Confused? You won’t be, after this week’s episode of…Soap! …I mean, I’ll just pull my head out of the ’80s for a moment…
Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) takes the titular role in this three-part drama about a woman who works for the Secret Intelligent Serice during World War II, and who’s enjoyed a good life with her husband, Alec (Iain Glen – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter), along with their children, until he dies unexpectedly.
It took me a while to work this next bit out, but I presume it relates to the secrecy of his job, since she makes a phone call and says, “Alec told me to call this number… he’s just died”, to which comes the monotone reply: “Thankyou, for letting us know. Just carry on as normal. That’s all we need from you.”
Still, the worst of the situation is over, right? Wrong. Soon after this, a Gladys Wilson (Elizabeth Rider – Sgt Rob Hollins’ boss in Doctors) turns up, claiming she’s his wife… but how come? Was he a bigamist, or is she just barking mad? If that wasn’t bad enough, the Nazis are out and about and your home is often under the threat of being turn into matchsticks.
At around the point where Gladys arrives, I assumed from the cast list that was going to be Keeley Hawes who dropped that bombshell (pun not intended), so that threw me a curveball.
A couple of asides, after Alec’s death, Alison phones the priest, but you’d think she might phone the police instead, or isn’t that how things were in the ’40s?
Also, I did wonder if Alec’s early death would mean we’d have not a lot of Iain Glen, but Alison has flashbacks as the tries to work out just where it all went wrong, so he does get more to do than just give the ‘stiff’ performance on his literal deathbed.
Oddly, the drama is presented in a cinema-style 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. I can see that they’re going for a cinematic look, but for TV dramas, I do prefer 16:9. Even the Netflix-style 2.00:1 ratio which Doctor Who, and others, have started using does seem rather odd.
This first episode makes for an engaging hour of drama, but what is Keeley’s role – as Dorothy Wick – in all this? Well, all I can say is what I know, but make it non-spoilery in that while she’s not in the episode a whole heap, it does deliver a cliffhanger that’s very “Da-da-daaaaaa…” (see video below for the audio equivalent of that)
UPDATE: Episode 2 filled in more gaps about the background to everything regarding Alec’s lies, and how it now ties in more with Dorothy (Keeley Hawes). He had such duplicity about him, as he’s the biggest spy since James Bond, and how the powers that be can create a backstory for him, including that of a wife who’s not really your wife. It’s an intriguing drama, but I still felt a bit distanced from it all as it played out. I am, however, looking forward to see how it concludes next week.
Episode 3: Again, more revelations and it nicely drip-fed the storyline out so Alison found out the truth about Alec – most of it we could guess, but it wasn’t just about that, but more about the fact that it WAS news to Alison, and it was the great acting from Ruth Wilson as she was coming to terms learning about the man she never really knew. This all made for a great finale.
Episode 1 Score: 7/10
Episode 2 Score: 6/10
Episode 3 Score: 8/10
Director: Richard Laxton
Producer: Jackie Larkin
Writer: Anna Symon
Music: Anne Nikitin
Alison Wilson: Ruth Wilson
Alec Wilson: Iain Glen
Dorothy Wick: Keeley Hawes
Shahbaz Karim: Anupam Kher
Dennis Wilson: Patrick Kennedy
Father Timothy: Ian McElhinney
Nigel Wilson: Otto Farrant
Gordon Wilson: Calam Lynch
Olive: Joy Richardson
Gladys Wilson: Elizabeth Rider
Coleman: Fiona Shaw
Poppy: Serena Manteghi
Policeman: Alan Turkington
Records Office Lady: Lucy Briers
Undertaker: Alex Blake
Bert: Joseph Mydell
Father Nicholas: Richard Croxford
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.