Benedict Cumberbatch’s Patrick Melrose is now grown up – he has married the woman he met at the end of the last episode, they have a son called Robert, and… the pain just won’t go away.
The fact that his Mother Eleanor (an aged-up Jennifer Jason Leigh) is close to death and has decided to give away his childhood home to a New Age Charlatan called Seamus and his god awful spiritual foundation, doesn’t help. But it’s not all. The ghost of his abuser father still haunts him.
This episode was a tale of two fathers and two little boys and the impossibility of starting again, shielding the next generation from the pain of their forbears. Or as Patrick himself puts it tonight: “I’ve tried so hard not to pass on the malice or resentment…” But he hasn’t managed it.
We’re back in the big house in France. David Melrose is long dead but his shadow lingers. The cicadas continue to hum, the inside feels cool (helped immensely by the astounding cinematography which remains beautifully atmospheric) but the rage burns fierce.
When Patrick, on an August holiday with his family, learns he is to be disinherited, his fury is boundless.
“In a beauty contest between her own child and a total stranger and my mother chose the stranger,” he thunders. He even takes a dip to hide his screams in the pool water.
His old girlfriend Julia (Jessica Raine, above) is also invited on the holiday with her mother, the ghastly Kettle (only the upper classes give people names like this) and Patrick seeks to rekindle their former romance.
It’s a summer fling, brought about it seems because his own marriage is clearly dead. The long-suffering Mary has had enough of his pain, his drinking, but most of all the effect all of it has had on Robert, their son.
But it’s not an entirely depressing episode. Patrick’s mockery of Seamus is fantastically acerbic. He has lost none of his wit just as he has lost none of his rhino-like tolerance for bad substances. He’s done with (most) drugs, but not alcohol. He can put a whole bottle of whisky away and then drive out for more even if he nearly kills himself in the process.
This is properly good drama. It is fantastically honest storytelling, beautifully modulated and unflinching. It shies from nothing but still there is still a hopefulness and a sense of the possible.
Yes, there are two damaged fathers and two damaged sons but the love Patrick has for his own boy is palpable and you know he is trying his best.
Certainly, more than Seamus who stops visiting Eleanor as soon as the papers are filled in signing over her fortune.
Next week is the final episode, which focuses on Eleanor’s funeral and its aftermath. It’s called At Last and will finally offer Patrick a chance to exhale. And even find some peace.