Forever episode 8 review: The Ecstasy Of Agony

Forever is sticking around for a 22-episode season, and has delivered a stronger-than-usual episode to celebrate...

This review contains spoilers.

1.8 The Ecstasy Of Agony

Before I cover this week’s episode, ABC has released some interesting news that somewhat flummoxed this reviewer. Having viewing figures that spoke termination for this show, ABC has amazingly announced a full season order for it. As I actually rather like this show’s sensibilities, I was hoping it might make the half season, but the full 22-episode order is beyond my wildest expectations. In the same announcement the Karen Gillan and John Cho sitcom Selfie got the bullet, to remind us that ABC hasn’t entirely gone soft.

As if to celebrate its new longevity, Forever delivered a much stronger episode than we’ve had for a while with The Ecstasy Of Agony. As the title implies, it’s thematically about sadomasochism, though it actually encompasses a wide range of situations where people are drawn to things that they know will hurt them.

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But the powerhouse behind this plot is the wonderful Hilarie Burton as Iona Payne, S&M mistress, therapist and chief suspect in the murder of Richard Gaines, a businessman with domination issues. She lights up the screen marvellously, especially in her various encounters with Henry. There’s an obvious play here, with his somewhat reserved style and nature being confronted by Iona’s full-throttle bohemian. It was so good, at one point I wondered if the show might be much more exciting if they were teamed up permanently.

Unfortunately while the character work there was excellent, the plot that they wrapped it in seems marginally less confident.

Early on, Iona is brought in for questioning, and tells them that Richard stopped breathing because he was electrocuted, all without seeing the body. Her insight is remarkable, though she never for one moment considers that she owns the murder weapon until she finds it missing later. So within a few scenes she goes from genius criminalist to air-head, in rapid progression.

What did work very well in part were the flashback elements that revealed Henry’s first wife had him committed to Bedlam, or Bethlem Royal Hospital if we’re being accurate, believing that he’d gone insane when he told her of his immortality. This betrayal provides a greater explanation of how Henry lives his life, and there probably needed to come along way before episode 8.

Disappointingly however, the house that they used in these scenes was wholly wrong for the UK, with many features that are exclusively colonial. I’ve also no idea where they got the idea to label the wagon Charing Cross Asylum, because in 1815 ‘Bedlam’ was either in Moorgate or St. George’s Fields in Southwark. Historical details, never a strong point of US TV.

The flipside of Henry and Iona is the return of Abe’s ex-wife to his life, in the return of Maureen Delacroix played by the effervescent Jane Seymour. The parallel is that this is another moth-to-the-flame relationship, where Abe has been married twice to Maureen previously. If this seemed somewhat far-fetched, a good friend of mine married the same person twice, because as he put it ‘a good mistake is worth making twice’. And, most people have had a relationship that they know is bad for them, but compelling none the less. More curious was the idea that having been married twice, Henry managed somehow never to have previously met this woman thus avoiding obviously difficult questions.

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Judd Hirsh has been great so far, and the warm but tinged with sad relationship he has with Henry is a compelling reminder that living indefinitely can be as much a curse as a gift.

The final scene where Henry meets his co-workers for a drink rather underlined that he need to change his lifestyle, so that when Abe finally goes he’s not entirely alone. That probably means bringing other people inside his secret, something he’s understandably not keen on doing. I really hope they don’t try to stretch out this for all 22 episodes, because there are more imaginative directions they can take this show once they get over that hurdle.

Next week the story is called 6 A.M., so I’ve set my alarm already.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, New York Kids, here.

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