At the end of episode one of this outstanding, unsettling four-part drama, legendary comic Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane in imperious form), got the news that seven women had come forward to accuse him of historical sex crimes. It was a blow to the avuncular colossus and his long-suffering wife Marie (Julie Walters). She had chosen to believe, but in this episode that loyalty and stoicism was beginning to erode, and questions were beginning to be answered, both of Finchley and herself.
NB: There are some spoilers in this review
One relationship I didn’t mention in my episode one review was between Finchley and his daughter Dee (the terrific Andrea Riseborough). ‘Damaged’ and ‘unstable’, and a recovering addict, Dee’s relationship with her father was ambiguous, one moment full of jokey banter, the next bitter indignation. It felt like she was blaming him for something, but what? A stolen childhood, experienced in the glare of the media? Constant comparison and high expectation? Or something more sinister?
In this episode, their relationship and her presence in the story increased. It was her birthday, and despite her troubles and tendency to run away from anything and everything, she had been invited by her parents to their mansion for a birthday party. It was the last thing she wanted to do – her dad giving a speech; she centre of attention as his cronies were gathered around; her mother giving her a pep talk demanding that she believe her father; she running out into the night, overwhelmed by the situation, both at the party and the context in which it was held.
Up to that point Dee had been in turmoil, trying to remember and peer through the fog of the past to determine whether her father was guilty of the crimes he was being accused of. And she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t remember because she was frightened at what she might find down there, deep in the shadows of time. What if her father was guilty, she asked herself. What if he had abused her? What if she was choosing not to remember the truth? What is truth? Is it something we shape into what we want, when we want?
Dee was scared that the truth shaped into what she was – a failure, and an addict – and she fought looking back. But, slowly but surely, she did. We saw in flashback form Finchley back in 1990, when the young, 15-year-old, provocative nanny Christina lived there. We saw Dee and Christina form a friendship, giving Dee her first cigarette and making reference to her first period: you’re a woman now, you have all the power.
We/Dee saw Christina flirt, Lolita-like, with her father, Dee counting until she heard the nanny leave in a taxi for the night. She did this every night. The younger Finchley always looked as though he was on the edge of doing something with her, but for now, we saw her go home in the taxi.
In the end, in the present day, Dee took an extraordinary measure to let grown-up Christina know exactly where she stood. She scrawled ‘I choose to believe’ on the front page of a newspaper, and then drove, head-on into Christine’s house. Dee literally rammed a version of the truth she had chosen to believe into her father’s accuser’s house.
With Marie also starting to question her husband’s innocence, you realised that this was a story about truth – how we remember it, how we accept it, and how we shape it.
For our episode one review, go here