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The Crimson Field: Are rebellious female characters too predictable?

Channel: BBC One

Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan, VAD.
Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan, VAD.

I am, I admit, obsessed with The Crimson Field, the BBC’s new WWI drama series, focuses on the experiences of female nurses in a field hospital in France. I even check the website daily for new clips and hints on what is to come. Some comments say that the principle plots and characters have all been done before and in this blog post, I will focus on the aspect of the television show which has caught my attention the most. I am most intrigued by the character of Kitty Trevelyan, the central character of the series, who is hiding a dark secret, is rebellious and has possible romance on the cards, but is all this simply too predictable? Kitty is instantly shown to  be a rebellious and somewhat disrespectful. For one, she smokes, for which she is both praised and called “very daring” and criticised. She challenges figures of authority for being unnecessarily strict, rolls her eyes at instructions, calls another character an old maid and a hypocrite, and is, especially in the first episode, quite rude. I must admit, sometimes these characters can be boring but I find this particular one in this particular setting gripping, especially when she begins to hold her tongue and apologises for her rudeness which shows another side to her; that despite her rebelliousness, she does appreciate that rebelling is not always appropriate (although she does continue to break some rules). Clearly, she is  not a 2D character but one with many facets and layers for us to discover. How many women in 1914 were as confident and outspoken as Kitty?  My profound interest in Kitty’s character only grows when I think of the mystery surrounding her personal life.

Kitty with the mysterious wedding ring.
Kitty with the mysterious wedding ring.

The opening scene of the first episode shows Kitty throwing a wedding ring into the ocean. This may be somewhat predictable in its method of creating mystery but I don’t think this is a bad thing when it evolves into such a compelling story. The wedding ring definitely caught my attention and in a later scene we learn that these volunteers are forbidden to marry, which raises many more questions. Is Kitty still married or is she hiding her marriage? Who is her (former) husband and where is he? What happened during this relationship? In the second episode, we also find out that Kitty has a daughter who is being kept from her, that she has no idea where she is and that her mother has effectively disowned her, writing that she is “dead” to her. Ouch! This of course creates a whole new list of questions; Why is her daughter being kept from her? Why does her mother write that Kitty is “vile and corrupt” – what has she done? Personally, I am not opposed to these seemingly “predictable” stories if they catch my attention and entertain, and this is definitely entertaining me.

Thomas (Richard Rankin) and Miles (Alex Wyndham): love interests.
Thomas (Richard Rankin) and Miles (Alex Wyndham): love interests.

Now, I confess that I am a sucker for a good romance subplot and so I didn’t mind when one arose, especially a forbidden romance as the volunteers are not allowed to be anything but professional. Nevertheless, the two young surgeons and close friends Miles and Thomas are both immediately attracted to Kitty. Romantic storylines do make me quite expected, especially during particularly soppy scenes such as Thomas watching Kitty frolicking in the ocean or telling her that he is “alarmed” by her presence (corny alert), but I just hope this doesn’t go down the predictable love triangle route with the two friends fighting over her like children. Thankfully, it appears that Miles is more interested in cheeky flirting, not necessarily a relationship whereas Thomas seems to be more serious than his friend. I’m eager to see this romance unfold and I hope it does soon, especially as Kitty’s two storylines (her mysterious family background and new romance) must join together at some point in the next 3 episodes, hopefully dramatically. Much of the criticism of The Crimson Field revolves around predictability. Maybe a defiant female character, like Kitty, who attracts male attention and is hiding something is seen in many television shows, movies and books but perhaps that is because there is so much to explore with such a character. All this is magnified in a historical setting when society was more judgemental and strict. I have rarely seen such a rebellious female character who flouts the rules and challenges her superiors so openly in a period drama and in my opinion, it is refreshing to see. Would people prefer to see a female character  do nothing but what she is told to do and be willingly oppressed? Would the snobbish Rosalie Berwick make a better central character to the series? I don’t think so. Personally I think that if people kept watching past the first episode with its vague clues about Kitty as a character and saw her story unfold whilst taking into account the social situation for women at the time, they might stop saying that The Crimson Field is simply “too predictable” and may begin to appreciate it more as a whole.

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3 thoughts on “The Crimson Field: Are rebellious female characters too predictable?”

    1. I was very upset as well, I was really looking forward to following the characters throughout the war. If you’re looking for something similar, you should definitely try ANZAC Girls which I recently reviewed. It’s a similar premise, but about nurses from Australia and New Zealand. I absolutely loved it.

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