Emma (2009, TV): Episode 3

The final instalment of Emma has a major challenge, to reveal the hidden agendas, and to tie up all the loose ends in just under an hour. The hurried scenes leave me with a feeling of watching a trailer, a montage of excerpts loosely linking up the story.  This is especially so in the first half dealing with Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill’s secret relationship.

If the story feels a bit fragmented in this last episode, the cinematography makes up for that shortfall.  The hour is saturated with stunning shots, magnificent scenic views and exquisite interior renditions.  The Box Hill picnic scene is a vivid example:

Ironically, the pivotal Box Hill scene was not shot in Box Hill, a busy tourist attraction in Surrey.  Instead, it was shot in Leith Hill, Mole Valley, another much quieter scenic point.  For an interesting comparison of the two hills, click here to go to ‘this is surrey today’.

The Box Hill picnic is a crucial turning point in the story.  Emma’s callous and sarcastic joke on Miss Bate and the subsequent scolding she receives from Mr. Knightly is nothing short of an epiphany in self-knowledge.  The genuine remorse she feels could well reflect her greatest strength.  I’m sure such quality of character is what seizes Mr. Knightly with tenderness, moving him to consider her “faultless in spite of all her faults.”

I have a feeling too that this is the very reason Austen finds her heroine likable.  Romola Garai has effectively portrayed a contrite and humbled Emma, while Jonny Lee Miller has delivered convincingly a silent lover with passion and principle.  My initial reservation about his role has definitely changed for the better in this final episode.

Fortunately as well, the endearing lines of Mr. Knightly to Emma, no, not the ‘badly done!’ admonition, but the heartfelt praise he spurts out in spontaneity, remains intact and without any modernized alteration from screenwriter Sandy Welch.  Of course it needs to be declared in its authentic whole… Miller has the best lines of the series:

“I cannot make speeches, Emma… If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.  But you know what I am.  You hear nothing but truth from me.  I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.”

As with all Austen’s novels, the ending comes with nuptial ties. But as Masterpiece Classic’s host Laura Linney points out at the opening, considering the social discriminations inflicted upon the woman in Jane Austen’s time, allowing no ownership of properties, no decent employment (even Jane Fairfax compares the governess position with slavery), and no respect or rights given to the single female of low means, it is only a justifiable reward for the author to end her story with loving marriages for her well-deserved protagonists.

Towards this end, the camera takes us to the magnificent view of Beachy Head in the last scene.  As Emma and Mr. Knightly stand on the edge of the cliff overlooking the boundless ocean, we see the series come to an idealistic end, maybe a broader stroke than that in Austen’s novel. But as some critics have noted, it is love that the author emphasizes rather than romance.  From that perspective, looking outward together to the ocean vast instead of gazing into each other’s eyes may well be an apt interpretation of Austen’s heart.


CLICK HERE to go to Episode 1

CLICK HERE to go to Episode 2

Arti’s reviews of Emma (2009), Episodes 1 to 3, have been compiled into one article and published in the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the many other interesting articles on Jane Austen and her time.

**Photo Sources: Box Hill Picnic bbc.com; Beachy Head, not a scene from the movie, taken from Wikimedia Commons.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

9 thoughts on “Emma (2009, TV): Episode 3”

  1. I’ve really enjoyed Romola Garai’s performance as Emma as she changes (with Frank Churchill’s influence) and repents.


    Thanks for mentioning about FC being a bad influence on Emma, especially at Box Hill… In this episode, he has turned into an even more despicable person. I don’t see how he and JF can have a happy marriage if he’s so prone to cover up and mislead.



  2. I have added this to my Netflix queue. Thank you.

    I dearly loved a few scenes in the movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow, especially the scene when Mr. Knightley says, “Badly done, Emma!” The angle and POV, with her face’s sincere regret and humility, always brings me to tears. I look forward to a more drawn out series, as I always feel P&P is too short in a movie version and relish the BBC series. I do love this Emma character and her faults – and faultlessness.

    Lovely review.

    By the way, on my drive to work before you commented at sync you were on my mind. Then there was your comment, so you beat me!


    I’m glad and a bit flattered that you thought of Ripples even while driving. Anyway, I’m curious to know whether you’ve seen UITA with your friend yet.

    As for Emma, this is a well-produced adaptation. A large screen or HD TV would do justice to its wonderful cinematography.



  3. I just added this to my Netflix queue too, although it told me I have a very long wait. That’s okay — I’ll enjoy it whenever it arrives!


    I ensure you it’s worth the wait.



  4. Good morning, Arti,

    I’ve been bouncing in and out of here – every time I come I think of something else and go chasing links. Today – a couple of thoughts.

    Of course that lighthouse is wonderful, as is Beachy Head. If I could retire to my “dream house”, I’d be a lighthouse keeper. A cute little cottage, plenty of weather and water, a nice routine. Of course there are those storms, and having to tend to lights that go out and the problem of getting and keeping enough ice cream, but I’m sure I could work it out 😉

    Now, more seriously, it took until nearly the last sentence for you to hook me into Emma. It’s that comment about the book being about love rather than romance that did it.

    I was a great fan of romance in all its forms early in my life. Today? Not so much. Life shapes our preferences, and life sent me in other directions than bodice-rippers and romantic comedy 😉
    But love? That I understand. I believe I’ll give Ms. Emma a go!


    I don’t think they showed the lighthouse in the movie, just the cliff… it most likely wasn’t around during JA’s time.

    I think one of the misconceptions regarding JA is that she writes ‘romance’ novels. I find in her books more brain than romance. In my review of the book A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read JA, I quoted a few of them stressing this point. If there’s a bit of romance, it may well be the sarcastic rendition of it, for she’s one who seeks the commitment and maturity of enduring love over ephemeral and sentimental romance. So here it is, my take on this special Valentine’s weekend.



  5. I ended up buying this new Emma because I’m a sucker for Masterpiece especially when they show up at Costco. I’m looking forward to sitting down with my daughter in Seattle and having a viewing day…
    Costco also had Cranford so I bought it, too. :0)
    I read your piece on the Hurt Locker and will be watching to see how it does at the Oscars…


    What a wonderful treat to watch Masterpiece with your daughter… I’d like to know what you think when you’re done. As for THL, it’s a well crafted movie of high quality. I hope it will bring in some wins.



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