We do seem to be zipping along, don't we? The third hour brought us to the end of the novel's ch. 24 (of 67).
The acting remains mostly top-notch, especially Charles Dance as the ultra-malevolent Tulkinghorn. As Boythorn, however, Warren Clarke appears to be disappearing into his whiskers. Again, some of the casting doesn't seem quite right, physically speaking: Smallweed needs to be skinnier and Judy sharper. The production sometimes veers oddly between visualizing Dickens' grotesques and stripping the grotesquerie away. As Mom the Retired School Administrator noted, however, Lady Jane the evil cat is spot-on; perhaps she's the ancestor of the even nastier cat in Empire Falls.
Davies continues to wield a bloody hatchet when it comes to the social satire. There was virtually nothing left of Chadband, the hypocritical evangelical (one of Dickens' least favorite species), although perhaps he'll come back in more force later on. At the same time, Davies plays up Esther's personal and class anxieties; the exchange between Esther and Jarndyce over Charley, for example, doesn't exist in the novel. I do wish that Davies had used a more delicate hand when telegraphing Jarndyce's interest in Esther, although Jarndyce's response when Esther admits that she regards him as a father was well-done.
I like Alun Armstrong a great deal, but he's really not quite right for the shapeshifting, sometimes virtually omniscient Inspector Bucket. (Armstrong is a Dickens regular: he's done two Oliver Twists, a David Copperfield, and the RSC Nicholas Nickleby.) Part of the problem is That Face, which is certainly a great face, but a little too...memorable. Part of the problem is Davies' script, which has already undercut Bucket's ominous abilities. In the script, when Bucket appears at Mr. George's shooting gallery, George identifies him immediately. The novel does something very different. According to Esther, "[w]hen we had all arrived here, the physician stopped, and taking off his hat, appeared to vanish by magic, and to leave another and quite a different man in his place"; moreover, as Bucket explains, "George, I know where my man is, because I was on the roof last night and saw him through the skylight, and you along with him" (ch. 24). The novel's Bucket is simultaneously reassuring and frightening (he is, after all, initially associated with Tulkinghorn); he is, moreover, apparently inescapable--as unavoidable as the ever-present mud and fog.