I only saw a couple of episodes of Cadfaelin the mid-1990s when it was running on PBS. But now that I’ve binged through just about all the British crime/cop/detective shows that Amazon, AcornTV, Britbox, and Netflix have to offer, I’ve circled back to this little gem. There were only 13 episodes all together , and I’m almost done with them.
The wonderful Derek Jacobi plays Brother Cadfael, late of the Crusades who entered the monastery at age 40 after a full and active life. He’s now an herbalist, healer, and sleuth in an Abbey full of personality conflicts, squabbles, politics, and just plain human nature. He gets crosswise with the Abbott, much like modern amateur detectives who annoy the official authorities. He has a slow-ish Watson, and another monk is a pissy little nemesis. Calls to mind the Gilbert & Sullivan line, “When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery…” Just as in Cabot Cove, Maine, there are plenty of murders in the tiny hamlet of Shrewsbury. (Note to self: don’t ever invite Jessica Fletcher to… well, to anything!)
Cadfael is bright and clever, but he’s not a modern man. He’s not a scientific thinker. He’s a gentle character but with balls of steel when called for. Good with a sword. He comes by his powers of observation and analysis through years of worldly experience, including experience with women. In one episode, he meets a son he didn’t know he had, fathered with a Syrian women when he was in the Middle East during the Crusades. One of the recurring characters is a nun from a nearby convent who was clearly a past lover of Cadfael’s when she wasn’t busy being the mistress of a nobleman.
I’m fascinated by the Medieval period, because it’s one that we moderns cannot imagine (IMHO)–a time (in the West, that is) when the Church dominated everything, there was no secularism, and none of the scientific thinking we take for granted. God and religion (the Catholic religion) permeated everyday life at every level. As much as possible, the series adheres to that worldview. Is it any wonder that I’m enjoying a vacation from Today… back to a world where all people had to worry about was plague, Civil War, death due to minor infections, excommunication, and an eternity in the fires of Hell? How refreshing!
Anyone else familiar with this show?