What Remains review – Episode Two – BBC One

What Remains BBCThis second episode sidelined the police investigation into Melissa’s death and instead focused on the various occupants of the house she died in. Unfortunately, the episode not only continued with the problems – and poor writing – from last week but added to them.

So we got some convoluted and mundane explanations for things that last episode were treated as incredibly mysterious, portentous and important. The lesbian woman who in episode one looked suspiciously at the police before disappearing was apparently only escaping from a lover’s tiff, and the person who attacked Len was revealed to be the closeted former pupil living with Joe, who was stealing stuff from the upstairs flat for no particular reason.

The lesbian couple – Elaine and Peggy – continue the show’s problems with caricatures, with one of the two being a stereotypical lesbian; all super-aggressive and rude. And the ridiculous way every character is constantly keeping secrets has gotten even worse than last week. At one point, Kieron’s girlfriend Patricia bumped into Adam, Kieron’s son, who started acting all weird and stalking her. Here’s the thing though: why doesn’t she just tell Kieron about this? There is no reason whatsoever for her to not tell him about the meeting, or Adam’s stalkish behaviour. Just fucking tell him!

If the show is trying to make a point about the secretive nature of people then okay, fine, no problem, but it needs to be believable. You can’t just invent some bullshit and then be like ‘see; this is the problem with the world, where everyone is impersonal and won’t communicate with each other!’ No, it’s the problem with the fake world you created, a world where nobody acts realistically.

And this lack of realism infects every aspect of the show. Last week Michael spotted an ex-classmate in Joe’s flat, so he decided to try and speak to her. So what did he do? Did he knock on the door and shout ‘Hey, it’s Michael, from school?’ Did he go back into the garden like last episode and knock on the window and wave to her? No, he travelled to Joe’s school, broke into the staff room, stole Joe’s keys, and broke into his flat. Obviously. Why wouldn’t he do this illogical and idiotic thing?

Joe later heard about the break-in at the school, with a teacher describing the perpetrator as ‘mid-20s, brown hair, dark jacket.’ Joe realised immediately that this must be Michael, because Michael is apparently the only person in the world who fits that incredibly vague description.

It’s not that I’m a stickler for absolute realism in drama; I don’t mind fantastical elements. If you want to have a schoolteacher live with a former pupil who is shut-up in his house and who never leaves; fine okay, I’ll roll with that. But your characters need to act believably and logically, and nobody in this show does that.

BBC What RemainsOnce Michael had broken into Joe’s flat there was a hilariously awful scene where he just spewed out exposition as Liz Fletcher, the ex-classmate, sat there saying nothing. Michael flat out stated Liz’s full name, her background, his own school history, what he did after leaving school, and how he was always getting into trouble back then, but nothing serious, so don’t worry about having an unsympathetic character because he’s actually a good guy.

That is terrible dialogue. Exposition needs to emerge naturally; you can’t just have a character speak it all, and if you are going to do that, it’s a bad idea to pack it all into one ridiculous scene.

The parts of the episode with Len however were more enjoyable. Now officially retired, he set about trying to build some sort of social life, throwing a little party for his neighbour who never showed, and visiting his sick brother in the hospital. His investigation of the murder was interesting and moved with admirable pace, cutting quickly between Len finding a photo of Melissa in a lingerie catalogue to visiting the catalogue company to visiting the lesbian couple who produced the photos. David Threlfall is a good actor, who makes Len seem like a real character despite his clichéd traits.

The acting in general in the show is decent – for the most part – and neither episode has been boring. If there’s nothing else for you to do at 9PM on a Sunday then it’s a reasonably enjoyable way to pass an hour, but the show is riddled with flaws, overused tropes and borderline ridiculous scenes and character actions.

Random notes:

  • Suspects so far: The lesbian couple who pressured Melissa into taking photos, the nerd who was romantically rejected by her, Kieron because he’s got shifty eyes the shifty-eyed fucker, Adam because he’s all weird and made a phone call to Len saying Melissa is better off dead (meaning he obviously didn’t do it then), Joe because he didn’t like her and thinks it’s better now that she’s gone, and Joe’s ex-pupil because she’s all weird and shit. So, everybody then. Totally believable.
  • ‘What if it was someone from here?’ Vidya said about Melissa’s murder, with Len replying ‘Why would one of her neighbours want to kill her?’ That is dialogue that would seem forced and unnecessary in episode one, but episode two? Obviously the murderer is someone in the flat. Come on dude. Didn’t anybody edit this script?
  • Speaking of Vidja, I like the actress playing her, Amber Rose Revah. Vidja also set up a Facebook page for Melissa this episode, presumably to try and find someone who knew her, a plot point nicely introduced by avoiding being too blunt or underlined.
  • ‘I don’t think she was comfortable in front of a camera,’ Len said just as he wrapped-up his interview with Elaine. I like little Columbo-esque moments like this from fictional police officers.

What Remains Reviews: Episode One, Episode Three, Episode Four

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3 thoughts on “What Remains review – Episode Two – BBC One

  1. I agree this is very clumsy. I spent most of the episode browsing the interwebs on my laptop and only half watching; a sure sign I am losing interest.

    Interesting points:
    – Why the heck has Adam (Keiron’s son) gone full on creep with Patricia (Keiron’s GF) if not to mess with his dad. It seems that is his characters entire motivation; e.g. Banging his own shady GF in Dad’s bed (ew!) and leaving that text message for Len.
    – Michael returning Joe’s keys by leaving them in Joe’s car ignition – pure freaking genius. Shows some native cunning on Michael’s part to back up all his talk.
    – Could the ‘lipstick’ Lesbian’s be any more cliched, from the way they act, dress, even their freaking jobs.
    – In Ep. 1 Melissa was a bit of a blank, a hole left by her departure, and none of her neighbours seemed to know much of her. In this episode she stood up to Elaine and Peggy. She also knocked back the Nerd. She isn’t some push over that let’s people bully her, she has some backbone. I thought that was some interesting character development. I hope they go somewhere with this and don’t conveniently forget this in later episodes.

    So far, to me, the most interesting character is Liz, the shut-in living with Joe. Only because this doesn’t seem to be the typical ‘Teacher-seduced-his-pupil-and-now-they-live-in-sin’ trope. She seems damaged and I want to know what her deal is.

    • I’m not really interested in anyone besides Len and maybe Vidja. The way you described it as a show to watch while screwing around online is good. It’s not completely uninteresting but if there’s something else to do I doubt many people would be bothered about missing an episode. Thanks for reading, good to hear from you.

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