How much you enjoy The Essex Serpent, an Apple TV Plus adaptation of Sarah Perry’s 2016 novel, might depend on how much you enjoy seeing Tom Hiddleston brooding in a misty field while wearing cozy wool sweaters. For a lot of people, that will probably be enough of a hook. (It was for me.) But thankfully, the six-episode series offers a lot more than great hair blowing in the wind — it’s a tense and heartfelt exploration of grief and belief and how much those two things can mess with you. The great sweaters are just a bonus.

The show primarily follows two characters. One is Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a recent widow and a budding natural history scholar who has quite the fixation with sea serpents. She spends her spare time researching them via old books, maps, and newspaper clippings. When rumors pop up that a serpent has been terrorizing a small fishing village in Essex, she — along with her young son (Caspar Griffiths) and friend / housekeeper (Hayley Squires) — boards a train from London to investigate.

What she finds when she arrives isn’t a serpent — at least not initially, no spoilers there — but rather a town steadily going mad with fear. A missing child has everyone on edge, blaming the mythical creature, which, many believe, is attacking the most sinful of the bunch. As bad things continue to happen to pretty much everyone, the tragedies are inevitably blamed on the beast. One of the first people Cora meets in town is Will Ransome…

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