This review contains spoilers.
After complaining about the descending level of quality for the last couple of weeks, Bedlam seems to have upped its game at the last minute, and delivered an episode that’s entertaining and exciting. We get some new characters thrown into the mix, which nicely distracts from the increasingly stale dynamic between existing players, and their intrusion into Bedlam Heights brings about the kind of deadly horror that usually accompanies naively conducted satanic rituals. When will these people learn?
It makes a lovely change from the ‘victim of the week’ strategy that has kept this second series so ordinary, as a shake-up of the format for a new run of episodes was essential from the start. The monster of the week structure has long gone out of fashion on genre TV, and audiences need something a little different to keep them interested. This week’s Bedlam did just that as, though nothing radical, the three friends drawn to Bedlam through Max’s blog provide disposable, yet engaging guest stars. We even start in the company of a new character, setting us up for the action to come.
But what of the relationships already existing on the show? Well, surprisingly, Ellie has gone and got herself an abortion. While this is a step away from the sexist ‘casual sex = trouble’ attitude I complained about last week, it raises many more issues about whether she should have informed Dan of the decision. We clearly aren’t supposed to wonder, as the storyline is dismissed after the initial conversation, but seems too abrupt to be the end of the story. Is it something meant to add trauma to Ellie’s experience? She already has enough of that to last a lifetime, if the end reveal is anything to go by.
It’s also clear that she’s meant to end up with Max, if this is indeed the last series (with this cast at least), and Dan has more pressing matters with father Warren and bit-on-the-side Keira. The trio have a particularly awkward sit-down this week, but the only reason we’re given for Dan’s sudden interest is to get his hands on some of the family cash. But Warren is slowly losing his mind, much like Kate did in the first series, and it’s slightly ambiguous whether his grim discovery later was real or imagined. Judging by the preview for next week’s finale, he’s going to continue kicking off, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his story plays out.
Elsewhere the periphery action inside Bedlam’s church is the best of the year, including the finest realised ghost since the first episode. He’s still disappointingly shallow, with no real back-story to establish his motives or why we might feel sorry for him (something fatally missing from the whole second series), but priests, like small children, are almost always frightening in spectral form. When it kicks off with Ellie and Max arriving, it’s the most dynamic and vital sequence we’ve seen in weeks, and makes me wish for what could have been. There’s even some comedy, with Max desperately quoting The Exorcist with cries of “…the power of Christ compels you!”
I predicted that the last two episodes would be a cut about the rest, but why couldn’t we get some of this urgency throughout the entire six-episode run? In US dramas, with their generous helping of 22+ instalments, you expect filler episodes of no consequence, and forgive them as necessary evils. When you have just six episodes to fill, there’s really no need, and that’s been my main problem with the show. I’m happy to sit back and enjoy next week’s finale nonetheless as, when Bedlam really taps into its potential, it can be brilliant entertainment.
Read our review of last week’s episode, here.
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