Review: National Treasure (S1 E3/4), Tuesday 4th October, Channel 4

Karl (Tim McInnerny) and Marie Finchley (Julie Walters)

If last week’s episode centred on disgraced comic legend Paul Finchley’s daughter, Dee, and her struggles growing up and into adulthood, this third episode was most assuredly about his long-suffering wife, Marie. To say that Julie Walters’ performance in tonight’s installment was nothing short of astonishing is an understatement – it was truly heartbreaking and mesmeric.

Right from the very first scene, where she smoked a sneaky cigarette in the toilet in the courts and tried to wave away the smoke and the smell (surely a metaphor for how everyone deals with the truth in the series), our eyes – our searching, prying eyes – were fixed on Marie. And so they were when her husband’s accuser Rebecca Thornton confronted her in the toilet to tell her that she had come forward to make her accusations against Finchley because she wanted to save her from him; so they were when she was interviewed by a female lawyer invasively about the couple’s sex life; and so they were when she began to seek solace in a church, praying desperately to her god with her hands clasped so tightly together you could see the whites of her knuckles. So they were when her stoicism began to crumble all around her.

Marie’s relationship with Dee was also laid bare. There had been angst and resentment between them, and in flashbacks we began to understand why. Something from the past must have caused it, and soon we saw a younger Marie be the rock to Paul as his working relationship with Karl was under stress, and then how, when Dee took an overdose, feel the heat of rejection as her daughter turned to her father rather than her mother. Why did she love him more than she loved her, she asked. What hold on her does he have? We saw a knowing look from Dee in her hospital bed as her father climbed in for a hug, peering over his shoulder as if to mock her mother; as if to say we have a special relationship. As if to say she might have even engineered the overdose to bask in attention from her father.

Was this because Paul Finchley had shown her a special kind of love? A kind of sickening, physical love that Dee had come to crave?

Despite the evidence found at the end of the last episode that seemed to put Paul in a better light, I seriously started to doubt him again. Especially when I watched Marie being ground down by the ignominy of the process, the secrets left buried for years starting to re-emerge and old wounds being opened again, questioning her roles as both mother and husband.

And then there was the script. For the entire episode, every line seemed to be loaded with meaning and leading us down one road and then another. This happened in another astonishing scene, this time between Paul and Dee. He had been slow in going to see her during her recovery from the car smash, but when he did they had a heart-to-heart, which was excruciatingly tense to watch because by this time I was seriously thinking that he had abused her as a child and a teenager. And then this line from Finchley: “It’s a hard to live a life without pity, particularly when you don’t deserve it.” More loaded sentences suggesting abuse. And it was abuse – but an admission by him to Dee for the first time that he had been abused by his father, and that he had spent a whole life trying and succeeding not to be become a cliched victim who becomes an abuser. It was astonishing to watch.

As for whether Paul Finchley is guilty or not, his legal team had determined that Rebecca Thornton had sent him fan mail AFTER she had alleged he had raped her, which didn’t make any sense. What also didn’t make any sense was Paul deciding to change his statement, because one of the team had suggested that if he admitted sleeping with his accuser it would heighten the idea that she was a nutcase.

Marie didn’t take kindly to his news. In fact, National Treasure once again proved, in the one of the stand-out episodes of crime drama this year, that it’s not just the perpetrator or the accused of a crime that it affects, it’s everyone around them, too.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lyle says:

    Brilliant cast and script, almost too intimate at times. Your head is spinning after each episode, trying to connect the dots. Should win several BAFTAs.


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