Review: Thirteen (S1 E5/5), Sunday 27th March, BBC3

Programme Name: Thirteen - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 5) - Picture Shows:  Ivy Moxam (JODIE COMER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
(C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

For four weeks, Marnie Dickens has taken us on a rollercoaster ride with her debut stand-alone series, Thirteen. Her five-episode thriller has introduced us to Ivy Moxam – a young woman who, for 13 years, had been held captive in the basement by a man called Mark White. Now escaped, the series has chronicled her journey of re-introduction into society – finding her way in a new, expedient world, and trying to comprehend how the people that were close to her have changed. But it hasn’t just been about her re-introduction into the world: because of some tight plotting and writing, we’ve constantly had to ask ourselves who is Ivy Moxam? In this final episode, we found out.

NB: Because this has aired on the internet first, not everyone will have seen it. Spoilers are plentiful here.

We left Ivy and her dysfunctional police protectors – Carne and Merchant – steeling themselves for a final showdown with White. Using herself as bait, Ivy agreed to meet White in a shopping centre. Not surprisingly, within 15 minutes of the episode Ivy was once again in White’s clutches. I say not surprising, because it felt obvious what was going to happen – a botched meet, where Carne and Merchant and a full team of police people, were undone by Mark White’s stealth and better planning. For us to get to the ending that we got, it kind of had to happen that way.

No matter though, because with Carne, Merchant and Ivy’s family out of the picture (Carne and Merchant hospitalised thanks to a blundered blockade; Ivy’s family helplessly watching from the wings as everything went wrong), there was a creepy/engrossing 15 minutes or so where we just had Ivy and her deeply delusional captor White together in one room.

This man who had stolen her life was under the impression – still under the impression – that he owned Ivy, and that he had and now was protecting her from unseen forces in the outside world. If anything, this series has been an examination of ownership and who and why we really are and what we belong to – ourselves or the constructs of the family, or the preconceived images other people place on us. White’s severely skewed version of his own relationship with Ivy added a new, crazed layer to this study. It was interesting to watch – and not a little creepy – because we got to see inside the mind of a kidnapper; a kidnapper whose world had been so twisted by trauma that he sought to control Ivy as a way to keep control of his own life. He trained her and dressed her, like a cross between a pet and a doll. He asked her to wear his favourite dress and Ivy, in his presence became passive and compliant once again. It was sickening to watch.

I was willing Ivy to take the initiative and psychologically attack White, but she didn’t. Right up until the end I still wondered whether Ivy was really who she said she was. And perhaps Ivy wondered, too. In the end it was down to her to choose who she wanted to be – whether she wanted to be the Ivy that lived on the outside world, with a loving family and friends, or an Ivy who lived in a cossetted, perversely secure world.

She chose the former. She choose to break free from White’s shackles and, thus, for the first time in this series break free from everyone else’s image of what they wanted her to be. She chose to be herself. And that person was Ivy Moxam.

So an excellent series, all in all. It was tightly plotted, superbly acted (especially by lead Jodie Comer and Valene Kane) and incredibly powerful and emotional at times. A fine addition to the canon of quality British crime drama that has been flourishing this year.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here

For our episode three review, go here

For our episode four review, go here

For our interview with Marne Dickens, go here


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