Main cast: Anthony Andrews (Jonathan), Imelda Staunton (Sarah), Anna Friel (Angelica, Leah), Paddy Navin (Bertha), Finty Williams (Lucy), Emma Bird (Emma), Pip Torens (Gordon), Lone Vidahl (Miss Prichard), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Tom Sanders
About Face is the occasional historical episode, this one set in Victorian-era England. Intriguingly, it takes this long for Tales from the Crypt to tackle a common theme in horror: the false priest. Now that we have one… well, it’s a bummer that it’s nowhere as good as it could have been. But that’s a common complaint about the later seasons of this show, no?
Reverend Jonathan is a man of God who makes a comfortable living from giving talks and putting out motivational books, in addition to doing the whole Jesus is cool thing. He and his wife Sarah seem to be happy together. Only, as you can guess, the whole thing is a lie. Jonathan is a lecherous piece of crap and Sarah is content to turn a blind eye on his indiscretions, so long as his appetites are directed away from her and she can enjoy her love of alcohol in peace. The two of them are still together mostly because doing so contributes to the man’s branding and keeps the money rolling in for the two of them.
But this cozy façade is threatened one fine day when a sixteen-year old girl, Angelica, shows up at their door. She and her twin sister Leah are the results of a long discarded affair between Jonathan and a maid, the maid being fired after she was pregnant with his kids. The girls’ mother had passed on, and recently their guardian kicked the bucket too, and now they have nowhere to go. While our man of God initially wants to kick Angelica out, he realizes that taking two girls in – passing them off as adopted daughters, of course – will only enhance his standing. After all, his congregation will lap the whole family man image up. Everyone profits!
Well, there is a problem. Angelica is a lovely girl, but Leah is a hostile scripture-spouting creature with a hideous birthmark, who is determined to make life very difficult for her father and his wife. Or is Leah the bad sister here? As the episode unfolds, the two sisters begin to further the rift between Jonathan and Sarah, heh, so let the fun begin…
Oh wait, what fun? This episode takes forever to set up anything, and the denouement unravels in rapid bullet speed in the last five minutes or so, making About Face a very unsatisfying kind of watch. Yet again, this is an episode in the seventh season that may have been so much better if it had been longer, so that things are allowed to percolate and develop more organically. Anthony Andrews is solid as a lecherous piece of scum, but Imelda Staunton is largely wasted as her role is too underdeveloped to be of note. As for the twin sisters, they aren’t given much time to develop as characters, so they remain plot devices instead of becoming characters in their own right. The twist in the end can be seen coming, but the reveal is pretty cool – which only underscores my frustration at how criminally underdeveloped this episode is.