'The Woman In White' Premieres To Ready Us For Halloween

Ben Hardy as Walter Hartright (Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Woman in White Productions Ltd. / Steffan Hill / Origin Pictures)

The BBC's new remake of classic The Woman In White arrives Sunday, October 21 on PBS, just in time to get us in the mood for Halloween.

How is it men crush women time and time again and go unpunished?

Wilkie Collins' The Woman In White is one of the earliest thriller novels of the Victorian era, written in 1859 and considered to be a classic of the genre. It's been adapted for the big screen four times, starting in 1912, with the last version in 1948. From there it became a television miniseries staple, with versions dating back to the 1960s. This newest one is the fourth "Made For TV" adaptation, making it the eighth adaptation overall. If one includes Andrew Lloyd Webber's flop musical about it from 2004, it's number 9.

What makes the story resonate over the 150 years since it was first written? With shows like Victoria making hay from the era, it's not surprising a series like this which threatens to tip over into camp at any minute, but never quite gets there, would be on the list of shows to remake once more. The story is a slice of Victoriana, and very of its time. It features women in asylums, faux ghosts, a heroine who flits about wearing a nightgown half the time, a white knight hero who is on screen far less than one would expect, an evil manipulating boor of a fiancé, and many, many people who knuckle under to said fiancé, allowing him to behave in terrible ways. All this plus mistaken identities, faked deaths and a mystery of why this is all happening to begin with, and it's a perfect suspense brew of the period.

 

In 2018, women don't float about looking weak-willed and rarely getting dressed, asylums are no longer prevalant, and ghosts are confined to Netflix thrillers like The Haunting of Hill House. And yet, Collins' story applies to the morals of the moment, a reminder that women have always been used and abused by men, whom society then allows to get away with it. The BBC originally aired this series back in April, but considering Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court, this feels like an opportune moment for The Woman in White to arrive in America. Not just in time for the usual spooky Halloween fare, but as a reminder that men have been behaving this way towards women and society has condoned it for centuries and counting. This version brings those links to the forefront by giving the series a 21st-century framing structure as well.

The main cast is mostly made up of newcomers, with Belgian actress Olivia Vinall starring as our heroine Laura, reality-star turned musical actress Jessie Buckley as her half-sister Marian and Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse) as hero Walter. Charles Dance (The Jewel In The Crown, Game of Thrones) is the presiding grande dame of the production as Laura's father, Frederick Fairlie, alongside the never-quite-was star Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) as Laura's evil fiance Sir Percival Glyde.

The series runs five episodes starting this weekend on Oct. 21, 2018, at 10 p.m. ET directly following Poldark. But as with all PBS programming, do check your local listings first, just to be sure. Our recaps will follow!