Is everyone OK after that ending to MotherFatherSon episode two? Nobody fainted? Everyone kept their dinner down?
Good – then let’s talk about what the hell we just saw.
Screenwriter Tom Rob Smith flexed his muscles in episode one with a disturbing sex scene, but that pales in comparison to the final minutes of episode two.
Caden (Billy Howle) sobs that he wants to die and then, as his mother Kathryn (Helen McCrory) begs him to stop, literally rips his own scalp off.
When Caden ripped that line out of his own arm and the blood spilled everywhere, my hand flew to my mouth; when he reached for the stitches on his head, I held my breath; as he peeled his scalp away from his own head to expose the skull and metal plate and bloody flesh… I screamed out loud.
And that wasn’t the end of it. By the time the nurses came running, Caden’s grasping mouth was crushed against his mother’s breast as she looked on in uncomprehending horror. What a miserable, shocking scene.
Miserable and shocking as it may be, it made for powerful television. How can a drama be so hard to watch – and yet so good?
The scene is not gratuitous; it moves the story forward. Here’s Kathryn, stricken by grief but also, perhaps, seeing Caden’s recovery as a chance to rewind and mother him again. In just a few seconds, that optimism is ripped apart.
The final scene makes clear that this is going to be a long, difficult road for Caden, his mother and father Max (Richard Gere). Recovery is not linear, and the mental impact of a stroke – on inhibition and impulse control – can be distressing for everyone involved.
Still – it was a gruesome scene to watch. And with six episodes to go, we’re nervous to see what else Tom Rob Smith has in store…
MotherFatherSon continues on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC2