‘The Essex Serpent’ is a period drama series based on author Sarah Perry’s 2016 novel of the same name. Adapted for television by Anna Symon, the series follows Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a wealthy widow who travels to an Essex village to learn more about the presence of a mystical serpent that is said to be plaguing the residents. In the process, Cora bonds with the village vicar, Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston), and gets a taste of freedom.
As the narrative progresses, viewers learn more about the titular serpent while Cora and Will try to uncover the truth about the beast. Naturally, viewers must be wondering whether the mysterious creature is real and what it signifies. If you wish to learn more about the serpent in ‘The Essex Serpent,’ here is everything you need to know! SPOILERS AHEAD!
What Is the Significance of the Serpent?
The titular serpent is first mentioned in the series premiere episode of ‘The Essex Serpent’ titled ‘The Blackwater.’ In the episode, Cora learns about the sightings of a monstrous dragon-like creature in the marshes near Essex. Emboldened and free from the shackles of her abusive marriage, Cora decides to take her interest in paleontology further by exploring the beast’s reported sightings. With her caretaker, Martha, and son, Francis, she leaves London and travels to Essex. Cora’s search for details about the mythical creature leads her to the village of Aldwinter, where she meets Will Ransome.
Will reveals that the village church has a sculpture of the serpent that the villagers are petrified of. He explains that the serpent is believed to be an incarnation of the devil. Therefore, it represents the evil in society. However, from a narrative standpoint, the search for the serpent opens the door to exploring various interesting themes. One primary theme of the series is fear and how individuals nourish their fears to suit their needs. Therefore, the serpent represents one grappling with their own fears.
Is the Serpent Real?
The show’s central premise revolves around the search for the serpent’s existence. In the first episode, it is revealed that the serpent has been spotted near the Blackwater Marsh in Essex, just outside Aldwinter. Some describe the creature to be a dragon-like being. However, aside from various people claiming to have spotted the serpent, there is little evidence of its existence. While Cora tries to use her paleontology knowledge to deduce whether the mythical serpent can actually exist, the narrative doesn’t hinge on proving its existence. Instead, the series highlights the conversations triggered due to the serpent’s supposed existence.
The story is set in the Victorian era, when science was making tremendous progress but people would still cling to superstitions and mysticism. Thus, it presents some interesting debates about science, faith, and rationality. These debates shape Cora’s bond with Will and showcase the worldview of the show’s characters. Ultimately, ‘The Essex Serpent’ is a story of the clash between science and religion. Therefore, the serpent’s existence is imperative to the story and remains mysterious. Given the show’s progressive ideas and themes, it is unlikely that the serpent is real.