I’m binge-watching Black Earth Rising so that I can catch up with all the episodes before Episode 6 comes out this coming Wednesday. It’s helpful in a way because it allows me to see if the momentum from the first two episodes continues or gets better even. You can read my recap on Episode 1 here and Episode 2 here.
In this episode you can see how the protective and very emotional dynamic that Michael and Kate share has somewhat strengthened. Whilst they continue to trade flippant commentaries, there’s an almost underlying paternal feeling from Michael to Kate, almost as if it’s guilt-laden due to the many secrets he clearly withholds from her about her childhood and also with regards to her mother’s work.
Kate describes her experience in the pool house to Michael who attempts to make light of things and makes a joke about her assailant using the front door rather than the ceiling vent. There is a CCTV image of her would-be attacker and it’s the secret service agent, Picot, who in true espionage stereotypical character spots the “beard & bald head” look. We find out that Picot had been kicked out of the secret service around the same time that the judge who had first brought the prosecution against Alice retired… or maybe was forced to retire?!
Michael still hasn’t clued anyone else in on how serious his medical condition is at this point and the next morning Kate is seen on the phone trying numerous times to reach him but is unable to as he is about to go under general anesthesia. Kate was calling him as she had received a call from a mystery man asking for a meeting in the catacombs of Paris, how apt. At the catacombs Kate learns that all that she has heard so far is a lie and that the priest on whom the entire case rests on, is still alive. This revelation makes the plot for this episode feel quite deflated for me and if I wasn’t writing these recaps I would have quite literally skipped over the rest of the episode.
There’s a flashback to 1994 and we see a priest prostate himself and kiss the feet of a headless statue. There are rotor blades heard in the background with the Tutsi army in the scene also and then he is being dragged away. The church behind him is strewn with bloody corpses as he cries out, “Look what I have done!”
Kate goes to meet the priest’s mother who is now terminally ill, she hands a photograph to her and asks if the man in it is her son. The old woman hesitates and Kate leaves feeling quite frustrated. Kate goes to the Saint Septus Abbey where she meets the Abbott who is of no help either and reiterates that no such man lives under the abbey, the shot cuts to the basement where a grey- haired and bearded man is scrubbing the floor.
Back in Michael’s offices, there’s a witness, a Tutsi woman named Juliana who is played by Sarah Amankwah. So traumatised was Juliana by the events that she witnessed that she had been left mute and signs her entire story which is translated by an interpreter. Hugo Blick uses a black and white animation to tell her story. The visuals work and allows for a quiet and sensitive but yet powerful interpretation of the scene. I liked how Blick chose to tell the story in this manner as it respects the events of the witness’s story and maintains her dignity whilst also showing the dreadful barbarism side of it too. It also leaves us the viewers to imagine the reality of what transpired in 1994 and as Michael says in that scene, “Words would fail.”
Kate is seen next meeting with Eve’s sister named Sorcha. They meet in Waterloo where Sorcha who is Catholic through and through expresses her disgust at the fact that Eve had been cremated. She states, “We need our bodies for the resurrection.” You can tell that there is no love lost between Kate and Sorcha. Sorcha goes on to reveal why she and Eve had been estranged for so many years, Eve had had an abortion, something Sorcha had never forgiven her for. She even goes as far as telling Kate they are not kin as they are not blood relatives. You can tell that this statement really hurts and confuses Kate but it makes her realise that she is alone in the world after all. Later when back with Michael, Kate recounts her meeting with Sorcha, Michael reassures Kate that she was no mere replacement for the child that Eve lost, he also goes as far as saying that the real reason behind Eve & Sorcha’s falling out was down to the fact of Sorcha being an IRA sympathiser.
We next see Kate returning to the Barré’s mansion only to be greeted by his somewhat disaffected daughter. She goes on to show Kate some of the family photos that Kate keeps getting drawn to each time she is in the mansion, one of it is her brother who was killed in Africa in 1993. “My father only worships what he has lost,” she says in reference to the collection of photographs of dead family members. Barré enters soon after and they sit down once again to talk about the case. Kate confronts him about Picot and Barre’ confirms that he was his personal security agent in Rwanda. He then accuses Kate of interfering with the witnesses. He shows a picture of what is the remains of the priest Pascal Patenaude which is then presented to the magistrate who questions a Brigadier General Lesage about it. He confirms that he had taken it on the 25th of June, 1994. Kate seems to recognise the Brigadier as she looks on during the discussion between him and the magistrate, it is then when she realises why she recognises him, he is from the photograph that Barré’s daughter had shown her, the Brigadier had been pictured alongside Barré’s son.
Once this realisation hits home, Kate returns to confront Barré’s only to discover that the photograph is no longer there. Barré tries to turn the table to try and put the focus back on Kate and take it away from his involvement in the case, he infers that maybe it is she who is mentally disturbed. She is asked to leave by his security detail, Picot is also there in the mansion with them. In true Kate fashion, before she stomps out of the house she insists on signing their guestbook and writes, “HOUSE OF LIES” in it. She walks towards the walk seemingly defeated but there’s a ray of hope as she soon finds that someone has decided to help her by providing her with a copy of the missing photograph. She looks up from the courtyard where her car is parked to see Barré’s daughter watching her from an upper floor window.
Kate returns again to the monastery determined to find the priest, she refuses to take the Abbott’s word and sets off the fire alarm to get all the priests to congregate in the common area. Once they're there she shows the photograph of the missing priest, Patenaude, and announces that if he is indeed alive, she wanted him to know that his mother was terminally ill and that he needed to go make his peace with her. This works as later in the evening, Patenaude is seen travelling on the metro to go see his mother. It’s very 007 from here on end, as Kate is seen to be in the oppsite building to Patenaude’s mother’s building, waiting with a photographer to catch the priest entering the building and get proof that he was indeed alive. Patenaude goes to see his mother and later is seen exiting the building however Picot is also seen following him, his intention is obviously to kill him. Kate in fear of losing their only hope of winning their case follows Picot. She tries to call Micahel but Michael is passed out on a couch from a red-wine induced sleep. There’s a classic chase through the metro complete with the intense music and at the last minute Kate is saved once again by her mystery man from the catacombs who stops Picot, telling him that he watches over Kate and the priest before dramatically stabbing him in the eye.
The ending of episode 3 almost feels like an ending for the season as Michael explains to the magistrate that the Brigadier General and Barré’s son proves that the death of Patenaude was part of a fabrication and that in fact, they had been on a secret mission to train the Hutu army. Thus bringing up the issue about the French government involvement in the lead up to the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The magistrate says, it still does not challenge the prosecution’s accusation that Alice had killed the priest, Patenaude. Michael responds, “Except she didn’t and here’s my proof.” This is when the priest enters the room and introduces himself. Barré meets his fate also as the authorities arrive at his home to arrest him, rather than face prosecution, he is completely undone and seems to think there is only one way out as he puts a gun into his mouth and shoots himself dead.
I felt that in this episode, Hugo Blick seemed to make minor concessions which took the focus away from more interesting stories to be told. This episode also seemed to lull in places and became too invested in the minor concessions as a result. I’m looking forward to watching Episode 4 to see more of Michaela Coel as Kate, she is just superb in her role and commands the screen every time she appears.