There are certainly bits of “The Witchfinders” that I like. The cinematography is gorgeous, Alan Cumming is amusingly fey as King James, and I’m predisposed to like anything that flirts with folk horror. Overall, it’s okay at best, and it falls completely apart for me at the end. What could have been a strange and unique alien entity turns out to be this program’s hundred and umpteenth gang of all-conquering loudmouths. Something that had the atmosphere of something promising and different turns out to be Who by the numbers.
What’s really strange is that the episode has a proper climax where the mud-zombies surround the villain, and her hypocrisy and mass murder are exposed to everyone. The show should wrap up at that point somehow, because at that point we are done. Yet there’s still another eight or nine minutes of threats and explanations and technobabble and special effects after that. Even if the mud-zombies weren’t all-conquering loudmouths, this would feel like a show that didn’t understand pace.
I think the oddest thing is that even though it didn’t gel for me, and our son was quick to follow me in dismissing it, the episode must have made an impact on the kid when he saw it three years ago. He didn’t remember a frame of “Demons of the Punjab”, but he explained that when I told him that title last week, he believed that “Demons” was the name of this story, which he did remember somewhat. It’s got mud-filled zombies in a chilly English forest, and that’s a fine, creepy visual to stick with a kid.