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DVD Review: Garrow’s Law Series 2

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Garrow’ Law is a wonderful British legal series. It is based on real-life barrister William Garrow (1760 – 1840). Actual Old Bailey cases from the 18th century are used in the series, as well as Garrow’s own controversial love life. He was involved in a relationship with Lady Sarah Hill, wife of British Peer Sir Arthur Hill. They eventually married in 1793, after having two children together.

In Garrow’s Law, Series 2, Garrow (Andrew Buchan) and friend and solictor John Southouse (Alun Armstrong) take underdog cases, frequently going up against rival lawyer Silvester (Aidan McArdle). A recurring theme through Series 2 is Garrow’s relationship with Lady Sarah and the scandal it creates. Garrow must defend himself and his reputation – his career may be on the line, as Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves) has accused his wife Lady Sarah of adultery, and Garrow is accused of “criminal conversation” with the lady.

The cast is first-rate. Buchan (Cranford) may have a baby face, but he is very convincing as the sharp-minded and allergic-to-corruption young legal maverick. His relationship with Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal, Rome, Being Human) is also convincing. They may not have acted on their feelings (yet), but passion is always simmering below the surface in their exchanges. Marshal spends much of Series 2 on edge, as her husband slanders her reputation and tries to separate her from their infant son. She believably portrays a woman who is beside herself at the thought of losing her child. Armstrong and McArdle also lend solid support, as does Michael Culkin as Judge Buller.

Garrow, a true pioneer of law, is credited with originating the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.” The series tries to bring to life not only the practice of law of the period, but issues such as adultery, slavery and homosexuality. The series’ production values are impeccable, from the sets and locations (some filming is done at Edinburgh University’s Old College) to the costumes and dialogue, which has the flavor of the speech of the time while still being completely intelligible to a modern audience.

Especially wonderful is the lighting of the series. Candlelight and natural light filter in through windows, adding not just authenticity, but beauty.

Garrow’s Law is a wonderful series and may finally make me a fan of shows about lawyers, a genre I usually try to avoid. Not since Rumpole of the Bailey has there been such an engaging lawyer. Happily, a third series is already in the works. Garrow’s own story and the back-log of fascinating cases should hopefully be rich enough to keep scriptwriters busy for a long time.

Series two included four episodes:

Episode 1
Based on the real-life Zong massacre, 133 slaves are thrown off a slave ship after its captain claims the water supply was running too low to last everyone until the ship got to port (actually untrue). Liverpool Assurance asks Garrow to prosecute the ship’s captain for “loss of cargo.” Abolitionist Gustavus Vassa (Danny Sapani) helps Garrow to gain a true perspective of the inhuman conditions endured by the slaves.

Episode 2
Captain Jones (Andrew Scott) is accused of sodomy, a capital offense (an actual case, which was the first public debate about homosexuality in England). Garrow must sort out the truth in the accusations swirling around the man, while at the same time fighting off the accusations of sexual misconduct that have started to become attached to himself and Lady Sarah.

Episode 3

Captain Baillie (Ron Cook) brings a series of complaints to the Admiralty, highlighting the ill-treatment of sailors at Greenwich Hospital. Coincidentally, Sir Arthur Hill is Under Secretary of the Admiralty, which turns around and accuses Baillie of criminal libel. Garrow must defend Baillie, while also trying to prove how deep the corruption goes, making an even bigger enemy of Hill than he was already.

Episode 4

Garrow is once again in court, but this time he is in the dock, finally having to answer Sir Arthur Hill’s accusations of adultery with Lady Sarah. Garrow finds an unlikely ally in Silvester, but must fight for his career and his future and Sarah’s.

Garrow’s Law, Series 2 includes four episodes on two discs, with the following extras: a short featurette – “William Garrow: Fact and Fiction,” stills from behind-the-scenes, and filmographies of the cast.

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