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Series / Picnic at Hanging Rock

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A 2018 TV adaptation of Joan Lindsay's classic 1967 novel, set in Australia in 1900. Natalie Dormer plays the lead role of Mrs. Appleyard.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: A 212-page novel, previously made into a two-hour film, is stretched out into five hours of television.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Irma has a crush on Miranda, who doesn't want to be with anyone, and then on Michael, who is either in love or fascinated with Miranda, and doesn't propose as everyone expects.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Mrs. Appleyard is out for herself above all, but how much empathy she has for others is confusing.
    • The teachers are all women who would be otherwise unemployable due to scandalous backgrounds or limited intelligence. Is this because she wants them to be beholden to her, or because she sympathises with their situations? Or is she afraid to hire anyone too respectable, who might see through her disguise?
    • Does she try to protect Miranda to save her reputation and future, or the school's, or both? Does she try to break her spirit for the same reason? Does she care about the missing girls, or only about the scandal they caused her?
    • She bonds with Sara over her time in the orphanage, and then beats her. And might have killed her. Accidentally. Or not.
    • She stole her fortune from Arthur, but didn't intend to kill him.
  • Arc Words: "Free"
  • Attempted Rape: Miranda defends herself from one. Painfully.
  • Bi the Way: Irma shows attraction to both Miranda and Michael.
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  • Con Artist: From the very beginning it is made clear to the viewer that Hester Appleyard is not the honorable widow she pretends to be, though her past takes some time to be unraveled. While we see her as a lower-class orphan raised into some kind of thief, it's not entirely clear all the parts she played in scams, or the exact nature of her relationship with Arthur.
  • Driven to Suicide: Possibly Sara, though her fate is unclear. Hester, on the other hand, very clearly jumped to her death.
  • Fake Aristocrat: Irma, as the one student who actually comes from high society, can easily tell that Mrs. Appleyard does not, due to her failure to follow precise dinner protocols.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Marion is the illegitimate daughter of a white judge and an aboriginal woman.
  • Impaled Foot: Miranda drives a pitchfork through the foot of the man who tried to take advantage of her.
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  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Mrs. Appleyard walks an ambiguous line until you begin to realise she's lying about Sara's disappearance.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: "Mrs Appleyard" was the mascot of a brand of soap.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: We see watches stopping near Hanging Rock, and several mysterious instances of people falling asleep en masse, and time seeming to overlap during the ending. On the other hand, the characters who disappeared all had very good reasons to run off together.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Played for Drama. When Miss McCraw rebuffs Marion's Valentine, she does so on the grounds that such a student-teacher relationship would be wrong, but unfortunately also makes the mistake of telling Marion to leave "before anyone sees you". As Mrs. Appleyard just made Marion a job offer but said she would have to stay out of sight of parents because of her race, this comes across to Marion as Miss McCraw rejecting her for the same reason and trying to put a fig leaf over it, rather than genuinely trying to avoid a bad power dynamic.
  • Palm Bloodletting: Appears twice in important scenes of bonding among the main trio. First, Miranda's hands are caned until they bleed, and the other girls soothe her. Later, there's a scene where all three slice their palms with rose thorns in order to swear a Blood Oath.
  • Step-Parental Incest: Irma's stepfather made some sort of advances on her, which is why her mother sent her away.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted, Edith's first period (and her limited understanding of the subject) is responsible for her being out of sorts on the day of the picnic.
  • Race Lift: In this version, Marion is biracial, having a white Australian father and an Aboriginal mother.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Every major character at Appleyard College is a misfit unwanted by their families or society in general.
  • The Reveal: What was inside the little box that Sara stole from Mrs. Appleyard, which made her so upset? It wasn't what was inside it at all, it was the box itself.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mrs. Appleyard is plagued by visions of her dead husband Arthur (although she didn't actually know he was dead at the time) and later, maggots after Sara's death.
  • Self-Harm: Sara's legs are covered with self-inflicted scratches. She may have killed herself, in the end, though it's never clear, and slightly more likely that Hester knocked her out the window, accidentally or otherwise.
  • Slut-Shaming: The reason Irma is at the school: her mother blames her for her stepfather creeping on her, and sent her away to the middle of nowhere.
    • Deliberately invoked by the French mistress, Mlle. Poitiers. She stays the night at her boyfriend's house and makes very sure everyone sees her leaving in the morning so that the scandalous gossip will cover up the fact she visited the Sheriff to express her concerns about Sara.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Between Marion and Miss McCraw.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The series likes to throw some shock imagery, including the vomiting of Miranda's attempted assailant and a close-up view of the man defecating on the school carpet in revenge.
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: A non-verbal example. Irma makes an off-hand remark about "savages" while the four are walking through the woods, leading Marion to turn around and give her a long, pointed look.

Example of: