Last night’s opening episode of ITV’s three-part psychological thriller, Too Close, was criticised in some quarters for being clichéd.
Psychologist meets dangerous and enigmatic patient and the two form an unlikely bond, both getting uncomfortably close until the case is solved. A moth to a flame scenario.
And I could see it – Dr Emma Robertson (Emily Watson) and Connie Mortensen (Denise Gough) were getting closer, with the line between them (both professionally and emotionally) becoming thinner and thinner.
If it was edging further into the realms of familiarity, tonight’s second episode dispensed with many of the so-called clichéd criticisms and unfurled into a heartbreaking, compelling and multi-dimensional human drama.
As both Emma and Connie were increasingly laid bare, the former’s acerbic nature eventually gave way to something else – need. A desperate need to be renew the love she had so much only months before she drove the car off the bridge.
We saw in this episode how Connie had been betrayed by her husband Karl.
Together in bed together one night, he said he felt numb and that Connie wasn’t the woman who he fell in love with all those years ago. Wow. He framed it like this: I feel I’ve stunted your growth and dowsed your fire and you need to get it back. Very clever and sneaky, Karl.
His suggestion? They have an open relationship, where they were free to sleep with anyone they wanted.
Connie tried it on with Ness, who more or less blanked her (despite her insistence on getting so close to her so quickly). She also tried it on with an old college professor, who also rejected her. Despite feeling a flush of excitement when the idea of an open relationship was first mooted, she now felt insecure.
She also found out that Karl had slept with Ness.
This caused her deep distress and, coupled with the onset of her mother’s dementia, Connie was now in bad shape. She was anxious, depressed and her hair was falling out, a result of the the stress and trauma. The anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills only worked so much.
It was heartbreaking to watch one woman’s descent into spiralling mental illness, as well as her mother’s diminishing memory.
On the other side of the line, Emma, too was coming apart at the seams.
We found out more about her daughter. Her name was Abigail and she was killed by a lorry driver in (presumably) a traffic accident. Today would have been Abigail’s birthday.
These two women mirror each other in many ways – they’ve both experienced deep trauma connected to powerful, human forces (motherhood, kinship and love and relationships) and are fast becoming the only one each other can rely on to get through it all.
And all of this made episode of two so compelling. Yes, there were moments when, procedurally, it didn’t add up (Emma brought more personal belongings into her sessions with Connie, who leapt on the opportunity, and she even disclosed her daughter’s name), but by this time I was so into it I was happy to let them slide.
Let’s face it, Too Close could have easily gone down the almost pantomime psychopath road, making Connie a Lecter-like figure but instead we got a story that showed that psychosis has its roots in trauma; and the show was brave enough to make her into a human being with many flaws, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Yes, she has committed a dreadful crime and deserves to be punished for her heinous crime, but at least Too Close attempts to give us the full story behind her actions.
As Connie prepared to burn her room down at the end of the episode, it left me thinking that perhaps that’s the best way to deal with such horrid things from one’s past – take a deep breath and raze it to the ground. That’s what it feels like both women are doing here – literally and figuratively – in this tremendously affecting story.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
Too Close is available to watch on ITV Hub in the UK