Farthing Watch – 1.07

‘New Friends, Old Enemies’

Last Week: Fox and Badger got hit by a floating MASS OF DEBRIS and hurled over a waterfall. Badger was quickly recovered but Fox floated away and disappeared. As a leadership contest developed between various factions of animals, Mrs Field Mouse gave birth. Meanwhile, Fox woke up on a boat heading for a lock. Will Fox escape the locks? Let’s watch!

A quick apology to start with – last week I said there were no deaths, but of course there was a dead mouse! Sorry, I am so inured to the horrible violence now that I barely notice the corpses. Well, I say that, but…

In his voiceover recap, Badger says that ‘of all the perils we have encountered on our journey from Farthing Wood, crossing the river was the most disastrous’. Really Badger?! More disastrous than the wildfire which wiped out the entire Newt family, or the murderous farmer? On that note, which old enemies are being referred to in the title of this episode? Is the farmer out for more blood? Are the diggers from the first episode zooming back to bring more destruction?

Anyway, on to the episode…the voles and field mice decide that they do not wish to continue, with Mrs Field Mouse worn out looking after her babies. Mr Vole thinks he has found a suitable home for them. There’s soft earth, shade and even a trickle running through the ditch for water. ‘Sounds lovely!’ says Mrs Field Mouse.

Hedgehog points out that Badger will not be pleased at their breaking up the party (see those Newts again!) but Vole is revolting: ‘it’sh time we shmall creatures shtood up for ourselvesh!’. Owl and Adder, the political predators, are thrilled by this turn of events. ‘What do you sssay we help thingsss along?’ says Adder.

‘The Vole and Mouse Party have unanimously decided to stay here’ says Vole. Badger doesn’t know what to do. ‘If only Fox were here!’ mewls Moley.

Ah yes, Fox! He’s still in the locks! ‘Come on foxy, we only want to help you!’ calls down a friendly boat chap. A horrible child suggests keeping him as a pet, but Fox makes his escape in a pretty epic leap. After a nightmarish dash through a town (so weird to be away from the rural milieu for a minute!), Fox hides out in a junkyard and meets a camp gangster cat, ‘Tom’.

Fox asks for sanctuary. ‘Sanctuary? Oooooooh!’ says Tom. As he starts educating Fox about how to please humans, it genuinely feels like a musical number might begin at any moment. Tom gets Fox some manky old chicken to eat, but ‘what are you gonna do for me, eh?’. It’s all getting a bit Oliver Twist! Tom suggests that Fox do his job of killing rats and mice in the yard.

Meanwhile, Owl suggests that the small animals be allowed to stay where they are. Badger finds it all a bit confusing. Back at the junkyard, Fox is on a killing spree. Tom reckons he got 10, but Fox corrects him to 14. Tom gets praise for Fox’s hard work, but poor Fox gets carried away on a lorry.

Adder thinks she’s Kaa again, and tries to mesmerise the baby mice, only to knock herself out instead.

The political talk continues – Weasel claims that she could happily live without the oath, but Owl states that it is necessary. Toad tells Badger that all the animals have lost faith in him. Erm, Toad matey, I don’t think they had that much to begin with…Badger consoles him, saying that the birds will help to guide them. ’You can rely on me!’ says Kestrel. We know Kestrel!

Fox leaps of the lorry and meets a horse with fab hair.

‘Bit ironic, really,’ says the horse, ‘Been hunting foxes all my life, and here I am chin-wagging with you!’. He’s a fairly decent sort of horse, but he has to follow orders. Apparently there is a lot of hunting going on ‘ryand heeyah’. Seriously, where is this place? The accents make it sound like Dorsessex. Fox heeds Horsey’s (my name) warning, but notes that he has no plans to stay – he must get back to his friends. ‘I wonder how they’re getting along…?’ he muses, staring wistfully into the distance.

JUMP CUT (I shit you not) to a terrifying bird flying along with a dead mouse in its beak! AAAAAARGH! Jesus! What the hell, Farthing Wood?! At least the Pheasants’ horrible deaths were signposted!

‘Excuse me!’ shouts Hare, ‘Is that…one of us?’. It’s funny how the lines are drawn. Fox’s little massacre last night was a moment of comedy; this is hellish. Badger sends Hare back to find out what happened to the field mice and…well, the pictures speak louder than words ever could:

Yes, the animals have been brutally murdered by a shrike. ‘SHRIKE! SHRIKE!’ it calls. ‘Butcher bird!’ gasps Hare in horror. ‘Yeah!’ it calls back, ice cold, ‘That’s what they call me!’. The adult little animals are still alive. ‘My poor babies’ says Mrs Field Mouse. They join back up with the main group. This time Badger does at least acknowledge Vole’s bravery, rather than admonishing him for wanting to separate from the group. He blames himself.

Horsey notes that tales are being told of the Farthing Wood animals by a crow (could that be the rook from the copse near the farm?) – ‘nobody believed them, of course’. Owl thinks Fox is dead, Mole doesn’t believe it. Either way, Badger decides it’s time to move on. Fox finds a nice comfy den, but it belongs to somebody else. Vixen! From the first meeting, it is clear that these foxes are meant to be. Vixen tells him to rest – ‘I do have several others’. She’s got looks and property – what a keeper! She invites Fox to hunt with her. ‘Things are looking up!’ says Fox, with a massive wink to the camera. They race off into the night.

Happy hunting guys, see you next week!


Wild Wisdom of the Week – ‘Who’d be a leader?’  (Owl, mockingly, and Badger, feeling depressed)

‘There are three ways of acting wisely. The first is through meditation. This is the noblest. Second, by imitation. This is the easiest. Third, by experience. This is the bitterest’  (Owl)

Deaths – 14  mice (and/or rats) killed by Fox, AND THEN ALL THE BABY MICE BECAUSE LIFE IS PAIN AND YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY. And people think Game of Thrones is shocking stuff…

Other musings – I haven’t mentioned it until now, but this series has aged really well. When it was first shown, Newsround was full of footage of the horrible things happening across former Yugoslavia, and now you can take your pick of refugee crises to compare it to. Another thing we haven’t talked about is the international collaboration behind this series. The mix of French, English and German creatives in the credits is a joy to see. Let’s hope Brexit doesn’t mean that this sort of thing won’t be able to happen again!