REVIEW: White House Farm (S1 E4/6)

I’ll admit it, I’ve not really been enjoying this series.

My worst fears – that this grisly, harrowing true-life crime adaptation was being dragged out as far as it possibly could – were beginning to come true.  The last few episodes were slow, with only one meaningful twist or cliffhanger. (Obviously, I’m judging the adaptation here, NOT judging any of the events and trauma that actually happened.)

So I came into this fourth episode with low expectations. And, wouldn’t you know it, and with low expectations in tow, I actually enjoyed this episode from a drama standpoint. There was a sense that there was a quickening and a raising of the stakes.

At the end of the last episode, we saw Stan accrue new evidence (the silencer) but couldn’t get it to the prosecutors in time. Instead, Jeremy Bamber got access to the bodies and was free to cremate.

He was also free to begin ruthlessly selling off his parents’ wares – including his dad’s war medals – to the chagrin of Ann. And he began to act strangely, too. He was cracking jokes, taking any opportunity to have a dig at Julie, and flirting with anyone he came across (including his strange Kiwi travelling mate).

His behaviour was beginning to attract attention.

Elsewhere, Stan was still waging his one-man mission inside the force to bring Bamber to justice. And it wasn’t going well. The coroner still disputed the silencer evidence, his superiors told him to pack his suspicions up and accept the murder-suicide verdict, and then Taff demanded he take his month’s worth of holiday, or gardening leave as he didn’t call it.

Before the suspension-in-all-but-name there still things that were nagging away at Stan, not least when he and his young partner were in the Bamber farmhouse when they noticed a new phone had been placed in the kitchen. They found that the phone had been taken from the bedroom, which again contradicted the idea that Nevill Bamber was able to make his 999 call.

So we had a classic set-up here. It looked for all the world that Stan’s investigation was dead in the water and Bamber was going to get away with it. (Stan wept when he returned home after being suspended.)

But then along came Julie.

We saw her begin to disintegrate from guilt and Bamber’s steady pressure over the course of the episode, and she had taken skulking in the corner of rooms to new levels throughout this whole stories, and there was a sense that it was only a matter of time until she stopped skulking and started talking.

As the funerals took place, and despite Stan’s occasional invitation to give him a call to tell him what was on her mind, the guilt got the better of her.

She went to the police.

So there was a sense that from the ashes of failure the Phoenix of justice was beginning to rise. And that made it an engrossing, compelling watch.

There was once particular shot that really impressed me: Colin had gone round to Sheila’s old flat on the invitation of Bamber. When he got there he had found that his brother-in-law had taken down all the pictures of the children from the wall, showed him Sheila’s semi-naked glamour photos from her modelling days, and was all jokes. Colin was furious.

There was a horizontal shot that showed Bamber and Colin stand, facing each other, on opposite sides of the living room, divided the wall. It was an apt visual metaphor.

Paul Hirons







REVIEW: Deadwater Fell (S1 E3/4)

Up until this point, the guilt or not of Tom (David Tennant) had been in question, but at the end of episode two, it seemed likely that he was the person who was behind the deaths of his wife and three children.

In episode three, the drama lifted the lid on the terrifying homelife of Tom and Kate before the fire. And these flashbacks certainly served to make Tom the villain of the piece in our eyes.

The way he coldly manipulated Kate, and administered coercive control over her was breathtakingly callous. He had sex with her, asked her if she came afterwards. When she refused an answer, he told her that Jess had orgasmed when he ‘had fucked her’ it was an unbelievable moment, the cruellest post-coital put-down. Imagine: you’re anxious and depressed, know that you’re married to a brute, and already feel humiliated and worthless because you can’t orgasm during sex. Then add to the fact that your husband – perfect in so many people’s eyes – drops the bombshell that he had not only slept with your best friend, but he satisfied her, too.

How cruel.

And yet, this was nothing new to Kate. She asked him the next morning – when Tom was acting as if it was business as usual – why it had to be her friend… again.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened.

There was another example of his awfulness. Tom and Kate had his mother over for dinner, the night after he dropped his bombshell. His mother wanted some more food because it was delicious. Tom had been leading the conversation because Kate was quiet, off her food. Lynn had noticed.

They bickered slightly over who should get Lynn more food, and Tom snapped at Kate. He didn’t shout or scream, he just bore his eyes into her and quietly snarled, “Fucking get the food”. It was such a flip in mood, such an unexpected outburst, you were suddenly wondering what he could be capable of…

Elsewhere, Steve was having a hard time processing Jess’s own bombshell from the previous episode. He was drinking – a lot – and cracking onto his boss, Sandra. he also had the opportunity to interview Tom during the investigation, and properly laid into him.

Tom’s arrest, you may remember, was due to the testimony of a youth from the village – a drinker and smoker, a lad who came from a broken home – and therein lay a problem: it was revealed that Steve had coerced the lad into giving a false witness statement. Now the investigation was in peril, Steve’s career was in tatters and the last we saw of him he was standing on the each of a cliff contemplating his own mortality.

It was a neat twist to make the good guy do a bad thing, which added a layer to the ‘perfect man being not very perfect’ storyline of Tom. And that’s the point of Deadwater Fell – the things that happen behind the curtains, and bubble under the surface. The fact that this is a bona fide whodunit, make this addicted viewing as well as shining a light on domestic abuse of a kind that doesn’t leave physical scars; it’s the kind that wears someone down, destroys their confidence and self-esteem and makes someone tread on eggshells.

So this is the question we’re all asking heading into the final episode: is Tom, a manipulator, a psycho-sexual abuser, a philanderer, also a murderer. Because you can be a spousal abuser and a horrid person, and not be a murderer.

We’ll soon see.

Paul Hirons