If you enjoyed the dark and twisty first series of BBC drama The Pact last year, you’ll be pleased to know it’s just returned for series two, this time with a brand new cast and a fresh bucketful of secrets ready to be spilled.
BAFTA-winning Rakie Ayola (who, among many other things, played the Hostess in Doctor Who episode ‘Midnight’) played DS Holland in series one, but this time she’s The Pact’s’ Executive Producer and also takes centre stage as protagonist Christine, a social worker whose family is still recovering from the recent death of her 22-year-old son Liam.
As openings go it’s not very promising – we’re in definite scrolling-through-your-phone territory for the first twenty minutes or so as we see a hooded figure break into the family’s home on the Welsh coast just in time for Christine to get back and hear a noise. She goes to investigate upstairs, grabbing the nearest weapon-like object, which is probably a candlestick but from the looks of it could also be an ornate wooden pirate’s leg, only for a big fat nothing to happen as the mystery man lurks awkwardly behind a door. If this is a thriller, they need to tell their faces, because it’s not very thrilling.
We then meet her daughter Megan (Mali Ann Rees, Tourist Trap) who runs a seaside cafe alongside her brother Jamie (Aaron Anthony, Behind Her Eyes), who finally gets accosted in a dark alleyway by the hooded figure, before he claims he’s their long lost brother Connor (played by Freshers’ Jordan Wilks). And, as the characters make sure to tell us every two minutes for the rest of the episode, he looks exactly like their recently departed brother Liam.
We then meet yet another brother, Will (honestly, there’s so many siblings you start to understand how they could have lost track of poor Connor somewhere along the way) and the family finally gets together to discuss Jamie’s encounter. Of course, Christine dismisses Connor’s claim as impossible, but as the action limps forward it becomes clear she knows more than she’s letting on.
It’s worth sticking with The Pact for the rest of the episode, as the plot slowly starts to spark and eventually crackles away merrily, setting plenty of fires to burn through over the rest of this six-part series. Connor convinces Megan to meet him, and we learn he was brought up in care and has been trying to track down his parents, while planting the first red flag that his story might not be all that legit – he shoehorns in a reference to Rage Against the Machine, a band whose LP we saw him conveniently discover in Liam’s room when he broke into the house at the start of the episode.
The series’ first major twist is worth waiting for, as we discover Christine has tracked down a woman who says Connor previously stalked her family with the same ‘we’re secretly related’ spiel with catastrophic results, and they weren’t even the first victims of his nefarious attentions. But is he a scam artist or was it just a case of mistaken identities as he tries to track down his real family?
This discovery sets a protective Will off to confront Connor in an abandoned train yard, warning him off and whacking him over the head with a lead pipe for good measure (what with that and the candlestick from earlier, this family clearly play a lot of Cluedo together) before Christine tracks a newly battered Connor down at his flat for their first head-to-head.
Aside from the tired thriller ‘creepy wall collage of evidence’ trope showing he’s done his homework on the family (seriously, why does no one in a TV drama own a notepad?), it’s an impressive scene. Some of the rage that’s been bubbling beneath the surface of Christine’s cool exterior throughout the episode spills over, and we see her darker side, as she ominously warns Connor she’s not one to mess with. A bit of a false start, but the second half of The Pact’s first episode gives us plenty of reasons to come back for more.
The Pact airs on Mondays at 9pm from 24th October, and the whole boxset is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.