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Series / Apple Tree Yard

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"Before I met you, I was a civilised woman."
Dr. Yvonne Carmichael

Apple Tree Yard is a 2017 British thriller Mini Series, based on the novel of the same name by Louise Doughty.

Told in four parts, the series revolves around Dr Yvonne Carmichael (Emily Watson), a 40-something scientist who has grown dissatisfied with her monotonous life and dull, failing marriage. Then, she meets Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin), a handsome, charismatic and mysterious man whilst giving a presentation at the House of Commons. They share an instant attraction, which leads into a passionate affair. However, when a series of shocking events shatter Yvonne's world, she finds herself questioning whether she ever truly knew her lover at all.

This series contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: George Selway after he's fatally beaten by Mark, considering he's an unrepentant rapist who continued terrorising his victim for weeks afterward. While his murder is presented as disturbing, he's not portrayed as sympathetic and the plot is more concerned with how Yvonne is affected by the murder.
  • Berserk Button:
    • When the legal advisor the Carmichaels consult asks why Yvonne didn’t try to fight back against her rapist, Gary grabs a knife, holds it to his throat and then proceeds to give him a lecture on how the flight-fight-freeze response works in life-threatening situations.
    • Whilst at a dinner party, Yvonne flips out at the hostess when she starts Victim-Blaming a young woman who was gang-raped in a recent case they heard about. Yvonne is more than justified, seeing as she herself was recently raped, although the hostess didn't know this.
  • Betty and Veronica: Gender-flipped version, with Gary as the Betty and Mark as the Veronica for Yvonne. Gary is the dull, mild-mannered college professor she's been married to for decades and while he's not unkind to her, their relationship resembles that of roommates more than anything. Mark is the charming, mysterious Secret Service agent who sweeps her off her feet. Mark turns out to be a seriously unstable womanizer and throws Yvonne under the bus when his murder trial isn't going in his favor. Gary fully supports Yvonne throughout the whole ordeal, vehemently defends her and stands by her even after learning she had an affair with Mark.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: George Selway. He seems to be a pleasant enough guy, if not slightly annoying...and turns out to be a sadistic rapist.
  • Bittersweet Ending: George is dead and cannot hurt anyone, least of all Yvonne, anymore. Yvonne gets a suspended sentence for perjury, but is found not guilty of murder/manslaughter. Her relationship with Gary is shaky, but possibly salvageable, and she realises that Mark may indeed have some kind of personality disorder after all.
  • Blaming the Victim: This comes up several times in different forms.
    • When George tries to pressure Yvonne into sex, he points out she's already having sex with another man who isn't her husband, then rapes her when she still rejects him, with it being implied George believes she deserves it because she's an adulterer.
    • The hostess of a dinner party makes comments suggesting a woman who was recently gang-raped brought it on herself, because surely she would've known what the men's intentions were when she was alone with them; she also questions why she couldn't have just bitten the man who forced her to perform oral sex. Yvonne vocally condemns this, saying that perhaps the woman felt too scared to fight or went with the men under the impression her autonomy would be respected.
    • When Yvonne's lawyer asks her about her rape and she admits she didn't try to physically stop George or get away, he says that some people on the jury may question whether she was raped because she 'let' it happen. This infuriates psychology professor Gary, who explains in a blunt fashion (with a knife to illustrate the point) that some people faced with dangerous and traumatic situations will instinctively freeze up instead of fighting or escaping (it's worth noting that George also struck Yvonne and threatened her with further violence, so it's even less surprising she would've tried to fight).
    • While Yvonne is being questioned by Mark's lawyer, it's brought up that shortly before her 'alleged' rape, Yvonne had had sex with Mark in an alleyway and attended the party where the assault occurred not wearing underwear, among other things; the line of questioning obviously implies that Yvonne is lying about the rape or perhaps led George on. Yvonne starts crying and states that this kind of attitude is exactly why she didn't go to the police about the rape at the time or disclose her affair with Mark earlier, because she was scared everyone would assume she was a liar or had it coming.
  • Blatant Lies: Every time Yvonne and Mark claim to be Just Friends. It severely backfires on Yvonne in the fourth episode when her lies are revealed to the court, making things look even worse for her to the jury.
  • Broken Bird: Yvonne, after she's raped and then arrested for her rapist's murder. She does her best to stay calm and collected, but she's clearly struggling to hold things together and breaks down in private a few times and becomes extremely emotional on the witness stand when she recounts her rape. Other times, she comes off as nearly emotionless as she tries to process everything.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Mark once broke a man's jaw in a fight after he chatted his wife up. He also doesn't seem too pleased to see Yvonne and Gary smiling at each other in the courtroom; moments later, he summons his lawyer and reveals his affair with Yvonne to her, though it's unclear if he did it purely from jealousy.
  • Dead Sparks: Yvonne and Gary’s decades' long marriage has become stale and humdrum, and while they're not unkind to each other they're not exactly affectionate either. This results in Yvonne having an affair. Gary too later admits to cheating on Yvonne, citing the fact they "never have sex".
  • Deer in the Headlights: Yvonne is so shocked and terrified when George attacks her, she completely freezes up. Her husband later lampshades that this can be a natural response to such a situation, although it's pointed out that some people will question as to whether it was really rape because she didn't fight back.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Yvonne bundles up the dress she was wearing the night she was raped, intending to bring it to the police, but at the last moment she changes her mind and throws it in the trash. As she explains to Mark, the dress will likely have her rapist's DNA...but it will also have DNA from her consensual sexual encounter with Mark on the same night, thus revealing their extramarital affair.
  • First-Episode Twist: The first episode ends with an especially nasty twist; while at a work party Yvonne's co-worker, George, confesses he has feelings for her and tries to initiate sex with her. When Yvonne rejects him, he brutally rapes her. Matters are further complicated due to the fact Yvonne has been having an affair, so she's reluctant to go to the police both because it could implode her and her lover's personal lives, and because she thinks the police won’t take her as seriously because she's an unfaithful wife.
  • Footsie Under the Table: Mark and Yvonne both do this while sitting at a table together once.
  • Forceful Kiss: George forces a kiss on Yvonne, shortly before raping her.
  • Heroic BSoD: Yvonne goes through one for half of the second episode, after being raped and continually harassed by her rapist. She's in a state of shock for a few days and becomes understandably paranoid, putting her dresser across her bedroom door at night and eventually quitting her job because she can't bear to be around George.
  • Hot for Teacher: Rosa, one of Gary's students at the university where he works, is more than a little obsessed with him, even following him to his house. He eventually gives in out of frustration over his passionless marriage, though he makes it clear that it was only about sex and he stands by his wife.
  • How We Got Here: The first episode opens with Yvonne being transported to court for a trial, with episodes one and two explaining why she's there and what she's being charged with.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Yvonne. She's thinks she's 'past-it' and at one point compares herself to a jelly-baby in appearance, not helped by her marriage losing its spark.
  • Insanity Defense: Mark pleads this after being charged with George's murder. It ultimately succeeds in his sentence being reduced from murder to manslaughter. Whilst not confirmed, it's implied that at the very least he's got some pretty abnormal ways of thinking and behaving.
  • It Meant Something to Me: In the end Yvonne tells Mark that her feelings, at least, were real. He claims his were too, though it's possible he's lying.
  • Kick the Dog: After raping Yvonne, George begins stalking and harassing her, sending her an email asking if they want to share rooms on a business trip and, after she leaves the hairdresser's, sending her a text asking if her make-over was for him.
  • Knight Templar: A possible interpretation of Mark Costley. After his lover is raped then stalked by her attacker, he confronts him at her request to get him to leave her alone. Mark ensures that he does...permanently.
  • Literal-Minded: Played for Drama. It's revealed in the final scene that Mark took Yvonne literally when she jokingly told him she wanted him to kill the man who raped her.
  • Love Martyr: Mark's wife puts up with a lot from him. Although he doesn't necessarily directly mistreat her, she's still with him even after he's been arrested for assault and cheated on her multiple times. During his murder trial, she blames Yvonne solely for the crime, screaming at her that she's a "bitch" who "gets everything [she] deserves". However, she storms out in tears after hearing sordid details of one of her husband's affairs and isn't seen at court again, so it's possibly subverted.
  • Loving a Shadow: Yvonne becomes smitten with Mark quickly, embarking on a passionate affair and leans on him after she's raped. However, when he murders her rapist and they're put on trial, Yvonne soon learns Mark's so different from whom she's thought that it's clear she'd never really known the real man at all.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Yvonne and Mark get an extra thrill out of having sex in public places; their first encounter is in the Secret Chapel of the Commons. They also have sex in a cafe toilet and in an alleyway in Apple Tree Yard. Mark, as it is revealed in the trial, seems to have a fetish for this kind of thing, as he's done it with other lovers in the past.
  • The Mentally Ill: Mark's entire defence in the murder trial is based around him having a personality disorder that diminished his responsibility; an expert witness suggests he has borderline personality disorder and in the end it's revealed he took Yvonne literally when she jokingly told him she wanted him to kill George. He also has a habit of lying, is obviously violent and has a thing for sex in public places. However, it's not clear if he does have a mental condition that legitimately means he can't control his impulses or leads him to misinterpret things, or if he's just using it as a way to avoid a harsher sentence.
  • Not Good with Rejection: When Yvonne rejects George's advances, he hits and rapes her, then stalks and harasses her for weeks afterward.
  • The Place: The title refers to a street where Mark and Yvonne hooked up before she attended a work party and is subsequently raped; this severely complicates things because if Yvonne goes to the police her affair will almost certainly be revealed and she fears people might not believe her account because of the nature of the sexual encounter.
  • Rape and Revenge: Deconstructed. After Yvonne confides in her lover Mark that a co-worker raped her and is now stalking her, Mark kills him in retaliation, believing it's what Yvonne wanted. However, Yvonne is actually horrified; they both end up being charged with murder, which further traumatises her.
  • Rape as Drama: Towards the end of the first episode, Yvonne is brutally raped by her co-worker George at a party, with the aftermath of the rape forming the main plot for the rest of the series.
  • The Reveal: Mark murdered George when he confronted him, doesn't actually work for Secret Service (except in a clerical position) and has been lying to Yvonne about various aspects of his life. Also, in a final twist, it seems he actually does have some kind of personality disorder (as opposed to just playing it up for the jury), given his behaviour and the fact he took Yvonne literally when she joked about killing George.
  • Riddle for the Ages: It's never revealed how George learned of Yvonne's affair with Mark, as they had tried very hard to keep it a secret.
  • Sex Equals Love: Yvonne has shades of this in regards to Mark; they hook up several times and this is enough for Yvonne to develop strong feelings for him and to believe he feels the same about her, too. It's to the point she confides in him rather than her husband after she's raped, with Gary only finding out when Yvonne is arrested and is forced to explain what happened. It's painfully deconstructed as she comes to realise she actually has no idea who Mark Costley really is, not to mention the fact she begins doubting whether he actually cares for her.
  • Slut-Shaming: This attitude forms a big part of the conflict in the series. The whole reason Yvonne doesn't report her rape to the police is because she knows it will be revealed she's been cheating on her husband, and she thinks the cops and anyone else who finds out will blame her or think she's lying about the rape. This culminates in Mark killing her rapist after Yvonne asked Mark to make George leave her alone, resulting in their arrest. Yvonne continues to hide the affair until she's forced to come clean when Mark admits to it; she then has to deal with being asked invasive questions about her sex life and how it relates to the rape. The narrative takes the stance that regardless of the cheating or anything else regarding a victim's sexual history, no one deserves to be raped or blamed for their assault. Luckily, the jury takes this stance too, showing compassion for Yvonne and only finding her guilty of perjury.
  • Stalker with a Crush/Stalker without a Crush:
    • George begins stalking Yvonne after raping her. His intentions are not entirely clear, though it’s obvious he enjoys terrorising and messing with her.
    • Gary’s student Rosa is borderline stalking him, constantly flirting with him in class and turning up to his house drunk one night. Her motives are obviously romantic given her crush on Gary and he later admits to sleeping with her.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Yvonne is more or less treated quite sympathetically, especially after she is raped. Her marriage to Gary has been floundering for a while and it's revealed Gary cheated on her too. In the end they both realize they still care about their relationship and try to be honest with each other moving forward.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Mark Costley is depicted as such, with Yvonne being completely smitten after they meet.
  • Title Drop: Apple Tree Yard turns out to be a small alleyway where Mark and Yvonne had sex for the last time together.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Yvonne goes through one. First she is raped, then stalked by her rapist and then she’s arrested for his murder and has to endure a trial, with the very real risk of going to prison.
  • Wall Bang Her: Yvonne has sex with Mark the first time while in a closet up against the wall. Later they also have sex up against a wall in Apple Tree Yard, a small alleyway.
  • Wham Episode: The first episode manages to be this. It starts out as a fairly standard affair drama (albeit one that we know will end in Yvonne being put on trial), then takes a much darker turn in the final minutes of the episode when Yvonne is raped by George.
  • Wham Line: In the second episode when Mark asks Yvonne about whether or not George left any physical evidence of the rape and the audience realises that it was even more brutal than what was shown in the previous episode:
    Mark: Have you got bruises anywhere[...]?
    Yvonne: I’ve got...I’ve got finger bruises on my thighs from when he...And I’ve got internal bruising. And an anal tear.
  • Would Hit a Girl: George. He hits Yvonne in the face twice, threatens to hit her again if she fights back and violently rapes her.