Holy Christmas miracle, Batman! A review for @DorianGrayBFP! That’s right. An actual review instead of the usual “I CAN’T SEE THROUGH MY TEARS I AM IN SO MUCH PAIN” comments. A Christmas miracle indeed.
The Confessions of Dorian Gray is an audio play by Big Finish Productions (@bigfinish) that’s set in a world in which Dorian Gray (portrayed by Merlin and Privates actor Alexander Vlahos [@vlavla]) is a real person who became the inspiration to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Immortal and beautiful and perfect. That’s Dorian Gray for you. The third series of Confessions was recently released, and I thought it was time for a little heartbreak. I missed it, truth be told.
Unlike the last two series (each episode bounces around different times in the 20th and 21st centuries), series three continues two years after series two’s finale, which means every episode is set in 2014. Dorian stumbles into trouble again, accompanied by both fresh characters (Harry Potter’s Sean Biggerstaff [@Seanchuckle] plays Ivor) and fan favorites (Les Misérables and W1A actor Hugh Skinner [who, unfortunately, doesn’t have a Twitter] plays Tobias Matthews) while uncovering many secrets, some major, others minor. I’m pleased to tweet that there are references to other characters who appeared in previous episodes to give an even heftier slice of continuity (a memorable character is Natalie Isaacs, portrayed by Hannah Spearritt [@HannahSpearr1tt]).
Series three of Confessions is, as stated by the cast and crew, darker than the last two series. Series one is tragic and raw, series two gives the audience a break by being a little jolly, but series three has topped them by being brutal, intoxicating, and glorious like never before. The progression of the plot is well-timed, and the events are all carried out from a sort of domino effect. One after the other, the events are woven seamlessly to create this superb series. The characters all interact with one another in a diverse and elegant fashion, ranging mutual jealousy to one-sided admiration to mutual suspicion and everything in between. Throughout the episodes, these relationships display glimpses of the characters and what they believe in and what their motivations are, making even the characters who appear in a single episode memorable. Not to mention that the actors who voice them are worth the praise, too. They get into their roles, which, I think, is something difficult to do when the medium is strictly audio.
Time to give it a go at breaking this series apart like how it broke my heart. You know, without major spoilers.
Written by James Goss (@gossjam), episode one is entitled “Blank Canvas.”This episode is insanely eerie. To me it resembles a classic horror movie plot. It toys with the components associated with horror and spices it up so much that it leaves a lasting memory, and that’s when the audience knows they’re likely to continue to the next episode. As for the characters, they’re the metaphorical fuel to the fire. Their fates spark an inferno, and that inferno grows in a rapid speed as the episode ends, becoming a certain danger throughout the episodes that follow. In the span of roughly 30 minutes, the episode has its extreme moments, and it’s heightened when the characters hear a phone ringing. As an introduction to the series, it’s sufficient in getting the plot rolling.
Written by David Llewellyn (@TheDaiLlew), episode two is entitled “The Needle.” Simon Darlow (portrayed by David Blackwell [@DavidGBlackwell]), who was in series one’s finale, “The Fallen King of Britain,” returns. The episode revolves around Dorian reuniting with Simon after seven years and the two trying to figure out why strange things are happening in the establishment and, more importantly, why Dorian’s run-down home costs more than it did when it was in mint condition. This episode, in my opinion, is one of the more lighthearted (if you were to get through the whole conspiracy concept, which is terrifying on its own) episodes of the new series, but the phone ringing from the first episode still passes its creepy vibes, and the last phone call certainly leaves the listener craving for more. Furthermore, Vlahos’s long-term girlfriend, Kajsa Mohammar (@theKsyndrome) makes an appearance, which is a tasteful addition.
Written by Roy Gill (@roy_gill), episode three is entitled “We Are Everywhere.” Hands down, this is one of my favorite episodes of not just the third series, but the overall play (and it’s not because there’s a BBC Sherlock reference in it). Dorian’s wit helps him with escaping a reappearing threat: a serial-killing stalker. The plot effortlessly advances with the cat-and-mouse game, the detrimental yet intriguing relationship between Dorian and Luke Glass (portrayed by Blake Ritson), and the few moments that’ll probably get the listener to chuckle at. This episode is a fine mix of poison and wine. Wine ages well as time goes on, just as this episode does throughout its duration, and Luke’s persistence adds a heavy dose of poison. “We Are Everywhere” surely keeps a person at the edge of the seat (I know I almost fell off mine).
Written by Gary Russell (@twilightstreets), episode four is entitled “Echoes.” This episode, like all the others, pushes the plot forward as Dorian encounters different things that want him dead (again). In Big Finish’s synopsis, Dorian meets phantoms while on a subway ride home, and that alone is already on the verge of being on the same level of creepy that “Blank Canvas” radiates. As the story rolls on, those phantoms’ intentions in meeting Dorian are more than what the typical ghost wants (let it be possessing a living person’s body, seeking revenge, or trying to find some peace so the ghost can “cross over to the other side”), which pegs it down on the same level of creepy with the first episode. Dorian shines when he’s released from the false stories the phantoms tell him. This specific event proves that, as mentioned in a future episode, Dorian has changed.
Written by Xanna Eve Chown, episode five is entitled “Pandora.” It’s one of the extreme episodes, and it vaguely reminds me of “The Twittering of Sparrows” in regards of the relationship between Madame Pandora and Dorian. With a tarot card reading conducted by Pandora, the audience is given another glimpse of Dorian’s character. After the session, the previously suspicious mood of the episode takes a rousing direction. Revelations are practically spewed during the second half of the episode, and they act as a turning point to both the episode and the series. A pleasurable episode with stellar writing, and if that isn’t enough, Chown decided to add a reference to the myth of Pandora and her box. Greek mythology fans, you’ll either be smiling for a good minute or be left with an open mouth.
Written by Cavan Scott, episode six is entitled “Heart and Soul.” I have to say, the title is fitting for numerous reasons, one being that it stabbed my heart with a dinner knife and left it there. Sean Biggerstaff plays Ivor, a new character who ties into the plot perfectly. Ivor also knows a character who appeared in a series one episode, which adds some tension between him and Dorian. The characters’ (not just Ivor’s and Dorian’s) intentions are essential in keeping the story going, and they’re exposed through heavy emotions and drastic decisions. For Dorian, he goes through a wave of jealousy, selfishness, anger, snark, shock, determination, and so much more. The choices he makes reveal something peculiar about him, and it’s something that can mark him as different from the Dorian Gray from the previous series. I also have a vibe that “Heart and Soul” is meant to remind the listener that, “contrary to popular belief, [Dorian is] still human.” Overall, this is a satisfying episode with a few laughs and gasps.
Written by Scott Handcock (@scott_handcock), episodes seven and eight are entitled “Displacement Activity” and “The Darkest Hour.” Characters who appeared in the past have already returned to the new series, but their roles are very significant to these two episodes. Not to mention that the metaphorical inferno that was brought up in “Blank Canvas” finally stops hiding in the background, and its appearance is so powerful and consuming that even our antihero is afraid. So afraid, in fact, that he’s left to tremble, beg, and lie his pitiful way out of the situation.
The first part of the finale has a scheming atmosphere to it to set everything up, and the feel of the episode changes during the remaining few minutes. The ending to “Displacement Activity” is captivating enough to provoke a mighty need for the audience, to which “The Darkest Hour” picks up on. Things get intense in the second part of the finale because it’s not a matter of thinking and preparing; it’s a matter of fulfilling the goals of each character. Some achievements are met, others aren’t, which causes the mood of the finale to shift to a (thankfully) bittersweet one. The final line to the series is a question, and it leaves many routes for the crew to take if they plan to give a fourth series a go. If, of course, the third series is the definite ending, then I think it’s more than acceptable.