Keeping Faith is one of the best dramas of the year – if you get past the first episode

Alison Graham discusses just why it was that she went from hating Keeping Faith to be an avid lover of the breakout BBC TV series

(Keeping Faith, BBC)

It’s one of those watershed television moments – “Where were you when everyone was talking about Keeping Faith?”

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Me? I was hiding under a table shaking my head and saying “What? That sappy thing I saw months ago? About the irritating woman in high heels whose husband disappeared and she kept doing a really annoying flicking-thing with her hair? The thing with the whining lady-ballads and the girly theme tune and slo-mo snogging in a sun-dappled field?”

You can’t mean that, surely?

I watched the first episode when the series first aired on BBC Wales and hated it so much for all of the reasons above (and more) that I quickly abandoned it. I know I wasn’t alone in this. Usually bad first episodes signify bad series. “Oh, you’ve got to allow it to bed in, the first few episodes aren’t the best,” I’m so often told about things that turn out to be awful in their entirety.

But Keeping Faith is such an exception to this rule it could well be historic.

The first episode (of eight) exists in its own world far away from what comes later, it’s a trilling, light-to-the-point-of-frothy establishing hour that bears no relation to what follows. By episode two the tone changes abruptly as we enter deep, dark waters.

And Faith, finally, stops being annoying. Eve Myles carries the whole show as a solicitor on maternity leave in a sunny, pretty Welsh town where everyone knows and likes her (or DO THEY?). She has a devoted husband and three smashing kids. She gets drunk with her jolly girlfriends and lives in a lovely house with a lovely kitchen.

But that gilded life tarnishes, then crumbles when her husband Evan, a solicitor who owns the family firm, kisses everyone goodbye one morning, then vanishes into thin air without a word of explanation.

Something about Keeping Faith snagged on the public’s imagination. It was a massive hit in Wales, then went on to break records on the BBC iPlayer with an extended run. Overnight it became a word-of-mouth triumph, a must-see, must-talk-about drama, a child of social media, where it became a dominating thread. Even the yellow mac Faith habitually wears became a “star” in its own right.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Eve Myles arrives for the premiere screening of ITV's Victoria at The Orangery on August 11, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Keeping Faith’s writer, Matthew Hall, a solicitor and author of a series of books about a woman coroner in the South West (I’d recommend, them, by the way) said he was dazed by the response and no one was quite sure why people had taken to the show in such a big way.

Well, I can’t speak for the whole world, but for me, it’s wonderful to see a professional woman with dominion over her own life. Faith isn’t lost without her man, far from it, she becomes steely and questing. And she isn’t tied to a bed in a dungeon, begging not to die at the hands of a serial killer. (This has become so common it’s worth remarking on when it doesn’t happen.)

Faith is resourceful and clever as she tries to hold together her life, and the lives of her children, while investigating (there’s no other word for it) her husband, a man it seems she barely knew. The claustrophobia of small-town life, too, is expertly explored; her little community was somewhere that once seemed so open and happy. But what really lies beneath that placid surface?

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Get past episode one and Keeping Faith could be your summer must-see. Put your feet up, and enjoy it.