BBC1/BBC HD - 9th December 2008 - 9.00pm
Definitely a gradual improvement is creeping in as this series progresses. What does help is the fact that this week we get three sub-plots interweaving and not one sign of the dreary scientists-in-a-bunker conspiracy theory nonsense. Essentially, Abby leaves to try and find her son Peter at a place called Waterhouse, as mentioned by fascist supremo Samantha Willis in last week's tale; everyone else apart from Greg and Anya abandon the house and join Willis'
concentration camp community; Greg and Anya, meanwhile, have some very nasty visitors.
...she'll be chucking people out for being too tall or too short
The sub-plot involving Tom, Al, Naj and 'I've got no lines' Sarah is faintly ridiculous. Surely, even though Abby has told them to watch out for the politician with the trigger finger, they wouldn't want to go within miles of the place? They all traipse off and introduce themselves and it's pretty obvious that they'll be a divisive presence there. Al is bound not to like rules and regulations, Sarah hasn't got two grey cells to rub together and will just follow the herd and Tom will have an agenda of his own. It is the development of Tom that is the most interesting element here as he engages in a war of nerves with both Willis and her security man Gavin, played with great intensity by Andrew Tiernan. Max Beesley is rather good at giving Tom a completely calm exterior but with a clear indication that beneath the surface there is much plotting and thinking going on. Tom will sell anyone out and it comes as no surprise that he gets Al thrown out of the camp. And it is again fairly obvious that Naj will want to be with Al and vice versa as they've formed a nice little bond over the last four weeks. Predictably, Al breaks into the camp and gets Naj away. Nice gesture but how the hell did the rather useless Al manage to bypass camp security and escape into the night from Max Beesley brandishing his man boobs? Willis also has Tom's number as a former con and throws him out too. She's not particularly good at building her community is she? Before long, she'll be chucking people out for being too tall or too short.
Survivors guilt is obviously not getting in the way of a skinny dip and a shag.
Meanwhile, Abby finds Waterhouse and walks into an ongoing feud between the rather charismatic Jimmy Garland and a bunch of local kids who've taken possession of his ancestral home. The writer Simon Tyrrell manages to balance the Lord Of The Flies theme of the kids gone native with a sense that actually they're just scared and desperate and are looking for those basic human needs - shelter and protection. Garland, superbly played by Joseph Millson, is offended by the way they've treated his home but isn't willing to give way. Abby forms an attachment to Garland but you do wonder about the passage of time here - how many days has it been since she set fire to her husband and went looking for her missing son? Survivors guilt is obviously not getting in the way of a skinny dip and a shag. She tries to broker a peace between them but it all goes horribly wrong and the youngest boy is accidentally stabbed. The shock of this act is conveyed well and it flips the young lads into a realisation that their game is a very serious affair indeed and could be fatal for one of them. It's a much more interesting view of a divided group finding common ground after a violent act that's in counterpoint to the Willis 'shoot all troublemakers' policy.
Likewise, Greg and Anya are subjected to some random thuggery from passing strangers which then begs the question of their community now needing a form of defence. The two thugs were clearly trouble and yet both of them didn't bother to at least guard themselves from attack. Anya was a bit nifty with her knees and rather conveniently both her and Greg overcame their attackers. It would have been far more shocking if the intimated rape of Anya had take place but Adrian Hodges is too busy taking out the grim stuff to be bothered with it. The main point is of course that neither of them is a killer and the trussed up thugs are merely deposited in the middle of nowhere for their trouble. Again, a counterpoint to the way of the Willis.
And Anya still hasn't come out.It's certainly the best episode so far, due mainly to the work of the guest actors, Bird, Tiernan and Millson and a less clunkier script. Sarah is melting into the background and simply flirting at anything in trousers but I suspect she'll turn traitor just for shock value alone, Tom is by far the most interesting character, Abby and Greg are a bit Mr. and Mrs. Goody Two Shoes whilst Al and Naj seem to share an interest in chickens and football. And Anya still hasn't come out. The time frame does bother me - all these people seem to have miraculously adjusted to living on a devastated planet and seem to be behaving as if the food supply will last forever and they have no need to re-learn basic skills - and it all looks rather too green, lush and summery to suggest cities filled with rotting corpses. It's very picturesque, but should it be? If you didn't know better you'd think they'd all gone on holiday by mistake, got lost in the woods, escaped from a brutal holiday camp and all got back together for a big squashy group hug cos they missed each other sooooo much.
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