With a foundation of compassion established in its opening episode, Landscapers now repositions its focus on the crime and the case built against the Edwards. In this second episode we begin to see the full extent of Susan and Chris’ escape into their fantasy life, one where their reality exists in the language of the cinema that has sustained them. At the jump, Susan’s cinematic daydreams have taken on a ghostly mutation as we see her dejected in her family home and being hauled into the police vehicle, all with Chris’ voiceover reminding her of their plan for the interrogation ahead.
As foretold in the premiere, Susan meets with a solicitor Douglas (Dipo Ola), who advises her to stick to a plan of “no comment” to all questioning. With the authorities only having the day to prove there is enough evidence to prosecute, it’s more of an obstructionist tactic for time than truth. But it’s an immediate pivot from Susan and Chris’ plan of laying out their version of events, catching Susan’s nerves all the more to be separated from her husband and unable to communicate the change in strategy. They proceed with a prepared statement, but Susan’s simmering anxieties still break the surface of her resolve.
In Susan’s telling, on a solo visit to her parents, she was awakened in the night by the sound of her mother shooting her father. Her mother then provoked her and Susan in turn shot her mother. One week later, she informed Chris of what happened. Colman plays her “no comment” rebuttals with the accommodating politeness and confusion of an easy mark, lacking the self-awareness to know she is giving her lead investigator Emma Lansing (Kate O’Flynn) a map on how to manipulate her into talking.
Naturally, Susan reverts back to her daydreams of her and Chris. We see them at the cinema on an early date, taking in François Truffaut’s The Last Metro before ending the night in a small cafe. The memory fades into blurry black and white and their speech to French, recalling the visual iconography of French New Wave movement that Truffaut co-piloted. It’s only a superficial recreation of the aesthetic, the Edwards’ fantasies adopting only what they need from the cinema they love to suit their romantic vision of themselves. Missing her train, Susan stays (chastely) with Chris for the evening and meets his mother in the morning.
This all builds a kind of myth for the Edwards’ version of the truth, a movie in their minds more acceptable than their sad lives. Of course in the movies, things are always more perfect than they are in real life. This romanticized vision should inherently make us question the truth of the story they tell because in some ways they are already lying to themselves.
Not that we can accept the version the police are assembling either. Where the Edwards lose themselves in the cinema, the police witness the story with unfeeling remove. Again, the cops are positioned like an audience to a true crime story: their cinema is the footage of Chris’ interrogation footage projected on a screen, all while cracking jokes over the Depardieu letters and paying sparse attention like a pack of unruly teens in the back row. Series writer Ed Sinclair has given them a rat-a-tat banter whose tone has been purposefully incongruous to both how Landscapers presents the Edwards’ psyche and the crime itself. Emma takes it like a domination game, but the rest of them treat the proceedings with the gravity of today’s digestible entertainment.
When Chris later gives his statement without the guidance of legal counsel, he states that the burial was a mutual idea, a noticeable gap in the statement Susan provided. Living in isolation has made the Edwards’ paranoid about being found out, yet that has not made them more savvy about police tactics should the Wycherly’s bodies be discovered. Susan and Chris prove quite easy to crack once they no longer have each other to rely on for emotional support. Susan immediately abandons her no comment-ing; Chris has called her fragile, but he’s not in as much control as he thinks he is either.
As the police continue to press for more information, director Will Sharpe takes an even bolder stylistic leap as Chris explains the events of Susan confessing the crime to him in an imagined, but sparsely staged recreation where Emma and her partner Paul (Samuel Anderson) interject the action as it’s happening. It’s a grotesque, Thornton Wilder-esque sequence of stagecraft on an almost bare soundstage. There’s a heightened vulgarity to this presentation, with the actors’ performances pitched to the rafters and the ramshackle set basked in red light like they are in a neon Dogville, or a Peter Strickland film with no budget. O’Flynn’s Emma has been jumping into the scene like its director, as this ghastly imagining may be told by Susan and Chris, but it’s the police who are at the driver’s seat.
But they ultimately get what they need to build a case against the Edwards’ and keep them for further interrogation: proof of a bank account Susan opened immediately after the murder where she deposited her parents’ money. Chris, perhaps flailing to contextualize this detail, primes the reveal of Susan’s biggest secret at the root of the crime. Back in movie dreamland, Susan meets Chris’ mother in the morning after staying over, but anxiously dodges the notion of him meeting her parents when he walks her home. The New Wave and Western hero fantasies blur into one refraction, a moment before the truth would change their union forever.
In the interrogation room, Emma cracks Susan’s reclaimed “no comment” resolve by twisting Chris’ words against her. This launches into another grotesque recreation, here with Susan’s mother bellowing grievances and cruelties that cause Susan to shoot her. But the secret is out: Susan’s father sexually abused her for years, and her mother knew but did nothing. It hasn’t just been an interrogation of being told not to say anything, but a lifetime. It’s a truth to unlock more truths: Chris alone thought up burying the bodies and avoiding the police, one act of many in his assuming the role of her protector, her hero. After several rabbit holes, the miniseries arrives at its midpoint with us most unsure what to believe.
Here again Olivia Colman confirms (as she also does later this month in Netflix’s The Lost Daughter) that she has one of the most expressive faces of her contemporaries, able to make the slightest muscle tension suggest decades of suppressed feeling. If the garishness of the episode’s most highly stylized and conceptual moments have intentionally kept us at a distance from the tragic humanity in the story, Colman seizes us back to reality with all the things her eyes express that Susan cannot.
Again, Susan dissociates into the past, returning to that morning with Chris. He has overheard the tumult of her homelife, and Susan has been kicked out. On a park bench christened with a faint fall of snow, Susan tells Chris her first secret, the fallout of which would become their first secret. It looks a lot like the movies, but it might just be how it actually happened.
- The closing credits are a great coda to the episode’s ending feeling of uncertainty of what is fact and fiction, blending the destruction of Landscapers’ sets with news footage (which may also be fake?).
- I too mark important days in my life around when Eurovision Song Contest occurs.
- The recreation sequences go a long way to present the distance between truth and spin in how we consume true crime stories (and while highlighting the grossness they are often presented), but its archness still may be a bit too much for the episode to shoulder.