Farthing Watch – 1.08

‘Friends in Need’

Last Week: The small rodents decided to separate from the rest of the group…AND PAID THE PRICE! Once the baby field mice had been brutally murdered by a terrifying shrike, the grownups saw the error of their ways and joined back up with the gang. The gang who were still tearing themselves apart in the absence of strong and stable leadership. Meanwhile, strong and stable Fox had some adventures in town with a gangster cat and in the country with a superbly-groomed horse, and finally met up with a cute little Vixen.

The conclusion to the previous episode was quite lovely – none of the doom and gloom, just a bit of flirtation. Unfortunately, Badger doesn’t know this – ‘but was [Fox] even alive?’ he wonders in his opening recap. Well yes he is – and having a great time! We rejoin Fox and Vixen as they skip through meadows, chucking a dead rat at each other. Awwww, young love! ‘I’ve not hunted for ages’ says Fox. ‘Because of the oath, I suppose?’ asks Vixen. Good to know she’s a fan of the show too. Or maybe Rook has been telling tales again? ‘It’s nice to be back to normal’ says Fox. The old normal of being a bloodthirsty predator. ‘Have it all’ says Vixen, ‘I’m not really hungry’. Definitely a keeper.

Vixen notes that though foxes hunt, they are also hunted. After Horsey McMane’s warnings in the last episode, I think I know where this is going. ‘Has it happened to you?’ Fox asks. ‘No, but I have heard the horn blow. I suppose it will be my turn one day’. I’m not going to lie, Vixen, these Farthing Wooders are harbingers of doom so….

Fox tells Vixen he will protect her, but she points out that he has a nobler cause. In a nice bit of honesty, Fox admits that he has seen his task as more of a nuisance than a noble thing. This is one of the many reasons we love Fox – he’s a hero but he’s flawed, and that’s totally okay.

‘I’ve never met a creature quite like you before’ Fox tells her. ‘I’d just like to…’. Fortunately we are spared the end of the sentence as a big fat owl arrives. Vixen confusingly addresses him as ‘Owl’, but to avoid confusion we will refer to him as Big Owl. Big Owl tells them that he did have a lengthy conversation with another ooooooowl recently (his mannerism, not ours).

Fox is thrilled to hear that Badger is alive, but still reticent to go and find them. ‘The sooner I find them’ he tells Vixen, ‘The sooner I lose you’. Bless his little lovesick heart!

The gang are currently heading up a steep hill, and Mole decides he’d like to get off Badger and walk for a bit. Badger tells him to hang tight, but Moley ends up slipping off by accident. As he slips down the hill, the other animals are typically uncaring. Rabbit and Hedgehog have a chat about rabbits keeping the grass short and don’t appear to notice him sliding on by, while Adder and Weasel just mock him – ‘looks like Moley’ssss losssst his transssssport!’. The hares trample him, the squirrels are too excited about the prospect of a copse full of trees (‘Trees! Trees!’) and deaf old Mrs Vole just mishears his cries for help (in her usual charmingly bitter way).

Fox is excited about finding his friends again. Vixen is a bit jealous – she’s never had many friends. Fox suggests that she could have lots of friends if she joined them – as his mate. Forward, isn’t he? But there’s a catch – Vixen couldn’t promise herself to anyone until they’ve proved themselves. Should have known it was too good to be true!

She isn’t saying no, though. She’ll decide as they go along. They find that the scents of the group divide and get a bit confused (that’ll be the Field Mouse-Vole Party’s antics then), and Vixen suggests that they split up and follow separate tracks and catch up with each other later.

Badger realises that Mole has disappeared. Meanwhile, Fox finds the Shrike and his terrible murder tree from hell. ‘Easy pickings!’ the butcher bird gloats.

Fox calls the Shrike a punk and he loves it. ‘Nobody’s said anything that nice to me in ages!’. You almost warm to the murderous little monster here – he’s just a hunter who loves life! Fox acts like he’s morally superior, which is a bit rich considering we just saw him playing with a rat he killed! Rats really do come off pretty badly on this show – and just wait for series 3!

Vixen stops for a chat with a thrush about love and family. It’s all getting a bit soapy – can we start the killing again please?! Ohhh, is that a hunting horn and the thundering of hooves I hear? That’ll be the hunt then!

Kestrel guides Moley back to the group (of COURSE she does, Kestrel is an absolute LEGEND). The animals watch the hunt, and see Fox rushing to save Vixen. ‘No!’ shouts Badger. ‘Thissss issss very exciting!’ hisses Adder.

‘Don’t panic!’ cries Mrs Rabbit. ‘If only the rabbits hasn’t panicked, none of this would ever have happened’ says Toad. Alright Toad, that was like 4 episodes ago! Get over it.

Fox is inadvertently drawing the hunting towards the group. Hare suggests that they run, but Badger stands fast. ‘Remember the oath – we must stand together and fight!’. WAS that the oath? Weasel looks genuinely afraid for the first time, which is quite pleasant to watch. Badger rallies everyone to help. Owl and Kestrel launch an aerial assault – seriously, even if we didn’t already love Kestrel her dive bombing a bloodhound puts her right up there as a series favourite. ‘KEE KEE KEE!’ she shrieks, smashing into the dog. Owl, as is her way, goes for the human’s face.

Fox finds his friends again, but the reunion is bittersweet – the riders have gone after Vixen! ‘I bet she gets away’ says Toad, comfortingly. ‘Three-to-one on, any takers?’ cackles Weasel, back to her old vicious self. Things look really bad for a worn out Vixen, but help comes from an unexpected quarter as Adder leaps up and bites the lead horse, throwing off the rider and scaring off the dogs. Not that she wants to take any credit for this uncharacteristic act of kindness.

‘You’re a heroine, Adder!’ calls Weasel. ‘Don’t be sssstupid, it wasssn’t me!’ she replies. She gets a round of applause and cries of ‘Hooray for Adder!’. ‘I’ll never live thissss down’ she mutters, blushing. The hunt head off, and it doesn’t look like they are carrying their fallen comrade so he probably survived the fall. Not sure about the horse, though.

Vixen accepts Fox’s proposal to be his mate. ‘Welcome, my dear’ says Badger, ‘You’re one of us now’. Awwwww. We pan away to the late afternoon sun, and all is well.

Wild Wisdom of the Week – ‘I always thought rabbits must be some use…but I couldn’t think for the life of me what it was’ Hedgehog. Because eating slugs is soooo useful.

‘They do say, Badger, that talking to one’s self is the very first sign of madness’ – Owl.

‘The past is past, Toad’ – Owl.

‘In certain circumstances, attack is the only form of defence’ – Owl.

Deaths – A rat whose corpse Fox and Vixen play with. Maybe a horse, I don’t know. Would an adder’s venom be enough to kill a horse? It fell pretty hard, too. Maybe it would have had to be put down. We know from the previous episode that the horses are only doing their job, so it feels pretty harsh to kill one off. The human rider also looks like he might have sustained some pretty heavy injuries – but showing him to be dead might have been a step too far. Farthing Wood is happy in Watership Down territory, but crossing over into The Plague Dogs might be a bit much!