Before we know what’s happened, one minute, we see single mother Orla (Jodie Whittaker – Doctor Who) taking her kids to school, and the next, she’s in a police truck on the way to jail. In the first series, we saw Bean’s character actually committing the crime before handing himself in, but here, she’s en route with two other women – young heroin addict Kelsey Morgan (Bella Ramsey – The Last Of Us) and hardened lifer Abi (Tamara Lawrance – The Silent Twins).
We learn Orla’s got six months for fiddling the electricity during the cost of living crisis – and doesn’t want her mum to look after her children, because she can’t trust her, Kelsey can’t understand why she can’t get the methadone amount she believes she needs while she’s in prison, but as for Abi’s situation, that’s a far more serious crime.
Siobhan Finneran (The Reckoning) returns as chaplain Marie-Louise, but she’s the only character I’ve seen return so far, making me wonder if there’ll be more. It would be interesting to see Graham’s character return, perhaps in a later series, but then he’s already in about 50 million different shows and films.
One simple aspect which stood out early on, is how Orla needs to make a phone call, yet because she can’t use her own phone while in prison, she can’t remember any numbers. I know I’d feel the same, bar one or two.
There’s the struggle of prison visiting times, flashbacks to earlier times pre-prison, plus some incredibly dark moments, and we have a drama sequel that’s tough and uncompromising. However, I’ve only seen the first episode of the three, and will watch them all, but so far, it doesn’t feel quite as powerful as before, perhaps because we’re following three inmates rather than one?
UPDATE Episodes 2 and 3 (seen after the first episode aired): I subsequently watched the other two episodes, and it does show how overstretched the prison service can be, although you do get the feeling that some prison officers are just spoiling for a fight, antagonising angry prisoners when it would be better for all concerned to get them to be calm by speaking more calmly to them, rather than… well…. being antagonising.
However, if Orla’s struggling to make ends meet, how come she can afford so much blonde hair dye?
I’ll add some additional thoughts behind a spoiler header as these haven’t yet aired on BBC1:
Director: Andrea Harkin
Producer: Mark Hedges
Writers: Jimmy McGovern, Helen Black
Orla O’Riordan: Jodie Whittaker
Abi Cochrane: Tamara Lawrance
Kelsey Morgan: Bella Ramsey
Marie-Louise O’Dell: Siobhan Finneran
PO Martin:Lisa Millett
Nurse Garvey: Michelle Butterly
PO Carter: Louise Lee
Orla’s bar boss: Philip Hill-Pearson
Faith: Cindy Humphrey
Tash: Alexandra Monaghan
Donna Mills: Kayla Meikle
Sarah Duddy: Alicia Forde
Lou Harkness: Julie Graham
Tahani: Maimuna Memon
Adam Muller: Nicholas Nunn
Sonographer: Terri Reddin
Maeve Riley: Sophie Willan
May Sinclair: Angela Wynter
Tess Palmer: Danielle Henry
Hospice Nurse: Louise Willoughby
Nancy O’Riordan: Matilda Firth
Kyle O’Riordan: Isaac Lancel-Watkinson
Callum O’Riordan: Brody Griffiths
Elizabeth O’Riordan: Karen Henthorn
Chairperson: Stephen Whitfield
Social worker: Jackie Jones
Steven Harkness: Conor McCarry
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.