Polly Walker stole the show in Prisoners’ Wives

It's a good drama with fine performances... but one star really shone in the opener of the BBC's new series

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At some point, each year, we hear complaints about the lack of good parts for women. So to get three perfectly formed, different female roles in one show seems, well, greedy.  

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Last night saw the first episode of Prisoners’ Wives, a six-part series about a group of women whose husbands/boyfriends are all, as the title sort of suggests, in prison. 

Each character could so easily have slipped into a cliché: Emma Rigby as the pregnant naive blonde convinced of her husband’s innocence; Polly Walker as the flamboyant gangster’s moll, making visits to her other half in jail without underwear to cheer up his day; and finally Natalie Gavin, a single mum eking out an existence selling drugs on her council estate. 

Alright, admittedly they are not the most original of creations, yet between the performances and writing you care about everyone by the closing credits. That is a lot to achieve in an hour. 

All of the actress should be patting themselves on the back – and perhaps stabbing Polly Walker in hers, because even in scenes where she is merely an onlooker she steals all the limelight.

As Francesca she is given the strongest speeches and the funniest moments, but Walker’s air of confidence and her slow, clear, calm delivery is mesmerising. Even when drenched (blame the exploding boiler) she oozes sex appeal, probably something to do with unnaturally piercing ice-blue eyes.

Perhaps anybody who takes a job in an ensemble cast and sees Ms Walker’s name attached to it should just run.

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Prisoners’ Wives continues on Tuesday 7 February at 9pm on BBC1 and BBC1 HD