This review contains spoilers.
Thank goodness What Remains finishes next week. Whose opinion of humanity could withstand many more lashings of the kind episode three gave us? If Tony Basgallop had a wider canvas on which to paint his portrait of human failings, we’d all need some time away. As it is, I’m crossing my fingers that next week’s just a quick summary of what happened to Melissa followed by a fifty minute slideshow of yawning puppies and winsome infants being delighted by butterflies. Surely anything else would contravene the licence-fee payer agreement?
Because What Remains is bleak. Even without the decomposing neighbour, its characters are unhappy and its relationships are pockmarked with secrecy, mistrust and isolation. Nobody tells the truth. Everyone’s alone. It’s enough to make you think Melissa and Len’s late brother are better off out of it.
By and large, the men come out the worst. Only David Threlfall’s grieving detective hasn’t yet been revealed to be an adulterer, bully or worse, and there’s still time. This week, it was everyman Kieron’s turn to have his character stains illuminated by UV light.
A recovering alcoholic, Kieron used Melissa heartlessly for sex when he was drinking, a fact he neglected to share with the police investigation. Not only did Kieron mistreat Melissa emotionally, he’s also a sadist when drunk, as his attempted rape of his girlfriend proved. Now he’s off the wagon, Patricia is out of his flat, and Detective Harper is on his case.
Len’s private grief this week bled into his investigation, as yet more lines were drawn between his and Melissa’s situation, culminating in that stylish pan across from past to present, from victim to detective. Melissa being stood up by Kieron this week revisited Len’s disappointment last week, and by the end of the episode, Len wasn’t just identifying with the murder victim, but living in her flat. TV crime-fighters are often being reminded not to get too emotionally involved in cases, and judging by Harper’s powerful accusatory speech to Kieron at the end of this week’s episode – his grief about his brother’s death redoubled by his compassion for Melissa’s mistreatment – Len’s long past professional distance.
Do we think Kieron killed Melissa? As his predatory, tormenter son berated him “You’re the one with form here. Maybe you got so loaded, you can’t remember what you did”. From that and Adam’s (likely) tried-and-tested loud music distraction trick, the inference is that Kieron’s drunken violence isn’t a new development, but what ended his marriage. The journalist with a secret past certainly could have done Melissa in, but it’s hard to imagine a drama with this keen a grasp of character neglecting the fact that only a psychopath could stay under the same roof as the decomposing body of their victim, accidental or otherwise. That leaves the flashing culprit arrow hovering over the now-emigrated former owner of Michael and Vidya’s place.
The mysterious Liz Fletcher, with whom Michael is doing the dirty and about whom he’s digging up dirt, continues to be dangled in front of us as a potential murderer, especially after this week’s spyhole cliff-hanger. We also know that Elaine has a temper and a mean streak a mile long, that Salty Sellers once hit Michael, and that young Adam’s a bully with an undisguised dislike of the deceased… If half of Melissa’s building could feasibly have done her in, just what sort of nation is Basgallop’s state-of-the-nation drama describing? Not one it’s pleasant to see reflected on screen, that’s for certain.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.
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