What I Watched Last Night: Garrow’s Law, Episodes 1 and 2

So Netflix screwed up and didn’t send me the Hitchcock version of The Lodger, but something else that was on my queue instead. Garrow’s Law is a 2009-2012 BBC period drama based on the life of real barrister William Garrow. It stars Andrew Buchan, Lyndsey Marshall, Rupert Graves, and Alun Armstrong.
William Garrow (Buchan) is a young man fresh out of university who wishes to become a barrister at the Old Bailey in London. He is a man full of the ideals of the late nineteenth century and is appalled by the unfairness of the English justice system. He becomes an associate of John Southouse (Armstrong), a solicitor, and together, the two of them advocate for the rights of the accused during trial and are among the first to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution.

Garrow’s boldness and crusade to ensure that the less fortunate receive a fair trial intrigues Lady Sarah Hill (Marshall), the wife of politician Sir John Hill (Graves). Sarah sits on the bench at the Old Bailey as a “guest of the judge” and observes the trials that take place there each day so that her husband is aware of how the courts apply the laws. Unlike many of her wealthy friends, Sarah is much more conscious of the plight of the poor and the distinct advantage the prosecution has over the defense. It bothers her that so many innocent or unfortunate people are convicted of crimes and hanged while others –such as thieftakers – profit from this. She supports many of Garrow’s and Southouse’s efforts of changing trial practices in England.

Many of the trials covered in the series are taken from actual court documents at the Old Bailey from the time. There are also several plots based on real historical events, such as the case of the London Monster and the Zong Massacre, and several historical figures make appearances as well.

The thing about the series – from an American standpoint – is that it gives an idea of the English justice system and why the new American government sought to depart from those practices. There is so much unfairness in the old English system and it’s so frustrating to see this, but you’re also cheering Garrow on and are thrilled when he wins a case, because he is, little by little, fighting a very corrupt justice system.

The cast of Garrow's Law.
Cast of Garrow’s Law. Image via bbccanadashop.com.

One of the things that intrigued me the most, though, was the character of Lady Sarah Hill. Even though she can’t run for political office, she is still just as politically active as her husband and cares about the world she lives in and would like to see reforms made. She’s almost like Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; yes, she is the wife of a powerful man, but she’s not just sitting around being a pretty ornament at his side, either. It’s a sort of peek into the late eighteenth century when women were just as much a part of the changes going in the world as men were.

And last but not least, let’s not forget the dress porn!

A still image from Garrow's Law.
Cast of Garrow;s Law, featuring another costume of Lady Sarah’s. Image via radiotimes.com.
A still image from Garrow's Law.
Another of Lady Sarah’s costumes. Image via bbc.co.uk.

 

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