Fallen Angel (2007) — a British miniseries, based on the Roth trilogy crime novels by Andrew Taylor — originally aired in Britain and is making its U.S. DVD debut on April 28. The story unfolds over three episodes and explores the making of a murderer: you learn who almost immediately; it’s the why that makes the mystery.
In the first episode, “The Four Last Things,” icy-blonde beauty Rosemary Byfield (Emilia Fox), aka Angel Wharton, kidnaps little Lucy for a dimwitted pedophile. Deeply disturbed — Lucy is not the first child she has abducted — Rosie has a history with Lucy’s father, Michael (Oliver Dimsdale), and his mother, Wendy Appleton (Clare Holman), from years ago. Wendy was Rosie’s mother’s best friend, and Michael lived with Rosie, her father, and stepmother for a summer. When Lucy is found and returned to her family, Rosemary is apprehended and Wendy makes it her mission to understand what could have happened to create such a monster.
“The Judgement [sic] of Strangers” is the second episode, taking place in the pastoral village of Roth in 1991, when Rosie is seventeen. When Rosie comes home for school break, she is surprised to learn that her father, David Byfield (Charles Dance), the local vicar, intends to remarry. Rosie does not like her new stepmother, Vanessa (Niamh Cusack), a biographer. Things get tenser when Rosie starts reading the writings of Vanessa’s latest subject, a local heretic priest who was rumored to have committed human sacrifices in the 1920s. Meanwhile, Vanessa is so obsessed with her new book that she neglects her wifely duties and her frustrated husband turns his attention to the dubious charms of the young heroin addict next door. At the episode’s climax, several people are dead, several are arrested, and the village is reeling.
The third episode is “The Office of the Dead” and takes place in 1979 when Wendy Appleton comes to live with the Byfields during a rough patch in her marriage. Rosie’s mother, Janet, is grateful for Wendy’s company since David is caught up in Church politics and has no time for his family. Janet is a weak-willed woman, browbeaten by her husband, struggling with Rosie, a precocious five-year-old, and burdened by her elderly father who is in the early stages of dementia. Soon Wendy is running the household and Janet becomes pregnant and completely overwhelmed, giving Wendy more control. Wendy is slightly troubled by little Rosie’s mood swings, more so when numerous dead and wingless birds are found on the cathedral grounds. However, Wendy is distracted by the troubles in her own marriage and when a horrific truth is revealed to her, chooses not to act on it, something that will have disastrous consequences in the decades to come.