Picnic at Hanging Rock: Season 1/ Episode 4 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

With a shift to focusing on Sara’s life, Picnic at Hanging Rock finds its heart and something which should carry you through the remaining episodes. Network Amazon Prime Director(s) Amanda Brotchie Writer(s) Alice Addison Air Date 5/25/2018 Actors Introduced Tom Mark Coles Smith Trigger Warnings: Self Harm Depiction A Christmas To Remember: Marion, Ms. McCraw…

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Sara sneaking about in the college.

With a shift to focusing on Sara’s life, Picnic at Hanging Rock finds its heart and something which should carry you through the remaining episodes.

Amazon Prime
Director(s) Amanda Brotchie
Writer(s) Alice Addison
Air Date 5/25/2018
Actors Introduced
Tom Mark Coles Smith

Trigger Warnings: Self Harm Depiction

A Christmas To Remember: Marion, Ms. McCraw

In episode 3, Mrs. Appleyard is confronted with the idea that Ms. McCraw is a [tooltips keyword=’ sapphist’ content = ‘For the context of this show, a lesbian or woman love’] which of course Mrs. Appleyard disregards. However, it seems to be quite true. For during the Christmas of 1899, Marion and her spend quite a bit of quality time together. Initiated by Marion by the way – Ms. McCraw isn’t a predator.

Which does lead to the question of whether those two, at Hanging Rock, perhaps got separated to have a private moment? After all, between Ms. Lumley and the girls, a private moment likely would be rare. So the bush of Australia would be the perfect opportunity, with most of the girls napping, for both to express themselves.


Marion flirting with Ms. McCraw after reading to her.
“We could continue after dinner.”

One of the curious things about this mini-series is how it shows the closeness of same-sex relationships. Some of which are innocently homoerotic like when Irma kissed Miranda. Something you don’t take as a sexual pursuit but can be seen that way. Which can also be said about Mike and Albert though, with respect to how homosexuality between men isn’t as openly expressed as with women. Hence why Mike is very careful about what he does, for fear of being outed, hurt, or killed, while the girls can be open. Even in the case of Marion and Ms. McCraw, perhaps become lovers.

Which, while I must admit it seems slightly out of place, was quite lovely. Yet it really does make me wonder, with plans to watch the movie later on in the week, how will that compare? For I feel like a lot of the things done are made to attract a modern audience who seek out diversity in a multitude of ways. With perhaps just the basis of the book, three girls and their teacher missing, being the baseline as they explore other avenues.

You know, do as many and expand upon what the creators thought was an interesting story or idea worthy of expansion. Even if it meant shifting the tone or narrative of the book into something more so inspired by than based on or adapted from.

The Investigation Continues & Gets Amplified: Mrs. Appleyard, Sgt. Bumpher, Ms. Valange, Ms. Lumley

Despite the search ending, with two girls and an instructor missing, the damage has been done. Parents are pulling their girls, the college has begun to gain a reputation and taking note Sgt. Bumpher has someone post on college grounds? Well, it seems like the beginning of the end. Especially with Irma’s father pushing for a Scotland Yard investigation. Thus sending Mrs. Appleyard in a bit of a tailspin since she figured all she’d have to do is lay low, change the name of the college, silence the stories about the missing, advertise, and be back on her feet. However, clearly, that can’t be done.

Though another issue, brought to Mrs. Appleyard’s attention under duress, is how some, such as Ms. Valange, question her leadership. Primarily when it comes to Sara and how she is handled. Leading to there being a statement of, outside of Ms. Lumley, who is so used to being abused she is able to take it from Mrs. Appleyard, the staff aren’t happy. Something which, with a cold stare, Mrs. Appleyard barely reacts to beyond asking if the statement should be considered Ms. Valange’s resignation.

Which it is decided it will be for she is tired of standing by while the staff and girls are taken advantage of.


A poster noting Miranda, Marion, and Ms. McCraw missing.

When it comes to choosing her staff, you have to wonder if Mrs. Appleyard chose misfits or those who seemed to want a new life and some form of stability for a reason. Perhaps so that their loyalty would be unquestionable because of some hint of kindness. Something we see a bit in Ms. Lumley who runs to Mrs. Appleyard at a moment’s notice over the littlest thing. Also, add in Ms. McCraw being queer, maybe Mrs. Appleyard picking up some vibes from Marion, and it makes you wonder if most of the staff have secrets Mrs. Appleyard figured out.

After all, her former profession dealt with playing on people’s vulnerabilities in some way. So who is to say from the staff to the girls, her rule isn’t maintained by figuring out their weaknesses before they can understand hers? Hence why she has this weird love/ hate relationship with Sara. When it comes to her, and let’s throw in Miranda, there isn’t much to twist and manipulate. Miranda was free and didn’t give a damn. Mrs. Appleyard needed her tuition more than Miranda wanted to be there.

Then, when it comes to Sara, while the issue of her guardian not paying tuition lingered, and being sent to an orphanage, she still figured Mrs. Appleyard out and tests her. To the point it really does seem she admires the child. Perhaps even wants to groom her but Sara is so combative that she can’t craft the kind of relationship she wants to.

The Life & Times of Sara Waybourne: Sara, Miranda, Michael, Albert, Dianne, Mrs. Appleyard

With Irma gone, alongside Marion and Miranda still assumed missing, if not dead, all eyes are on Sara. A spunky little kid who, based off the self-made cuts on her legs, is a bit troubled. But what do you expect when her punishments, which Ms. Lumley are responsible for, go beyond their intentioned time length. Thus leaving her in the attic for long periods of time or the posture harness.

But, between art class with Ms. Valange and spending time with Miranda, Sara found comfort at Appleyard college. Especially since Miranda was so kind and basically adopted Sara into being her little sister. She even, over a Christmas holiday, took her home with her. Hence why the idea of no longer talking about her and the others who disappeared upsets Sara.

Yet, despite how cruel Mrs. Appleyard can be, especially as she tries to break Sara in like a horse, Sara believes one day Bertie, who we know as Albert, will one day reunite with her. Oh yeah, Albert, who Michael wants to run away and travel the world with? That’s Sara’s brother. However, sadly, the one chance they could have had to run into each other? Sadly Sara misses it. For while Ms. Dianne writes a letter for Albert, to Michael to let him know he came into money, thanks to Irma’s father, Sara was cutting herself. However, with hearing his name she runs and misses her brother by minutes. Leading to her deciding, with the limited information she has about his whereabouts, packing a bag and heading into the woods. A place where she seemingly runs into Mrs. Appleyard.


Sara as her brother rides away.

Probably the best decision of the show thus far was shifting things to Sara. In doing so we get a sympathetic character who connects us to the most charismatic, who is a foil for Mrs. Appleyard and with us learning Albert is her brother? Now we got a happy ending to hope for. Especially since they nearly crossed paths.

Yet, with all this praise for Sara comes the question of whether the show will capitalize and maintain the focus or shift it to someone else? Since each episode seems to put a magnifying glass on someone so who might episode 5 feature? Perhaps Michael or Albert or will it stick to those who live at the college? And if it does stick to the college, could it be Marion, Ms. McCraw or maybe Miranda? Assuming her episode wasn’t considered one of the first two.

And with all that said, I must admit I’m genuinely interested in what will happen next but not to the point of saying this is a show you have to stick it out with. I’m a sucker for sad children stories or seeing them face adversity and find happiness eventually. However, as for Picnic at Hanging Rock outside of Sara? The mystery element is still trash, Mrs. Appleyard does not seem like someone who should be touted as a lead character and the whole soap opera vibe of this show remains such a turn-off.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Does Sara remind anyone else of the girl from Pan’s Labyrinth?
  2. What was in the letter Tom was given to secretly pass onto Sara?


  1. Sara bringing some kind of hook to the show, that can be consistent, as this spunky kid with a heart of gold but a handful of issues.
  2. The reveal that Albert is Sara’s brother and with them almost finding each other, there is something to hope for over the course of the next two episodes.

Low Points

  1. Appleyard’s past and the mystery of the missing girls becomes such an afterthought because Sara’s storyline is just far superior. Even with an old acquaintance of Mrs. Appleyard introducing himself.

On The Fence

  1. Whether all these homoerotic moments will lead to anything or just be a tease. For purposes yet unknown.

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  1. I’m glad to read that you’ll eventually be watching Peter Weir’s film version when this is over, I’m very curious to know what you’ll make of it having experienced the series first
    (though be warned – Weir’s approach to characterisation tends to focus more on displaying the characters personalities by the intricate details of the way they do things… rather than by providing great amounts of detailed backstory in dialogue. Pretty much the opposite of this series)
    Be on the lookout for a very young John Jarrot (best known for playing Mick, the serial killer in “Wolf Creek”) as Albert and an even younger Jackie Weaver (of “Silver Linings Playbook”) in the 1970s movie version.

    I would agree that Sara is one of the saving graces of this series and her characterisation is one of the few things that remains a constant through the novel, the 1970s movie and now the TV series.

    With regards to same sex relations…. the idea of “romantic friendships” within single-sex boarding schools was quite a common phenomenon, both in Australia and England. Perhaps it is only natural given the lack of other outlets for budding sexuality available. In Australia at the time, such things were generally tolerated provided that the girls were discreet and their relationship didn’t progress all the way to sexual relations.

    Lesbianism wasn’t technically illegal in Australia at the time this story is set, but among adults it came with a heavy social stigma attached to it… guy on guy action was illegal and punishable by a prison sentence so it is correct for the series to depict Michael as hesitant, the risks for him were greater in many ways.

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