BBC1 drama Come Home finished on Tuesday night with a mixture of sadness and hope.
The complicated marital saga ended up in the Family Courts with Marie (Paula Malcomson) and Greg (Christopher Eccleston) pleading their case for custody of their two youngest children. Their eldest child Liam was not subject to proceedings as he was able to decide who he wanted to live with.
In the end, the court awarded the mother custody, with Greg winning weekend rights. But this wasn’t quite the end of the painful saga – instead, it offered a chance for something positive and generous to be done.
Marie, in a gesture of goodwill, offered joint custody, a 50/50 arrangement which surprised Greg, who had earlier fought a protracted battle with the woman who, as he would have it, had deserted him and their three children.
“They’re our children, we can share them,” said Marie, who had confessed to an earlier affair in court – a disclosure which revealed that their middle daughter Laura was not actually Greg’s child after all.
“But you won,” said a disbelieving Greg, who also had more than enough black marks in the debit column over the three episodes. Perhaps his biggest crime, episode three revealed, was to pretend he had had a vasectomy leading to the birth of their youngest daughter Molly – a child which Marie never wanted and whose birth threw her into post-natal depression.
“We both lost,” replied Marie simply. But the final words belonged to Greg: “How did we get here?” he asked, before the drama faded out with a montage of family videos from happier times.
It was a beautiful, very affecting ending to a three-part drama which managed to examine the complications and nuances of a family breakdown with honesty and a lack of sensationalism.
As writer Danny Brocklehurst tells RadioTimes.com: “We didn’t want to provide simple answers. There is no one big reason why Marie left. Certainly the vasectomy was important, but I hope this shows that it takes a thousand cuts to destroy a marriage.
“There isn’t just one reason. We said to the BBC from very early on: we’re not waiting for a big reveal to explain why she left. I wanted to do something that felt more truthful to the research we had done on women who leave like this and marriages that go wrong.”
The writer is adamant that the story has finished for good – there is no plan to revisit these characters or look to a second series.
“I think we have tied up all those loose ends. It comes to a complete place which I am very satisfied by. You feel something at the end.
“In a world where so many shows leave their endings hanging, that feels completely satisfying.
“I hate things when they are left open. I am so proud that another show, one we have done for Netflix, Safe, ends and comes to a complete stop, a satisfying end. Some stories can carry on but some stories should just end. It’s a mini-series, so just end it and do something else.”
Brocklehurst admitted there were autobiographical elements in the story, not least in the character of Brenna (Kerri Quinn, pictured below), the woman with the sandwich van who becomes Greg’s heavy-drinking girlfriend – and Marie’s adversary.
Brocklehurst’s own mother died when he was 13 and his father remarried not long afterwards, he explains. He added that his early relationship with his stepmother was difficult and said there were “elements” of her in Brenna.
“My Dad brought a new woman into the house with what seemed to me at the time undue haste. Looking back as an adult maybe that was not the case, it was probably two years after. I am in my 40s now and this was a long time ago and me and my stepmother now get on alright. But at the time I think it’s fair to say we didn’t, that we hated each other. My brother moved out. It was a mess.”
He said that during the creative process of making Come Home a number of people involved in the show’s development “had a huge problem with Brenna…on the page”. He explains how some wanted to “soften” the character, who drank heavily and sent Marie spiteful messages from the phone of her daughter.
However, Brocklehurst says he resisted the move for a number of reasons.
“People are like this. People are complicated. It’s not like she’s evil. She just wants something for herself and she’s prepared to do things to get it, so we didn’t soften her down.”
He adds that another thing that was discussed in the writing stage was whether Greg should ever have physically hit Marie over the course of the drama – another move he resisted.
“I thought it would become this story of a guy that has hit his wife and that is a different thing,” says Brocklehurst.
Asked whether the though Greg and Brenna would be together after the action of the drama he says: “People do…but I don’t know. I think she might offer him something, but whether it would last years and years and years, who knows? I think it’s good that they stood by each other.”
As for Marie, will she be happy? Will she meet someone else? “I don’t know,” the writer says, slightly lost in thought, adding nothing. Her story, it seems, has been told.
This article was originally published on 10 April 2018