This review contains spoilers.
In twenty-four hours, Gemma Foster uncovered a mole, forged an alliance over monkfish, stalked her son, wine-cried in front of his best mate, spied on her ex’s new wife, had it large, shagged a teacher and ate a croissant.
Blimey. I’m lucky if I get two loads of washing in on my day off.
Gemma is a busy woman. She needs to be. She has a war to wage and a reason to wage it – son Tom, the Helen of Troy in this whole mess (if, you know, Paris was Helen’s dad and had lured her away from Menelaus with a massive house and a PlayStation after years of shagging about behind Menelaus’ back. This analogy isn’t helping is it? Let’s move on).
Simon, currently in contention for Smug Twat of the Year and standing an excellent chance of taking home the prize, tells Gemma he’s lured Tom away by apprising him of “the facts”. What facts they might be is the mystery Gemma turned detective this week in order to discover. Just what has Simon told poor Tom that’s made him think he no longer loves his mum?
We can only speculate (the BBC has locked up previews to this hit series even more tightly than Gemma is wound) so here are two theories: one) Simon knows about the twenty-eight-year-old she was paying for sex and told their son, hence Tom calling his mum “desperate”.
Theory two: it could have something to do with timing. Tom’s age as a fifteen-year-old was mentioned twice this week, as was the duration of Gemma and Simon’s fifteen-year marriage and the fact that she hadn’t had a night out like that one in fifteen years. Marriage and parenthood seem to have happened in very close succession for Gemma and Simon. Did she get pregnant by accident? And did she, initially at least, not want to keep the baby? Those kinds of facts might turn a troubled child against his mother, but would be a cruel weapon for Simon to wield.
Cruelty though, is very much Simon’s bag in series two. That much was clear from the joy he took in helping Neil destroy his marriage, and the campaign of harassment he’s launched against Gemma. Following on from last week’s abusive flower delivery (I hope she kept that card as evidence), he sent a parade of shiny-suited estate agents to her doorstep this week in an attempt to push her out of town. She’ll be gone in a month, he told Sian. Just you watch.
We’re watching alright (over six and a half million of us live last week). Series two has given us a boxing match to beat them all. In the red corner, Gemma “the animal”, weighing in at 120lbs of pure, righteous anger. In the blue corner, Simon “the scuz”, 160lbs of dick-led lies. Ding ding, round one. Simon may, as he said grinningly into his pint, currently be “winning”, but who’s your money on for the KO?
You’d have to be a sociopath to back Simon, obviously, but really, how far is Gemma to be trusted? It was no accident that her arrival at young Max’s house coincided with the song lyrics “Now the wolf is knocking at my door”. Raise your hand if the possibility that she was out to sexually groom a child to get the information she wanted crossed your mind. You can put your hand down now.
That kind of horrible ambiguity is what makes Gemma’s character so intensely watchable. Well, that and Suranne Jones’ face, which somehow does mad, bad, clever, pained, ruthless and vulnerable in a single blink of an eye. I love watching her think.
Bertie Carvel holds his own against her (literally last episode, arf) and is making for an electric villain this series. Both leads are very capably supported by Adam James and Sian Brooke as Neil and Sian. The spliced scenes between that foursome fizzed with barely concealed malice and, in Gemma and Sian’s case, unexpected warmth.
What kind of an ally will the formerly abrasive Sian prove to Gemma now? Might she even be a potential sexual conquest? In such a deliciously acted, fast-ratcheting melodrama as this, nothing’s off the table.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.