Come Home Episode 1 Review

New BBC three-parter Come Home is an absorbing family drama with an excellent cast…

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

Come Home Episode 1

“There were reasons,” Marie Farrell assures her separation mediator. Marie’s estranged husband Greg has just stormed out of their session, accusing her of having no explanation for leaving him and their kids months earlier. With a steeliness that makes you believe her, Paula Malcolmson delivers Marie’s line with a nod, “There were reasons”.

Those reasons will be the subject of Come Home’s next two episodes. This one, told from the perspective of Christopher Eccleston’s character Greg, simply asks why? Why would a mother of three walk out on her children?

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It’s the same question audiences of Ibsen’s 1879 play A Doll’s House have discussed for decades. In the nineteenth century, the notion of a woman leaving her children was unsettlingly controversial. Today, as Come Home shows, the taboo is alive and well.  

Greg, for one, can’t fathom it and asks the question throughout the episode – on a disastrously hostile first date, to the woman he rescues from her violent husband and rashly moves into his family home, to Marie, and also to himself. Every time Greg’s mind replays his idealised memories of family life before his wife left, he’s asking why.

Eccleston is excellent as Greg. He has the range required to make the character everything he needs to be at this point in the story – visibly heart-broken and winningly sympathetic at the same time as boiling with rage and just a hint of potential danger. Is his cluelessness genuine, or is he unwilling to accept Marie’s reasons as valid? Has pain blinded him to her perspective?

The writing, by Danny Brocklehurst (Ordinary Lies, Accused) and direction, by Andrea Harkin (Clique) allows for just this flexibility of interpretation. We first meet Greg stalking uninvited though Marie’s lonely-looking house. When he inhales her scent from an item of clothing and fingers a lacy black bra from her underwear drawer, it seems to be the act of a wounded and lovelorn husband. Twist the angles just a little though, and you might see him as a creep and perhaps even a menace.

When, in one of several of comic scenes in episode one, Greg is discovered hiding in Marie’s house, she makes to call the police. Is that merely shock, or does she recognise this behaviour and genuinely feel threatened? While Greg certainly appears to be, as Brenna says, one of the good guys, the subplot of her abusive husband opens up that thematic territory for consideration.

Currently, Come Home is alive with absorbing possibilities. The central hook of why Marie left is a stronger draw than any number of dead bodies a thriller might throw at us in an opening scene. In the telling of who these people are and what life they’ve shared, it promises to explore the real stuff of drama – identity, relationships and perhaps, if this three-parter shares more than just a casual connection to A Doll’s House, the illusion of domestic contentment and how individual personhood can be drowned out by marriage.

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Blessedly, episode one is also funny. Its comedy—something else Eccleston can pull off—is one of several good moves grounding the drama in a recognisable world where sadness and silliness go hand in hand. The tonal transition in Greg’s date scene, from a comically banal date discussion of recycling bins to his explosive anger at Marie feels real. The laugh out loud moment later when the police officer interrupts some vigorous dogging to ask mechanic Greg about getting his motor checked was a blessed escape valve for the pressure built up by the rest of the story.

The first hour moves fluently through Greg’s convincing moods, helped by Murray Gold’s emotional score. A drunk Brenna (Kerri Quinn) berating Greg’s older kids for being stick-in-the-muds switches recognisably from harmless to hurtful. Greg sticks up gallantly for Liam and Laura, then fails them by, hurt from his encounter with Marie, asking Brenna and her son to stay on indefinitely. The tensions are well-drawn and, with this cast, feel utterly real. While specific to these characters, like all good drama, they’re also universal.

Come Home can’t hope to answer the difficult question of why a mother would leave her kids, it can only answer the question of why this mother did so. But in telling Marie and Greg’s story so empathetically, with such a strong cast (Paula Malcolmson may have barely appeared so far, but you know she’s going to ace this) it has scope to say and do a lot more besides. We can all look forward to having our minds changed.