The third episode of The Politician’s Husband was at times captivating and at times frustrating, with good acting and visually interesting direction but with writing that was inconsistent in quality. You could apply that description to the series as a whole. Its concluding part was probably its strongest episode, but it couldn’t completely redeem a series which had many problems.
Episode three begins with Aiden’s nanny leaving the home and spreading lies about an affair to the newspapers, which is a plot point that never really made any sense and felt contrived throughout. I liked the early scenes in this episode though, especially the unveiling of what happened with the nanny; the phone call Aiden takes that didn’t hammer you with exposition, where you could only hear part of the conversation. And the argument that followed between Freya and Aiden was a nice scene, as they acknowledged their failing marriage.
Aiden then set about engineering his return to politics in the strongest scenes in the series. This is why I watched the show, for the political manoeuvring and Machiavellian plots. Unrealistic, yes, (The Thick of It I’m sure illustrates the reality of politicians and their incompetence) but enjoyable drama. The dialogue was snappy – ‘Thought it might have been less formal here,’ Bruce says. ‘Less private,’ Aiden replies – and the character interactions were more believable. Aiden tells his colleague, Marcus, that they are all ‘sacrificed on the alter’ of Bruce’s ambition, which is an attempt to manipulate Marcus, an attempt that works because it’s based in the truth of Bruce’s deceitfulness. It’s clever from Aiden and clever from the writer.
With a plan to destroy Bruce in the works, Aiden gives a speech about ethics in parliament, and we get a Godfather-like scene where we cut between different events all happening at once, as Aiden’s plan kicks in and Bruce is brought down. I have a weak spot for these types of scenes; I think they’re great fun.
Freya spent the episode being wooed by Bruce and resisting his advances, but arousing Aiden’s suspicions all the same. There was confirmation of my worries from last week about the unrealistic diaphragm plot; it was poor writing, giving Aiden a reason to suspect Freya and to worry about his pregnancy plan backfiring – neither of which could be done with pills or condoms, not in the same way.
Once Bruce is destroyed, Freya starts to suspect Aiden’s hand in it. Her annoyance at this and her sense of betrayal doesn’t really make sense, considering she hasn’t been that negatively affected by Bruce’s downfall, and Aiden’s betrayal is no worse than her own in episode one. But then it turns out that he was deliberately trying to destroy her too, so now she’s legitimately pissed. They argue, and then Aiden argues with his father, who dies of a heart attack. We see the funeral, and the dissolution of Aiden and Freya’s marriage, and then we jump to the future, with Freya as Prime Minister, and Aiden in the cabinet, silently seething. Role credits.
The ending I think was okay. Freya wins out, because she’s consistently competent and honest, but not afraid to play the political game. On the other hand, the show stressed the corruption of politics, the routine unethical manipulation in parliament, and the difficulties for women in positions of power; does it make sense then that Freya would become PM? And while Aiden’s poetic conclusion – forced to watch his wife take the power he longed for – is satisfying, it would have been more realistic, and more in line with the show’s themes, if he’d won in the end. A better ending maybe would be Aiden as PM, but having lost his personal life, happiness and wife and family in the process.
The series certainly had its problems. The writing could be really clumsy; in this episode, Aiden’s father says he doesn’t understand how he could have a grandson incapable of deception and a son to whom it is second nature. All that does is unnecessarily underline a point made earlier, more subtly, when they are all playing football in the garden. And then there was the grandfather’s heart attack, a detail so clichéd that someone predicted it in the Guardian’s comment section soon after episode one aired.
Some of the characters were also very 2D, especially Bruce Babbish, the cartoon villain. And while the main characters were good – and the acting fantastic, pretty much across the board – the rape scene in episode two made Aiden completely unsympathetic and irredeemable. Notice that in this episode the rape was never mentioned; it screws things up too much because it means Aiden and his marriage are probably unsalvageable before the final episode even begins, removing much of the narrative tension. And I still think the rape scene was unnecessary, as do others.
I did enjoy The Politician’s Husband though. David Tennant in particular was great, the political machinations I liked, the directing was captivating and the show was really aided by its music, from composer Adrian Johnston – who also scored the very musical Dancing on the Edge. It just had one too many problems in the writing. A decent enough drama then, but not one I’ll remember for long.
- Not sure what exactly to make of the scene at the end were Aiden was given a toy by his son. I think he might just have been showing sympathy, in his own way, but the toy was a Transformer, so it could have been heavy-handed symbolism.
- ‘If anyone had told me you were capable of such duplicity, I’d have told them they were a damn liar,’ says a guy who presumably knows fuck all about his son.
- I quite liked the stuff with Aiden’s son. It was strange at times, but often – though not always – understated in comparison with the rest of the show. And it seemed realistic, although I have no idea if it was.
- I like the way Aiden always walked his constituents to the door. It was a nice little detail conveying the falseness of politicians; the meaningless gestures they use to appear accommodating.