I like the BBC2 series called Rev. It depicts the events surrouding the life of the Reverend Adam Smallbone, who is the Church of England Vicar of St. Saviour’s-in-the-Marshes, Hackney, East London. Until Rev. came on the seen in 2010 the average series surrounding an Anglican Priest would usually be in a rural setting depicting an England that didn’t really exist anymore, such as Vicar of Dibley (lovely show, by the way).
Rev. is different. It’s set in a primarily low-income area of London, at a Parish that is constantly in dire straights, in a world where the Church of England is becoming rapidly less relevant (perhaps irrelevant) and more multi-ethnic and multi-religious Britain. As well, Adam is married to a successful Lawyer rather than being single or his spouse being stay-at-home. To be blunt, it is highly truthful and modern.
In the latest episode (Series 3, Episode 6) things have gotten very, very bad for Father Adam and St. Saviour’s.
The Vultures (the Area Dean and Accountant) are circling, and trying to close down the parish. A (mostly) baseless complain is brought against him resulting in his suspension, something he avoids telling his wife. When an extremely exaggerated incident hits the press things get even harder.
One evening when Adam is home watching his infant daughter three youths vandalize the front of the Vicarage (his home), spray painting the word “PERVENT” across the front of his house. Before he can clean it up his wife (Alexandra) comes home wondering what is up. He decides to go to the garage and grab a large cross he was suppose to lend to another local Priest. Adam then literally (not figuratively) starts bearing his cross through the streets.
We then cut to Adam’s homeless friend, Colin, who is on the street begging for cash next to an ATM machine (aka a Hole-in-the-Wall). One of the local store worker comes by to take cash out and recognizes Colin. She recognizes Colin as being the “Flithly Vicar’s Mate”, and three times Colin denies that he knows Adam. After the third time a burglar alarm goes off across the street at a food place called the “House of Fried Chicken”. When this happens Colin says, “F–king Burglar Alarm! Get it fixed you massive Cock!” The shot then changes to the logo for the food place: A crowing Cock. (Oddly, the security alarm is with Cross Security Alarms)
Back to Adam he stumbles and falls, seeing unfriendly visions of the people he regularly encounters. As daylight breaks he finally gets to the top of a hill with his cross and puts it against a sign-post. Exhausted, Adam begins to sing the refrain to Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter, which includes the line “I [Jesus] am the Lord of the Dance”. Eventually Adam is joined in by a (presumably) drunk lowlife played by Liam Neeson. After sitting down and talking with the man, or rather listen to the man babble idioms, the man finally says “Adam, Adam: We all have our Crosses to bare.” This is down without Adam having said his name, implying that the man is God. God tells Adam he will always be here… and then disappears.
After a quick stop at home to let his wife know he is still alive… and has seen God, Adam goes to the home of the Bishop of London, played by Ralph Fiennes. The Bishop tells Adam that he has been cleared of wrong doing, ending with the word “Innocent.” Adam then replies, “You say I am”, oddly family with Jesus’ answer to Pilate about whether he was the King of the Jews.
Adam tells the Bishop he wants to resign his post as Vicar of St. Saviour’s, an act which will force the closure of the Parish. After the Bishop reminds him, Adam insists he wishes to leave. The Bishop goes to the sink and washes his hands. After drying them off he gives Adam his answer: “Ite in pacem“, or “Go in Peace”.
Our final scene brings us the pews and other items of St. Saviour’s being moved out and the lights being turned off to the Church.
It is very clear to me that in writing this episode Tom Hollander (who actually plays Adam) and James Wood are alluding to the Characters being three biblical figures.
First is Adam as Christ. With him carrying his cross through the streets of Hackney being jeered by people, signing “I am the Lord of the Dance”, and answers to the Bishop this is quite obvious. Second is Colin as Saint Peter. He denies know Adam (Christ) three times, and after the third time a Cock crows. Third is the Bishop as Pilate. The main point supporting this is the washing of his hands.
Now, this isn’t the last episode. That is coming out Monday. What will happen to St. Saviour’s? Where are Adam and family going next? Given the fact that the entire episode occurred in the context of Lent. I have the feeling that Adam might die to save St. Saviour’s, or at the minimum have a near death experience. We’ll see.