BBC ‘The Hour’, series 2 episode 2

Sorry that this review has been a while coming.

Anyway, episode 2 of The Hour begins with Hector being arrested for supposedly assaulting Kiki Delaine. Hector swears he’s innocent, but Marnie says she’s not sure she believes him. Luckily for Hector, he is soon released. Marnie, however, does not welcome him back with open arms. Instead, she tells him that she intends for them to go their separate ways from now on, with regards to their private lives, whilst maintaining a public facade of marital harmony. Marnie is finally asserting her independence. She even auditions, successfully, for a cookery television show. I’m glad that Marnie has decided to live her own life, and not let Hector walk all over her anymore. I look forward to seeing how Hector reacts to the news of his wife’s new career.

(Dominic West as Hector Madden.)

Elsewhere, Freddie’s new wife, Camille, is upset when a yobbish teenage boy throws soot in her face for associating with a black man (Sey Ola, Cissy’s boyfriend).  Freddie tries to comfort her, but she says that she hates Britain and wants to go back to France. Later, she and Freddie get into a blazing row, and Camille accuses him of loving ‘The Hour’ more than he love her. Although Freddie insists to Bel that all is well in Paradise, I can’t help thinking that an irrevocable wedge is being driven between husband and wife. Will they weather the storm? It probably doesn’t help that Freddie’s solution to the soot-throwing issue is to invite both the boy, Trevor (who harbours some rather fascist opinions), and Sey Ola onto the set of ‘The Hour’ to discuss their views on immigration and race. Randall is scandalised. What! A fascist appearing on a BBC programme? AND, in front of members of the board? Surely not! However Freddie, being Freddie, manages to pull it off. When Bel and Freddie are discussing Freddie’s marriage later on, Bel says to him, “I wish you had consulted me before doing such a stu-…such a stu-…wonderful thing.” Freddie just looks at her hard and says, “And what would you have done?” He then walks away. Has Bel really missed her chance? Will she a pursue, instead, a relationship with Bill Kendall (who she discovers, via Lix, is a widower)?

Freddie and Bel work together in an attempt to find out the truth about Kiki. Who hit her? How did she end up posing for nude photographs? The first question is answered when we discover that she has a lover who is high up in the police force (if someone could please clarify for me who exactly the man is, his name at least, then that would be great!) It seems that this man does not like sharing Kiki with other men, and is less than pleased to learn of the existence of the nude photos. I predict more trouble for Kiki very soon. I only hope that Bel and Freddie can solve the mysteries surrounding her and her past before she gets hurt again. Or worse.

A final note on Hector: I can’t help feeling sorry for him. Sure, he can be an arrogant whatsit who expects everything in life to fall perfectly into place for him. Sure, he’s been a rubbish husband to Marnie. Still, it was sad watching him witness his life crumbling before his eyes. Freddie’s taking his job, Marnie has all but left him, he’s an alcoholic… I hope that his friends can rally together to help him get back on his feet, or I fear there’ll be a sad ending for Hector.

Another very enjoyable episode. Whishaw, Garai and West (as well as the rest of the cast) continue to impress, and I look forward to seeing how the various plotlines develop further.

(All photos ©BBC 2012.)

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BBC ‘The Hour’ series 2, episode 1

(Dominic West as Hector Madden, Romola Garai as Bel Rowley and Ben Whishaw as Freddie Lyon.)

The Hour is back! We’re in 1957, so what’s changed?

Frazzled producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) is trying to keep ‘The Hour’ afloat in Freddie Lyon’s (Ben Whishaw) absence. There is a new Head of News, Randall Brown (Peter Capaldi) who so happens to be an old flame of Lix’s. That could be awkward.

(Peter Capaldi as Randall Brown.)

Hector Madden (Dominic West) is enjoying the perks of being a celebrity. You know what they say: “The brightest stars burn out the fastest.” Hector whiles many an hour away in El Paradis Club in Soho. There, he meets a young cabaret girl and prostitute, Kiki Delaine (Hannah Tointon). The poor girl end up badly beaten, and it seems from the trailer for the next episode, that Hector will be blamed. There are two poignant scenes featuring Kiki: 1) Kiki sits crying on her bath tub in a dank bathroom, tentatively inspecting her cuts and bruises. 2) Having covered up the worst of her injuries with makeup and a strategically placed hairstyle, Kiki performs on the club stage, watched by an audience of men, one of whom is her assaulter. There are three suspects: Hector (unlikely IMO), Kiki’s manager (looks shifty) and also an executive from ITV who shows an interest in Bel, despite being married. (What is it with Bel and married men?!)

(Hannah Tointon as Kiki Delaine.)

Not everyone is a fan of Hector’s new lifestyle, in particular Bel, Randall and Marnie (Oona Chaplin). Hector continually shows up on set seconds before the show goes on air, with such a blasé attitude that Randall eventually gives him an ultimatum: either he clears up his act or he clears out. Hector seems to be keeping his options open, as he is (figuratively) seduced by executives from ITV’s new rival news show, ‘Uncovered’. Will Hector abandon ‘The Hour’? Meanwhile, his poor wife, Marnie, is left at home, trying to be a model housewife which proves difficult as her husband is noticeably absent most of the time.

(Oona Chaplin as Marnie Madden and Dominic West as Hector Madden.)

In true irreverent, Freddie-style, Freddie Lyon makes a breezy reappearance in the middle of a staff meeting. Apparently he’s been travelling the world and has come back with 1) a dubious beard 2) a French wife. Bel is less than pleased about both, and is exceedingly shocked upon discovering the latter. I predict that Freddie’s new wife, Camille, will either be murdered before the series is out, or bog off back to her native country, leaving Freddie (temporarily) heartbroken. It’s pretty obvious that he still harbours feelings for Bel, but how does she feel about him? Is the revelation that Freddie is now married enough for her to realise that she loves him or is she just shocked that her best friend got hitched without telling her? A bit of both, I think. There is a fair bit of sexual tension between Bel and Freddie. I just wonder if this will ever be realised. Freddie seems calmer and more self-assured this time around, and I also love that he still calls Bel “Moneypenny”. Cute!

(Ben Whishaw as Freddie Lyon and Romola Garai as Bel Rowley.)

Randall is thrilled that Freddie is back on the scene, and immediately crowns him as co-host with Hector. Freddie is pleased, Hector is not. Freddie is eager to address real issues in Britain, such as the crime rate in Soho. I sense another conspiracy coming to light very soon… …

All in all, a great episode and a fantastic start to the new series. I can’t wait for Wednesday evening now!

(All photos ©BBC 2012.)

Triumphant Return of Downton Abbey

Last night ITV’s drama series Downton Abbey returned to grace our screens. Series 1 ended last year with the announcement of WWI at Downton’s summer garden party. Series 2 begins two years later, at the Somme with gentle hero, and heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley in the trenches, longing for home.

Back at Downton, there had been many changes: poor old Carson had been left short-staffed, there was no Thomas to made snide remarks with Miss O’Brien, and a new housemaid, Ethel, had ideas above her station. It looked as if Anna and Batesy were going to get their happy ending when he proposed (sort of) and she accepted. But wait! Poor Bates and Anna may have to wait a while before they get to say ‘I do’ because here’s why: Bates’s estranged wife, Vera, showed up and blackmailed him – he could either return to her, abandoning Anna and Downton or she would go to the press with the Pamuk story and cause a scandal. Yep, the sleazy Turkish git has come back to haunt us all again. Excellent. Bates, being the noble martyr he is, agreed, leaving Anna in tears and Lord Grantham practically the same.

(Maria Doyle as Vera Bates)

Meanwhile, change had also come to the upstairs folk. Sybil decided to become a nurse, and so took cooking lessons with Mrs Patmore and Daisy so that she could learn to fend for herself. Chauffeur Branson declared his feelings for her when he dropped her off at the hospital. Sybil said she was flattered, but Branson replied, “flattered is the word posh people use when they’re about to say no.” So Branson left with his tail between his legs.

(Lady Sybil (right) at her cooking lesson)

It was inevitable, of course, that Mary and Matthew would meet again, and at a charity concert held at the Big House, they did. Matthew arrived with a fiancée, Lavinia, in tow. Ouch. It was clear that Mary still harboured strong feelings for him and there was an emotional railway station scene between them, as Mary tearfully sent him off to war with a lucky mascot (a small toy dog from her childhood) to keep him safe. I really hope it works out between them in the end. Lavinia, though nice enough, is rather bland and there’s really no spark between her and Matthew. But with Mary and Matthew? Well that’s another story completely: so much was unsaid in their conversations and it seemed that both of them longed to break the invisible barrier between them.

(Dan Stevens and Zoe Boyle as Matthew Crawley and Lavinia Swire)

Maggie Smith’s character, Violet, was much the same, although she and Isobel Crawley seemed to be on marginally better terms, as Violet now referred to her as ‘Cousin Isobel’, rather than ‘Mrs. Crawley’.

Back at the Front, we saw Thomas struggling as a stretcher bearer in the Medical Corps. Eventually, at the end of the episode, he cracked and held up his cigarette lighter above the trench so that his hand got shot. Although I loathed Thomas with a passion in the last series, I couldn’t help sympathising with his desperation to get away from the Front by any means. No doubt his plan is to get shipped home and either invalided out of the war, or transferred to a hospital in England to continue working in the Medical Corps. I think I could hazard a guess at his preferred option. I fully expect Thomas and Miss O’Brien to be partners in crime again soon…

General observations and predictions:

  • The costumes, once again, were gorgeous and I look forward to seeing how the fashions evolve over the series.
  • Mary (played by Michelle Dockery) seemed ‘softer’ so far this series – no doubt heartbreak Matthew-related knocked off some of her edges.
  • I sincerely doubt that all of the Downton men will survive the war, so the subject of who will die is open to much speculation. I hope it isn’t Matthew or William – especially now William and Daisy are finally an item (aww!) Still, I don’t think it’ll be Matthew, as Dan Stevens let it slip that he’s in the Christmas Special which is set in 1919. Go figure.
  • The trailer for next week’s episode shows Edith kissing a man who looks rather like a farm-hand, while a blonde woman looks on. I have a feeling that the man could possibly be the man whom Mrs. Crawley helped to cure from dropsy in series 1, as the woman watching looked like the man’s wife. If so, naughty Edith for getting involved with a married man!
  • I liked the juxtaposition of the frantic, violent trench scenes with the relative calm at the Big House, showing the massive contrast between the lives of the soldiers at the Front and those back home.

I thought the episode was an excellent start to the new series and I will be waiting on tenterhooks for each new episode over the course of the autumn.