What happened in The A Word series one – and what can we expect in series two?

Take a look back at the previous series of BBC1 drama The A Word...

The cast of The A Word

Do you need a little refresher about what happened in series one of The A Word? Are you curious about what will happen in series two?

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If you’re preparing to dive back into the BBC1 drama or are about to tune in for the first time, here’s what you need to know when the drama returns on 7th November at 9pm on BBC1.

What happened in The A Word series one? 

Joe, Alison and Paul in The A Word

When we met parents Paul and Alison Hughes, they were in denial about Joe’s autism. Here was a boy who became overwhelmed unless he had his headphones on and his music on repeat, a boy who didn’t play with the other kids, a boy who had serious communication problems. But after he started school and stopped being invited to birthday parties they took him to the professionals and he was finally diagnosed with autism.

The diagnosis was tough for Paul and Alison as they watched the life they’d imagined for their son disappear, and as they struggled to get through to him. They tried homeschooling, but that wasn’t a huge success (to put it mildly). Paul was attempting to build and open a gastropub, and that was a struggle too – especially with all the added financial and emotional stress of caring for a child with special needs.

To add to all that, Paul wanted another child – but Alison didn’t. And then Joe went missing, giving everyone a huge fright.

What will happen in series two? 

The A Word setting

Joe is now seven, and starting to realise he’s “different” and that he doesn’t fit in with the other kids. He has also heard the word “autism”.

In series two we’ll see Paul and Alison struggle to decide what’s best for the next stage of his education: staying in a mainstream school or joining a school for children with special needs.

In series two we’ll see the cracks widen in the marriage as Paul and Alison process things separately and come up with different solutions.

“I think as a person, she’s a very committed individual to whatever it is that she’s committed to at that time,” actress Morven Christie explained at a screening in London. “I think in series one there just seemed to be this rebellion in her: ‘If I fight this hard enough I will make it okay.’

“And now that commitment has gone into acceptance, surrounding herself with a community that understands her and can support her and help her support him. I think she’s kind of finding a joy in him, in accepting and taking his lead, if you like… She’s in quite a different place this year.”

Lee Ingleby’s character Paul is finding things harder. “For me the scene for Paul is where he admits that he feels like he’s losing his mind, that he’s losing his grip and he’s not his own hero any more,” the actor said. “He’s seeing the bigger picture, he’s opening his eyes and his ears to it, and he’s not liking what he’s seeing. He’s not liking where the future is going and he can’t handle it; he kind of buries his head more into the sand. It’s all pent up.”


Did Maurice and Louise end up together?

Louise, Ralph and Maurice in The A Word

In series one, at the end of a singing lesson, Maurice’s music teacher Louise sat him down for a cup of tea and an interesting proposition. She was a single mother to Ralph, a young man with Down’s Syndrome; he was a recent widower with a hectic home life. Would he be interested in no-string-attached casual sex?

After his initial reluctance, Maurice quite liked the idea. But things soon became complicated, and eventually came to an abrupt end – and it was definitely Maurice’s fault as he unfairly blamed Ralph when little Joe went missing. Protective mother Louise shut the whole thing down.

What will happen in series two? 

Pooky Quesnal, who plays Louise, told RadioTimes.com what’s coming up. “Maurice gets back in touch with Louise and she doesn’t really want him in her life because he was so disruptive last time,” she said. “Because she deals with her Down’s Syndrome son Ralph, and so it’s really about how they negotiate the complexities.

“They’re very complex people, especially Maurice. He’s such a bad communicator and he’s so headstrong. It’s how they negotiate that relationship with Ralph and, if they can come to some kind of acceptance of each other.”

Maurice decides he’s fallen in love with Louise and is determined to win her back. But it is events in Louise’s life that set the agenda this time.


Did Eddie and Nicola split up for good?

Nicola and Eddie in The A Word

Alison’s brother Eddie and his wife Nicola had been living in the city, but they moved back to Eddie’s hometown in search of a fresh start in series one: Nicola’s affair with her co-worker Michael had poisoned their marriage.

From the beginning, Nicola rubbed everybody up the wrong way – especially Alison – with her thoughts on Joe and her suggestion that he could be autistic. She struggled to fit in to this close-knit Cumbrian community. Life was hard for Eddie, too: he clashed with Maurice and had to live with the spectre of Michael and his wife’s affair.

After a pregnancy scare, Eddie and Nicola finally split up, with Eddie realising he wouldn’t be able to forget.

What will happen in series two?

Nicola and Eddie have a baby, but things are still not great between them and Eddie is living in Manchester where he claims to be building his own life by himself. Meanwhile, Nicola is still living next door to Alison and Paul and working a full-time job at the doctor’s surgery.

“She’s furiously paddling under the surface but is very good at masking things to the outside world,” Vinette Robinson, who plays Nicola, explained.

Writer Pete Bowker added: “I was very keen that Nicola and Eddie had a child and the child looked to the outside world would regard as perfect compared with Joe. So for Alison and Paul there’s another thing that’s going on; I think that’s to do with seeing this child next door living and growing and being, and their parental feelings of loss that their child is different.”

And in the middle of all this, Joe has a bond with his cousin. “Joe’s relationship with a child that age is so much purer and straightforward for him,” Bowker explained.


What happened to Joe’s older sister Rebecca?

Rebecca and James in The A Word

Alison and Paul almost forgot about their teenage daughter Rebecca in the fallout from Joe’s diagnosis, but if they’d been paying attention there was a lot going on in her life.

When we met her she was going out with Luke, but she was devastated when he lied about her on the internet and said they’d slept together when they hadn’t. At least Luke pulled through in the end and found Joe when he went missing.

What will happen in series two?

Luke is a thing of the past. The new boyfriend in town is James, who Rebecca met while travelling. “She’s madly in love and she comes home in this little bubble and they’ve been travelling around the world together and he’s very fairytale-like,” actress Molly Wright explains. “And then they come home and sees all these cracks running through her family.”


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The A Word series two airs on Tuesdays from 7th November on BBC1 at 9pm