There’s an air of quiet indignation around Hermia Easterbrook in Amazon’s The Pale Horse. She paints herself as the perfect housewife. Her hair and makeup are always done with precision and accuracy. Food is ready and waiting when her husband, Mark Easterbrook (Rufus Sewell) comes home from work. She keeps up her appearance well by using exercise equipment like the belt vibrator. Hermia prides herself on being the best wife. She loves her husband. But she knows he does not love her back.
Hermia Easterbrook (Kaya Scodelario) loved Mark long before he married his first wife, Delphine Easterbrook. After Delphine’s untimely death, Mark settled for Hermia. Someone needed to unpack the boxes, he told her. Hermia loves someone who has eyes for another woman and there is nothing she can do about it because this woman is dead.
When Hermia married Mark, she moved into his and Delphine’s home. It’s implied that she wears Delphine’s old wedding band. Delphine is a ghost that haunts both Mark and Hermia but for different reasons. Hermia carries this burden with strong shoulders and great eyeliner.
In the first part of The Pale Horse, Hermia is trying to keep her marriage together. She doesn’t ask Mark about his constant absences. We see that Mark isn’t as genuine as he plays himself to be. He’s fooling everyone around him but Hermia is catching on. While Mark is investigating why his name is on this mysterious list, Hermia is investigating Mark.
She’s a background character that travels this journey with the audience of slowly peeling back Mark’s layers. While we know a few things she doesn’t, Hermia is by no means an oblivious character. She has to play her role of the dutiful wife while figuring out who exactly she married. The more Mark begins to lose his sanity over this list, Hermia is gaining clarity and ownership of herself.
It’s hard to see Hermia’s name without thinking of Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595). Only in the comedy, Hermia is fleeing from an arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t love and gets mixed up in love potions from prankster fairies. Also, it is Helena who loves Demetrius who has eyes for Hermia. It’s an interesting switch to use Hermia in The Pale Horse as having eyes for a man who doesn’t love her.
In Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name, Hermia is Mark’s girlfriend rather than his wife. She is described as “pretentious” and doesn’t believe Mark when he tells her about this list and his investigations. She leaves Mark and he gets engaged to someone else.
Hermia’s suspicions of Mark are not out of paranoia like in Christie’s novel, but out of legitimate concern on what he does when he is out of her view. She knows he may be having affairs on her and handles her aggression in private before confronting him. There’s an underlying sense that Mark has been manipulative of her and asks if she has been taking her pills.
All throughout The Pale Horse, Hermia finds herself. It’s a show that is just as much about her journey as it is Mark’s. They get different endings to their stories but Hermia’s ending is a new beginning. We are tricked into thinking she is the annoying one but Sarah Phelps pulls a quick one on us with her adaptation and has us sympathizing with her and rooting for her by the time The Pale Horse comes to an end.
Also, make sure you use an ashtray when you smoke in her home.
The Pale Horse premieres on Amazon Prime this March 13th.