Doctor Foster series 2 episode 1 review: Gemma faces the party from hell

Revenge takes a different twist in the first episode of the second series as a custody battle opens up

Doctor Foster series 2 Gemma and Simon

After the dinner party from hell in series one, Suranne Jones’ Gemma Foster begins series two by wading into the wedding party from hell.

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And, just as with that unforgettable get-together in series one, she was a wolf once more. Though by the end of tonight’s visit, she appears to be very much on the back foot, dissolving her wedding ring in a tub of acid as she considers her next move in a field of limited options.

Gemma’s marriage disappeared in series one, but now it looks like her wayward ex-husband Simon has designs on their son Tom who was whisked away at the end of the episode and appeared happily ensconced in the home of his dad, new wife Kate (Jodie Comer) and their young child.

The series one story of Gemma’s fightback against Simon’s infidelity has morphed into a series two fight-to-the-death custody battle.

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Events began rather sedately with a snapshot of life in the commuter town. It was a red-letter day – bright missives were being sent round the place – but it didn’t take much to guess that they heralded Gemma’s worst nightmare. And there it was, just about the smuggest message to get her teeth grinding: “We’re back and we’re married”. The jolt that Simon was returning to Parminster after two years away with new bride Kate and a baby.

Gathered together in his “£1m house” in The Acres were all the people Gemma knew, including her colleague Roz (who had promised she wasn’t going) and she was having none of it.

Enlisting her hunky date, who just happened to teach her son Tom, she turned up to the party desperate to cause as much havoc as possible, swigging wine, wandering around the house, even snooping in Kate’s drawers and playing with her sex aid.

At one point she brushed up close to Simon, teasing him sexually, “playing games” as she put it in a way which she probably wanted to demonstrate her elusiveness and panache but rather suggested that she had somewhat lost the plot.

Her earlier pleas to her son Tom not to attend the do and tearful voicemail message (“I don’t think your Dad’s being…very fair”) also seemed to be straight out of the ‘how not to parent’ handbook – the one that teaches divorced parents not to use their offspring as emotional crutches. (It actually has a word – “parentification” – by the way).

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Meanwhile, Simon sneered at her that she hadn’t moved on. She wears the same clothes, she does nothing more than work and return home, he goaded, failing to acknowledge that many single parents probably find it hard and expensive to do much else.

Being the same Gemma, if a little more bruised and perhaps slightly less sympathetic, she’s still a wolf, of course. And we saw her bare her teeth – quite literally – during a meeting with annoying new doctor Sian (Sian Brooke) who has joined her Parminster practice. Gemma also hasn’t lost that nervous tic of scratching her hand – reaching nervously to the finger where her wedding ring once perched.

Simon is right in one sense. Her life has been on hold, although the suggestion now seems to be that she’s had a kick-start. Gemma works best when she has a mission.

Sometimes I feel that Doctor Foster didn’t need a second series; that Gemma is doing ever more unhinged things (like housebreaking) in order to push the plot along. Couldn’t we have left her where she was at the end of series one, bruised but defiant and having just saved a man who had had a heart attack?

But now we’re back, things have been set up nicely in a show which, despite its moments of histrionics, brilliantly takes apart the lives and delusions of the comfortably well-heeled. Simon’s smug set-up will surely come under fire. I also suspect there will be some more probing on how he has found such wealth –  he had some dodgy business dealings with Kate’s father in series one, so what’s he been up to now to afford his luxury pad? Emotional dishonesty has leeched into his business dealings with the past. Will that be Gemma’s best way to get him? I’m certainly keen to find out…

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