Warning: this article contains spoilers for Sky’s The Midwich Cuckoos.
It’s a well-known fact that, when it comes to film and television, if small, staring children are involved, it’s going to be a creepy watch. Take The Omen, The Shining and, of course, the 1960 classic Village Of The Damned.
In episode one, all seems well in the quaint English commuter town of Midwich. We watch as a couple (Aisling Loftus and Ukweli Roach) move into their new unfurnished home, we see teens flock to a silent disco, we meet DCI Paul Kirby (Max Beesley) who appears to have his fair share of marital issues and, of course, we meet Dr Susannah Zellaby (Keeley Hawes). The well-meaning psychotherapist evidently doesn’t have the best relationship with her daughter Cassie (Synnøve Karlsen) but leaves her alone at home on one fateful night to travel to London for a first date.
We learn that Dr Zellaby was actually in the right place at the right time – although her date ends terribly – as she realises all the power in Midwich has been cut. What transpires is an overnight mission to see what’s happening. Police officers are struck down by an unseeable force – the same force that knocks everyone in Midwich unconscious – the power remains out and the surrounding areas are shut off from the public.
As the sun rises the next day, the people of Midwich snap out of their induced slumber to find that every woman of child-bearing age is pregnant. While the scenes of this initial discovery leave a lot to be desired in the dramatic performance stakes, the eeriness of the experience is felt when all the women – and teenage girls – are herded into a room to be seen by one doctor together. They’re told, alongside police officers, about this otherworldly phenomenon and Dr Zellaby is called upon to help with any emotional distress.
But what’s important to note in this scene particularly, is the inclusion of a CCTV camera. All of the women are being watched. Even in this dark, shocking moment, they’re being analysed from behind a lens. It’s then that you begin to realise that the usually private experience of pregnancy is made to be a town-wide issue.
Cameras are on every street corner, police officers and then the army sweep over the small town. But it’s when the children are born that the abnormal feeling of being watched kicks up a notch. The episodes are slow-burning but what propels this series forward is the fact that you know at any given time, a child is carefully watching a Midwich adult.
They congregate in groups and the “blackout mums” never really discuss just how odd their children’s behaviour is to the others, for fear of judgment. If the dictionary definition of “deadpan expression” ever needed a picture, a snapshot of these children would suffice.
It’s the kind of series that can easily be binge-watched because of just how far-fetched it seems.
Hawes is remarkable as the sympathetic psychotherapist who tries to uncover what is really going on and, at the same time, navigate her relationship with her daughter who has her own set of issues, and a new grandchild with an entirely different selection of supernatural (and somewhat murderous) motivations.
The series does touch on current social issues – like bodily autonomy, maternity, governmental control and surveillance – but it’s the suspense and shock factor that will keep you tuning in. If you’re left with one thing after watching this series, it’s that the children of Midwich are definitely not to be trusted.
All episodes of The Midwich Cuckoos are now available to stream on Sky Max and streaming service NOW.