The Escape Artist: Part III.

Previously on The Escape Artist: Episode 2.

Just two weeks before David Tennant’s return to Doctor Who, we see the finale of The Escape Artist, a mini-series full of horrible surprises and gut-twisting turns — both of phrase and character.

“No hard feelings” isn’t the sort of thing you get to say after you just got the man who killed your colleague’s wife acquitted based on technicalities, Maggie. She may be genuinely sorry — I believe she is — but ‘no hard feelings’ was a bad idea. It doesn’t stop there, however.

On a scale from one to following Liam Foyle up to Edinburgh, how bad is your idea?

But until the law happens to you, believe me, you don’t know which way you’re gonna go.

But then, you realise: what a clever bastard. Diabolical is just the right word. At first, you think, oh God, there he’s gone, his man pain has gotten the better of him, and now he’s gone and thrown his life away. But, oh no, he’s had it all planned out. Will Burton, the escape artist, committed the perfect murder, taking the man who murdered his wife and would have gone on killing off the face of the Earth.

As I wrote last week, and as Will says in this episode: when the law happens to you, when you’re on the other side of the dock or the line between the judiciary and the victims, it gets personal. And when it gets personal, the normal rules do not necessarily apply. Sweet Will Burton, loving husband and father, has committed a crime so devious — and we identify with him.

No, murder isn’t right. And yes, desperation can make people do terrifying things. The law isn’t always just, and that’s when people take the law into their own hands. That’s the thing about this mini-series finale that puts the audience into that most uncomfortable place: it shakes up our understanding of morality, and the series has done that from the very beginning. Confronting us with defence barristers who get their clients off murder charges they shouldn’t have been acquitted off, it puts us in that place from the get-go, and now, in the finale, the Escape Artist world as we now it has been turned upside down. Do we sympathise with Will, do we get angry at Maggie for figuring it out and threatening Will with having the coroner performing another postmortem? Do we feel the same peace Will does at the end? Has he done the right thing?

My hat’s off to David Wolstencroft for crafting this tale full of ambiguity, shock, horror, and fear. In the end, it leaves you with the terrible thought that there is evil out there, and that it can only be conquered by outsmarting it, because the good path will lead you nowhere. Part of this story may paint the world in black and white — Liam Foyle is evil, and that’s why he must die — but it is the decisions Will makes and the things he does that place this mini-series firmly in the grey area. In the end, the world is saved — but at what cost?

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One thought on “The Escape Artist: Part III.

  1. Many seem to interpret Maggie’s discussion of a hypothetical case at the end as Maggie threatening Will. I didn’t see it that way at all. I saw professional curiosity, a little bit of infatuation, and Will being flattered by the infatuation, of which he (and his wife) may have been aware for some time. Anyone else see that?

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