman. He agrees to help with the search. Before they leave, Arthur notices his wife’s coat hanging on the wall. Ethel covers for her husband and pretends the coat is hers. Next, we jump forward to 1948. Reg watches through a peephole, as two guests arrive. Tim and Beryl Evans (Jodie Comer) enter the property, while Reg watches. Ethel tells him he will need to keep his hands to himself.
Rillington Place Review
Believe it or not, I am unfamiliar with the real case of Tim Evans and Reg Christie. However, I do know about Pierrepoint and his days as a hangman. Most will be already be familiar with the case and the outcome. While I am not, I have a pretty good idea of what will happen. Nonetheless, watching it all unfold is harrowing and eerie. I found the episode to be a little slow, but very bleak. It seems the goal was to explain the mindset of Ethel Christie and her motive for remaining with her husband.
It is clearly obvious that Reg was a very deceitful and clever man. He managed to convince Muriel to return to him house, despite his own wife’s claim that he has little to no medical abilities. Reg’s control over Ethel is much different. It is fairly obvious she is fearful of her husband. Despite being given the opportunity to escape, she was lured right back in. Sadly, it happens all the time. While it is hard to feel sorry for Ethel, it is also hard not to.
All in all, I enjoyed the first episode. It was a little difficult to follow at times and slightly slow, but gripping nonetheless. A 7 out of 10 is deserved.