The Casual Vacancy

Does Screen Adaptation of the Underground War in Village of Death Outrun J.K. Rowling’s Book?

Casual Vacancy PosterOnto our second Pick of the week! I must be on a roll. Fortunately, I’ve planned out my time pretty well, because I have just watched a film at the cinema which I can review for tomorrow, and Sunday marked the third and final episode for the creative adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.

Just to say, I could only find a picture of the book cover to use for this Pick. Speaking of the book, I heard many people voice their concerns, saying it was only popular due to J.K. Rowling’s name. While I wish not to mention the book, a few surprises lay in store in the TV miniseries which force me to give some mention. Anyway, let’s get on, shall we? There’s a casual vacancy to fill.

Oh! And if you really really dislike spoilers, you might want to watch Episode One first. The title really does suggest the spoiler, so I wouldn’t worry.


In the quiet town of Pagford, the parish council wages war over Sweetlove House: a community centre that half want to maintain, and the other want to remove for a high-end spa, as to distance themselves from “The Fields”, a poorer district in the town. Unfortunately, Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies, creating a gap. Here’s the deal. Whoever has the seat, will have the deciding vote on Sweetlove House.

Meanwhile, Krystal, a teenage girl who lives with her heroin addict mother Terri and young brother Robbie in The Fields takes up another plot, as she battles with her social workers, mother, and other helping-hands. With the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother haunting the candidates for the space by publicly spilling secrets, and the village splitting into two, this has a block-buster of a plot.


…It’s a shame they didn’t utilise it as well as they should have. I spoke to others about the book and TV series, and after some research, I found the writers shied away from “riskier” themes like sexual content, child neglect, and suicide. I know it’s the BBC, but maybe taking a dive would have made the show seem more cutting-edge?

As I hadn’t read the book, I’d found the finale to be great. There was tension, dismay, and some glimmers of hope for characters. I saw a lot of hate for the ending, saying why it was changed. I have two words for you people: CREATIVE ADAPTATION. Although I agree the book was far more shocking, the whole point of creatively adapting a book is to show the story in a different light. Personally, I found nothing wrong with it.

Being a heavily character-based story, I thought all characters were good. There were no “perfect characters” and everyone (I emphasise: everyone) had their flaws (the only exception being Barry Fairbrother). And I have to give the awards to the two actors who stole the show. Gosh I hated their characters. I wanted to drive a burning stake through their cold, icy hearts. And that is why they were so good. Mr. and Mrs. Mollison, played by Michael Gambon (Harry Potter Series – Albus Dumbledore) and Julia McKenzie (Agatha Christie’s Marple) were just stunningly good. Stunningly good at being horrible people. Their performances will stick to me for a while.

But despite the characters, there were a couple of plot-holes and side-plots leading nowhere. But one thing that intrigued me was the points of the surreal and (almost) supernatural. For example, Mr. Mollison’s visions of death and dreams of rotting cheese and Barry hit me due to the naturalistic style the show had been going with. Then the widow of Barry sitting watching The Wizard of Oz on mute hit me again due to the creepy yet saddening image of her grieving. A couple of moments to slap you back into the story, like Barry seeing Death. Death seems to like showing up from time to time.


The miniseries seems to develop from the book. It successfully portrays interesting and intricate characters, who push the story with great gusto. However, the series should be careful not to go too quickly, because some writing flaws and pot-holes plot-holes might ruin its progress. A good watch, but be prepared for some awkward plot-points.


The Casual Vacancy - Quote