Recently widowed vicar Merrily Watkins is training to be a "deliverance minister" - what the Church of England used to call an "exorcist." But the supernatural influence in her very first assignment may be stronger than Merrily's faith.
Anna Maxwell Martin (The Bletchley Circle, Death Comes to Pemberly) is remarkably raw and believable as a young vicar whose faith is shaken by the death of her husband, and rejection by her teenage daughter. When Merrily is asked by the police to consult on the grisly, murder-by-crucifixion of Paul Sayer, her own weakened emotional state makes her a vulnerable target for paranormal - and human - menace.
While Martin's performance undoubtedly dominates the three-part series, the supporting cast is equally top-notch. Siobhan Finneran is even more treacherous than she was in Downton Abbey. David Threlfall is tough and credible as Merrily's exorcism instructor. Leila Mimmack (Mayday) plays the duplicitous Rowenna with just the right combination of sweetness and obscenity.
As with many British productions, the locations are scenic and portrait-like, with an obvious sense of antiquity. The exteriors of the churches are particularly aesthetically captivating, in addition to being central to the plot.
Over the course of three episodes, viewers dangle between two possibilities: is Merrily fighting a demonic force; or is she simply too fragile to handle the job of deliverance minister?
Regardless of one's belief system, the audience is treated to immensely entertaining frights and chills, and a superlative murder mystery.
Prose 'n Cons recommends Midwinter of the Spirit to viewers who enjoy a good fright film or psychological suspense, without excessive blood and gore.