“You win,” Suranne Jones’ Gemma Foster texted her oily ex-husband Simon as she drove out of Parminster for a new life. “We’ve gone.”
I wouldn’t bet on it. This is not a woman to hold aloft the white flag of surrender: she’s more likely to ram the pole up Simon’s backside. And with two episodes to go of this sensationally schlocky series, this could just mark the beginning of the final stages of her campaign of revenge on the man who has turned her life upside down.
In perhaps the most action-packed (and certainly the best) episode of the series so far, we saw the flawed brilliance of this woman.
She stood up for Isobel (Hope Lloyd), the teenage girl whom we learned (in the biggest discovery of the evening) that her son Tom had made unwelcome sexual advances towards at Simon and Kate’s party in episode one; whatever trials she goes through, Gemma knows right from wrong.
“It doesn’t matter what he’s been through,” Gemma told Isobel. “He should have stopped.”
But she also stood by her son, despite the unpleasantness of his actions (and the fact that Isobel’s parents might even involve the police); Simon, by glaring contrast, seemed to use Tom’s actions as an opportunity to wash his hands of his old family.
New wife Kate (Jodie Comer) didn’t want Tom around their toddler Amelie and Simon acquiesced, accepting that his son’s drunken assault on a girl his own age – and his subsequent violent behaviour – could indeed make him a threat to his half-sister.
So Tom was rejected on the doorstep by a dad who has started again with a new family. The young lad (an excellent and mature performance by young Tom Taylor) left with his mum to begin a new life, while Simon was last seen playing happily in a sun-soaked living room with his baby daughter.
But of course, that’s not everything. Gemma and Simon had sex earlier in tonight’s episode – an animalistic and loveless coupling which started in the kitchen and moved on to the living room, all sweat and clawing.
“Gemma, I hate you,” said Simon by way of foreplay.
“I know, I pretty much f***ing loathe you,” she spat back before the action began.
And it was, we later learned, all overheard by Tom. “You’ve never understood how thin the walls are in your house,” said neighbour Anna, before Tom wasted little opportunity in telling Gemma’s on/off boyfriend (and his teacher) James about his parents’ liaison.
The teen now has the power to wreak serious damage on Simon and Kate’s union, should he wish to spill the beans about their late-night antics; this was something Gemma didn’t do (or rather, hasn’t done yet) despite planning to film the whole thing on her phone before Simon spotted her ruse. It didn’t stop either of them going through with it, though.
Tom also said something to his dad I have been longing to hear from him since series one.
“Can you stop calling me mate. I’m not your mate, I’m your son.”
That “mate” thing really got on my nerves.
Gemma and Tom’s wasn’t the only departure from promiscuous Parminster. Victoria Hamilton’s long-suffering spouse Anna (pictured, below) decided to up sticks to Edinburgh; through series one and two she’s been a clear foil for Gemma’s inability to leave behind her old life after her marriage breakdown.
“In your world it really is all about Simon, isn’t it?” Anna said to Gemma in the Foster kitchen, where a vase of dying flowers was artfully placed on the kitchen top, with a symbolism that will not be lost on anyone.
And of course Anna is right. Gemma does find it hard to let go of her dead marriage. And while she may have left Parminster tonight, there’s no doubt that the lure of Simon will be keenly felt and she’ll be back.
As she showed today, she is a vital part of her community: a responsible doctor (and mother) who is even on friendly first name terms with the town’s traffic wardens (did you notice the way she talked herself out of a ticket?). She doesn’t leave things behind that easily.
So it’s three episodes down, two to go in the second – and probably final – series. Tonight’s visit felt like the climax of act one of a theatre play (and let’s not forget that writer Mike Bartlett has done most of his work for the stage). A second act beckons and Gemma will be back. Steal yourselves is all I can say.
This article was originally published in September 2017