How many episodes will the North Water be?

The North Water is a British drama miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Ian McGuire. The miniseries premiered on BBC Two in the UK in July 2021 and is expected to consist of 5 episodes.

How many episodes are there in the North Water series?

There will be a total of 5 episodes in the first season of The North Water. Each episode is approximately 60 minutes long. Here is an overview of the episode count and length:

  • Episode 1: 60 minutes
  • Episode 2: 60 minutes
  • Episode 3: 60 minutes
  • Episode 4: 60 minutes
  • Episode 5: 60 minutes

So in total, the first season of The North Water will span 5 episodes of 60 minutes each, for a total runtime of around 300 minutes or 5 hours.

What is the episode schedule for The North Water?

The North Water premiered its first episode on BBC Two on July 10, 2021. New episodes are airing weekly on Saturdays. Here is the release schedule for the miniseries:

Episode Number Episode Title Release Date
1 “Strangers” July 10, 2021
2 “Predators” July 17, 2021
3 “The Volunteer” July 24, 2021
4 “Retreat” July 31, 2021
5 “The Shirt” August 7, 2021

The finale episode “The Shirt” will air on August 7, 2021. So the full 5 episode season will air over 5 consecutive weeks.

Where can I watch The North Water episodes?

In the UK, The North Water airs on BBC Two. For international viewers, the series will be available on streaming through AMC+ and Sundance Now. The DVD and Blu-ray will also be released after the initial broadcast for those who prefer physical media.

What is the plot summary of The North Water?

The North Water is set in 1859 and follows Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as the ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. On board he meets Henry Drax, the harpooner, a brutish killer whose amorality has been shaped to fit the harshness of his world. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, Sumner finds himself on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath. The story is about the desperation of men pushed to the limits of human endurance.

Who are the main characters?

  • Patrick Sumner – The ship’s doctor, protagonist of the story. Played by Jack O’Connell.
  • Henry Drax – The harpooner, antagonist. Played by Colin Farrell.
  • Captain Brownlee – Captain of the whaling ship. Played by Stephen Graham.
  • Baxter – First mate of the whaling ship. Played by Tom Courtenay.
  • Cavendish – Wealthy investor in the whaling voyage. Played by Peter Mullan.

How closely does The North Water follow the book?

The miniseries is based closely on Ian McGuire’s 2016 novel of the same name. The show sticks closely to the source material in terms of characters, plot, and central themes. Key elements adapted from the book include:

  • The characters of Sumner, Drax, Brownlee, Baxter, and Cavendish
  • The ill-fated whaling expedition to the Arctic
  • The clash between Sumner’s morality and Drax’s amorality
  • The desperation and savagery faced by the crew
  • The homoerotic undertones between Sumner and Drax

The miniseries expands on some plot threads and backstories, but overall it is faithful to the key narrative and essence of the novel. Fans of the book will find the adaptation accurately captures the bleak tone and psychological brutality of McGuire’s story.

What are the main differences between the book and miniseries?

A few differences between The North Water novel and miniseries include:

  • The miniseries opens with Sumner in the army in India, depicting events only referenced in the book
  • The miniseries expands on Baxter’s backstory as an ex-prisoner
  • In the book Cavendish joins the voyage, while in the show he funds it from afar
  • The miniseries adds some additional crew members not in the book
  • The ending is slightly altered in the adaptation for dramatic effect

But overall the central story remains intact. The miniseries successfully translates the book’s unflinching portrayal of humanity’s capability for both compassion and cruelty.

How has The North Water been received by critics?

The North Water has earned excellent reviews from critics praising the strong performances, chilling arctic atmosphere, and philosophical themes. As of August 2021, it holds an 85% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here is a sampling of what critics have said about the miniseries:

  • “Visually stunning and powerfully performed. A chilling arctic nightmare.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “A brutally violent story rendered with terrible beauty.” – The Times
  • “Farrell and O’Connell deliver intense, multifaceted performances.” – Variety
  • “A haunting adaptation that captures the savage beauty of McGuire’s novel.” – The Guardian

Most reviews praised the magnetic performances of Farrell and O’Connell as philosophical opposites trapped in a harrowing struggle for survival. Critics also highlighted the stark cinematography and riveting dramatic power of this bleakly philosophical whaling story.

What do viewers think of The North Water?

In addition to critical acclaim, The North Water has earned high praise from general viewers:

  • 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes
  • 8.4/10 average rating on IMDb
  • 4.5/5 average rating on Amazon

Fans have called it “chilling, thought-provoking television” and “a masterclass in acting and atmosphere.” Many have complimented the stunning arctic scenery and the tense philosophical drama between Sumner and Drax. Popular consensus is that The North Water delivers an impactful, character-driven story of morality and human nature.


In summary, The North Water is a 5 episode miniseries slated to premiere its finale on August 7, 2021. Adapted closely from Ian McGuire’s acclaimed novel, it tells a bleak story of a whaling expedition gone awry and the desperate struggle for survival between the ship’s doctor and a murderous harpooner. Backed by stellar performances and visuals, The North Water has earned critical raves and viewer enthusiasm for its stark arctic atmosphere and thought-provoking themes. Fans of philosophical drama and moral complexity will find this miniseries offers a haunting, impactful viewing experience.

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