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Fall TV is filled with a variety of shows, and some are infinitely more memorable than others. Sundance Now has brought a series to the small screen in the United States that isn't at all forgettable thanks to its stellar cast, fast pace, and deft handling of a very scary story ripped from the history books. The three-part miniseries Rillington Place tackles the grisly stories of the serial killer John Christie, and it's worth the watch.
Rillington Place kicks off in the 1940s and introduces viewers to Ethel (Samantha Morton of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and John Christie (Tim Roth of Reservoir Dogs and Twin Peaks), who reconciled after many years of separation, and it becomes clear quite quickly that something changed in John during their time apart. The two move into the ground floor flat at 10 Rillington Place in London, and it is from there that John Christie begins to explore his deep dark side. When newlyweds Tim (Nico Mirallegro) and Beryl (Jodie Comer of The White Princess) move into the upstairs flat, the Christies face some complications quite close to home.
The miniseries is comprised of three hour-long episodes, each of which centers on one key character. The first is called "Ethel" and examines the early years of John Christie's development into a serial killer through the eyes of his wife. The second is called "Tim," which takes the focus away from primarily on Ethel and focuses it on the young upstairs couple as pregnancy and children complicate their previously carefree lives. The third episode is called "Reg" and finally gives us a look into John Christie -- a.k.a. John Reginald Halliday Christie -- during the years of his killing spree.
Originally produced by BBC, Rillington Place was directed by Craig Viveiros and written by Ed Whitmore and Tracey Malone. They packed a lot of plot into only three episodes while also developing the characters into multi-dimensional people inhabiting London in decades long past. This is a miniseries that is enjoyable whether you are or are not already familiar with John Christie the serial killer as it tells his story in a brand new way, as well as giving a point-of-view to some of the other people who lived in his circle.
That said, what really makes Rillington Place works is the stellar cast who bring the core four characters to life for the series. Tim Roth is spectacularly sinister in the sort of quiet way that fits for a serial killer who was operating under the radar in a big city for many years. As Christie, Roth is a man who seems perfectly friendly and helpful on the surface, but there's something deeply off-putting about him whenever somebody looks beneath the amiable outer layer.
In this series, John Christie is a very good liar who can convince people of his good intentions until he makes his move, but Tim Roth somehow makes it clear to the audience when Christie is up to something. Watching Christie insinuate himself into the lives of innocent people who happen to be around him is deeply unsettling yet also incredibly compelling. Kudos to Tim Roth for pulling it off.
Of course, Tim Roth as John Christie might not have been able to sell the creepiness quite as well if not for Samantha Morton as Ethel standing in for the audience and acknowledging when something is very not right. There's a certain sense of tragedy in her performance from the very beginning, as she is a devoted and dutiful wife to John Christie, even as her suspicions that something is amiss grow. We see that she is very much a married woman of the 1940s, and watching her play second fiddle to her manipulating husband even as she has her concerns is fascinating.
Jodie Comer is lovely as Beryl, as she transitions quickly from perky newlywed into somewhat disillusioned wife. Fans of Comer in The White Princess will see a very different performance in Rillington Place. Nico Mirallegro hasn't done much that has aired in the U.S., so his performance as Tim was a great surprise. The middle episode of the miniseries is arguably the most pivotal as it sets the stage for John Christie's ultimate fate, and Mirallegro carries much of it.
All of this said, Rillington Place isn't without its flaws. The fast pace that takes viewers through many years in the span of three hours means that certain areas of development fall by the wayside, and certain transitions are somewhat abrupt. A little bit more development on the motives for some of the characters other than John Christie himself might have enhanced the narrative and guaranteed that the tragedies packed a harder punch. Still, Rillington Place is a solid miniseries that is worth watching.