Warning: contains major series one plot spoilers.
Glossy legal dramas about high-earning women battling dilemmas at work and at home while wearing £800 blouses are no longer the sole province of US television. In Abi Morgan’s The Split, we now have one of our very own. It stars Nicola Walker (Unforgotten, Last Tango In Halifax) as lawyer Hannah Stern, the eldest of three sisters, mother of three, and deserter of family-run law firm Defoe’s.
Series two opens three months after the death of Oscar (Anthony Head), Hannah, Nina and Rose’s estranged father, and Rose’s wedding to James (Rudi Dharmalingam). It sees Hannah still suffering from the revelation that husband Nathan (Stephen Mangan) had an affair, and still entangled with colleague and former lover Christie (Barry Atsma).
With breakdowns of all the key plot elements, here’s what you need to remember ahead of series two…
Hannah, new job and rocky marriage
Hannah left Defoe’s because her mother Ruth (Deborah Findlay) refused to retire and hand over the company reins. We met her settling into a new role at competitors Noble and Hale, managed by Ruth’s former protegee, Zander (Chukwudi Iwuji).
Hannah and Nathan’s marriage was rocked in series one when he was forced to confess to having had an affair arranged through hacked extra-marital ‘dating’ site Indiana Ray. The revelation left Hannah considering whether to start an affair with an old friend and current colleague professing his ongoing love for her, Christie. In the series finale, Hannah spent the night with Christie, and – shocked by the sudden death of her father – asked Christie not to relocate to Chicago, as he’d planned.
A family lawyer, Hannah’s ongoing series one case for the firm was representing Goldie (Meera Syal), whose wealthy husband (Stephen Tompkinson) surprised her with divorce proceedings, and then with the revelation that ten years ago, he’d fathered another child with her best friend. Over the series, Hannah also represented the ex-wife of stand-up comedian Rex Pope (Mathew Baynton), as well as a premier league footballer and the UK foreign secretary.
Defoe’s, Ruth and Oscar
Law firm Defoe’s was started by Ruth and Oscar Defoe, the parents of Hannah, Nina and Rose. When Oscar ran off to America with the family’s 24-year-old nanny Maya and abandoned them, Ruth took over the firm and raised her daughters alone.
Around the time of Ruth’s 70th birthday, Oscar arrived back in the country, seeking his financial share of the firm. He approached his daughters, who resented him for having abandoned them and – apart from the youngest, Rose – refused to see him. Hannah and Nina eventually learned that he had sent letters, birthday cards and money that their hurt mother had kept from them. There was a reconciliation of sorts and Oscar and Maya (who were still married) attended Rose and James’ wedding.
Suddenly after the wedding, Oscar had a fatal heart attack.
Losing clients and in serious financial trouble, by the end of series one Ruth was forced to accept a takeover bid by rivals Hale & Defoe, which specified that she would need to step down as company head. Nina and Ruth (temporarily) and their client base would move to the new firm, which would be called Noble, Hale & Defoe.
Christie, the tempter
Dutch lawyer Christie knew Hannah from their university days. Now divorced, he works for Noble & Hale and has never got over his love for Hannah, whom he tried to persuade not to marry Nathan in the first place. The night before Hannah and Nathan’s wedding, she slept with Christie and promised to run away with him but never turned up, breaking his heart. Now he’s back and wants her to leave Nathan for him.
Nathan and Indiana Ray
Another lawyer, Hannah’s husband Nathan was dissatisfied by their busy working lives not leaving time for each other. On a business trip, he started an affair via an infidelity site, sleeping with another woman four times. Drunk, he also came on to Hannah’s sister Nina at a party, complaining about his loneliness and lack of sex life.
By the end of series one, Nathan was contrite, decided that Hannah was what he wanted, and asked her – after she’d worked out her feelings – to come back to him and the kids.
Nina & Rex
When Hannah defended the ex-wife of a stand-up comedian who was using material about their marriage in his stage act, the comedian chose Defoe’s as his legal representation in his battle to see his son. Nina (Annabel Scholey) became his divorce lawyer and the pair started a sexual relationship.
The Split series two arrives on BBC One on Tuesday the 11th of February at 9pm. All episodes will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after broadcast.