The BBC’s new political drama is full of intrigue, backstabbing and Machiavellian plotting, and it’s enjoyable enough so far, if a little problematic in areas. The characters all speak the way politicians probably think they sound, and the show has a very self-important atmosphere that isn’t really backed up by much – although you could say the same for much of Westminster politics in general, so maybe it’s just being true to life.
David Tennant plays Aiden Hoynes, a prominent politician in the government, married to Freya Gardner, another government politician with less power and influence. The show moves admirably quickly in the beginning, as Aiden resigns from government and launches a leadership bid, which is killed-off in minutes thanks to his best friend and fellow minister stabbing him in the back and publicly criticising him.
The relationship between Aiden and Freya is interesting and complex, and conveyed well in the writing. Together, they are united, as Freya receives a promotion and they plot Aiden’s revenge; apart, hints of bitterness and resentment can be seen. There’s an unspoken power struggle between the two, conveyed in one scene where Aiden places shoes on Freya’s feet, and in another through the tiresome cliché of aggressive sex. They are like a better looking version of Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. Picture that: Balls and Cooper going at it like aggressive chimps. Balls everywhere.
The dialogue at times is really overwritten. ‘They say the best place for an assassin to hide is in plain site – or as a best friend!’ Aiden says. ‘I knew I’d never touch his life as you have mine,’ he says in another. Very few people outside of a writer’s head speak like that.
In one scene, Aiden quotes Shakespeare. ‘The villainy you teach me I will execute,’ he says, crushing a photo of his betrayer as the camera closes tight and ominous music plays over the top. Tennant has the acting ability to pull this off, and I think the scene works well. A show can have really stylised dialogue and filming like this, but it needs to be consistent and deliberate in its use. ‘Oh, this is a stylised show,’ the audience can say, and then make the decision whether to jump onboard or not. The Politician’s Husband though falls somewhere inbetween stylised and natural and it doesn’t work. The dialogue instead just feels clunky at times.
The episode ends with Freya on television making the decision to publicly humiliate her husband in order to protect her own career. Aiden, watching at home, crushes a glass with his hand. It is not really believable that Freya would allow her husband to be ridiculed in such a way twice in one week. She would phone him up surely, and let him know what she is about to do. The writer has thrown realism out the window in order to build the episode to a tense and dramatic climax (and no, showing Freya as flustered during the interview doesn’t excuse this; that’s just poorly masking bad plotting).
Still, I enjoyed the episode. Tennant is a great actor and if the show can continue to spin out intricate political manoeuvres then it should be intriguing throughout. The characters are complex and there is some reasonably interesting personal and family stuff going on with them – interesting so far anyway; the son with Asperger’s is a plot that has the potential to go off the rails. The Politician’s Husband is just a three part drama, so hopefully the next episode will speed things along a bit.
- The show was a bit embarrassing in its desire to seem clued up on the modern political world. ‘Look – Guido Fawkes! We know the names of blogs!’
- ‘You could have done a Pontius Pilate; you could have refused to comment.’ Nobody talks like that. ‘You could have refused to comment,’ is how that line should be written.
- Presumably it’s the Labour Party being represented, seeing as Aiden is resigning over the party’s slide to the right on immigration.