Survivors series 2 episode 4 review

Has Survivors pushed the envelope a little too far and become the BBC’s first ‘Survival Horror’ primetime show? Rob takes a look.

I am beginning to dislike Survivors. Not because of the acting, the characters or the obvious budget spent on it. No it’s because it’s becoming more and more difficult to watch.

Now, I like ‘gritty’ dramas, Waking The DeadMessiah and Wire In The Blood are all prime time BBC dramas that take a more adult approach, combining drama and quite un-nerving scenes. But out of all the strong and gritty dramas it seems that this episode of Survivors has put them to shame and, on reflection, to me, was one of the most disturbing bits of telly I have seen in a long time.

After last week, Tom and Greg have been captured and put to work in a mine run by a former classics teacher Mr Smithson, whose delusions of a more ‘civil’ time of toil and industry mean that anyone deemed healthy and ‘guilty’ has to work in a mine. As the other more gruesome side of Samantha’s community, this mine is where those deemed to be a disturbance to her little piece of paradise come, forced to be shackled and work together in cramped and dangerous conditions.

With both main characters thinking up different ways of escape – Tom’s being hitting things and Greg’s more cerebral – both attempts fail in their own way. Even when the rest of the Family try to spring their two wayward members, things don’t go to plan and show that, even though these are the ‘heroes’ of the series, they are as flawed as anyone else.

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So that’s it plot-wise, a search and rescue mission mimicking the ‘family member in danger’ motif that has been through the entire series. However, it’s the little details and really quite disturbing manner in which events play out that makes things a little bit uncomfortable to watch. From the obvious of having Greg chained up and discussing slavery, to the more subtle things like Billy (played with an innocent  malice by Roger Lloyd Pack) capturing children and the way he treats his guest/slave Sally, there is a great deal that makes the episode quite tricky viewing.

However, it’s the show’s finale that really make things go to the extreme. Tom and Greg’s presence in the slave mines has caused many disturbances, with escapes, unrest and a growing feeling of anger, so when the rest of the slaves eventually do escape, grim justice is served out on their captors, and in a little too graphic way.

So there’s the fact that Smithson was ready and threatening Greg with a public hanging which goes awry, and then he sees his own second in command swinging on the gallows, while the rest of the minders, guards and security at the mine are hunted down and beaten to death. Things get very grim, indeed, culminating with the rescue of new member Sally and the flash of seeing Smithson smashed into his priceless vintage wine collection and hammered to death with a crowbar. As I said, pretty heavy viewing.

With the team safe and a new member (not to mention Billy’s truck), the Family are on their way. However, just before the credits roll, we see Tom once again performing his role as the team’s enforcer, helping one of the terminally injured mine workers ‘to a better place’, which again shows that this show is, and I guess will get, a lot darker than some of the other dramas currently airing.

While a strong stomach is needed to watch this episode, there are some excellent points too. Smithson makes for a superb bad guy, a little man with delusions of class, intelligence and grandeur and the way in which he calmly explains that all great civilisations are built on the back of other men (i.e. slaves) shows he is as slick, confident and self deluded as the slimiest of MP trying to convince people that his way is right.

Added to this is Billy, a character that is indefinably creepy. Half amiable trucker, half child catcher, his self serving instincts and the fact that he, for all intents and purposes, should be dead by now, is obviously going to be a continued thorn in the side of the Family’s attempt at a normal life. Especially now that he knows that Abby’s son is alive and also exactly where he is.

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Again a great episode, but be warned, it’s hard viewing.

Check out our review of episode 3 here.