What Remains review – Episode Three – BBC One

What Remains BBC david threlfallThis second last episode started with a flashback showing Melissa having a relationship with Kieron, before returning to a present day break-in at Melissa’s empty flat. The intruder wrote the word ‘skank’ on the wall. ‘What’s a skank?’ Vidya asked Patricia after discovering the break-in. ‘It’s a derogatory term,’ Patricia replied.

Those lines of dialogue say a lot about the really poor writing in this show. ‘What’s a skank’? Who doesn’t know what that word means? Why has the writer decided to spell out its definition in dialogue? If he thinks viewers won’t understand it why not use a different word? And if the dialogue was a piece of characterisation – Vidja not knowing the definition – what the hell is it supposed to be saying? This show is actually quite interesting in that its flaws are baffling and incomprehensible.

Len later showed up to investigate the vandalism. What sort of person does something like that, he wondered. And that is a good question. Later, it is suggested that Kieron’s son Adam did it. But why? Because he didn’t like Melissa presumably, so he broke into her flat many years after she’s died and spray painted ‘skank’ on the wall. The characters in this show behave like no human being in history. Even if Adam is the murderer what he did makes no logical sense (less sense, in fact, if he is the murderer).

Speaking of a lack of logic, the characters continue to keep secrets when they have no cause to do so. Patricia at one point – completely unprompted – confessed her deep fear of loneliness to Vidja, a stranger she barely knows, and yet she still refuses to tell her boyfriend about his son’s creepy behaviour.

In the episode’s latter half she finally – finally – spoke to Kieron saying Adam is ‘intimidating.’ Kieron said she was being paranoid. But why didn’t she give him any specifics? ‘Your son continually makes sexual advances to me, grabs me, phones me, and visits me at work.’

The reason she doesn’t do any of this is because the writer doesn’t want it to happen. He wants to keep everything secret and tense and doesn’t care if his method for doing that is awful and requires characters to act in ridiculous ways. So Kieron later goes to a pub with Michael, and instead of saying ‘I can’t have a beer because I’m an alcoholic’ or ‘I’m driving so I’ll have a coke,’ he accepts a beer, drinks it and gets drunk, all so the writer can engineer an attempted rape scene.

The most obvious example of this writing flaw is in the storyline with Michael. For some strange reason, Michael never revealed to his wife that a former classmate was living as a secret recluse in their downstairs neighbour’s flat. You’d think something like that might come up at some point. ‘Hey honey, you’ll never guess what…’ But no, apparently not.

Michael this episode kissed his former classmate. Why? His relationship with his wife is fine. He has a baby on the way. He has only seen this woman twice in the last five years. Why? Why? It makes no sense.

And then Michael gets a call about Vidja having a baby scare, and runs home to find Liz looking after her. He has to pretend not to know her.

And now everything becomes clear. This is why the show’s writer had Michael never tell Vidja anything. This is why he wrote an implausible kiss between Liz and Michael. All so he could get to this point and engineer a secretive and potentially interesting conflict. But this conflict has only emerged as a result of multiple characters engaging in an increasingly implausible series of things that nobody would do in real life.

BBC What RemainsThe only thing keeping me watching the show at this point is Len. I’d like more of Len and Vidja and less of everything else in the show. These two are enjoyable to watch as they investigate the murder. Len really shouldn’t be making the pregnant Vidja his partner – it’s unprofessional and unethical – but he is so lonely and desperate for company that he unthinkingly pulls her in. Together, the two tracked down an old friend of Melissa’s. The friend is fat, obviously, because fat people only have fat friends. ‘Law of averages,’ Len explains. I have no idea what that means, Len.

They learned that Melissa had a boyfriend, and with a little help from Patricia they found out that it was Kieron, who has now hit rock bottom. He’s back on the drink, and Patricia has left him after his rape attempt. He insisted that he didn’t kill Melissa though.

So who did? As we go into the last episode, let’s take a look at the inhabitants of this building. There’s a rapist. A teenage stalker and all-round weirdo. A lesbian woman who imprisons her partner. A schoolteacher who keeps a former pupil shut-up in his flat, and that pupil, who hasn’t left the building in five years. There is also a murderer presumably, and, recently, a dead body.

All of these people lived in the same building. Unbelievable, you might say. Midsomer Murders has more realism than this show. And yet I’m still watching, because it’s fun at times, and it can be a reasonably enjoyable hour watching the show. It’s good, What Remains, but only if you don’t pay attention to how awful it is.

Random notes:

  • Michael knocked on Liz’s window to get her attention. It makes you wonder why he didn’t do that last week, instead of staging an elaborate robbery and break-in.
  • Katie Kerr, the actress playing Melissa’s friend, was quite good. She seemed like a real person which is no mean feat in a show filled with 2D caricatures acting implausibly all the time.
  • I liked the directing and presentation of the scene in which Kieron gave in to his alcoholism in the pub.
  • Kieron’s actions this episode – trying to rape Patricia – are not the actions of an alcoholic; they are the actions of a rapist. Alcohol exaggerates issues. If Kieron is capable of this when drunk then there should be signs of it when sober – anger issues for instance, or bursts of violence. There hasn’t been anything like that shown so far.

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

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6 thoughts on “What Remains review – Episode Three – BBC One

  1. That’s an especially good point you make at the end. There needs to be some build up if characterisation is going to be realistic. Just giving a character some alcohol and letting that “explain” everything is ludicrous.

  2. spot on all the observations. here are some more: how can a very young couple, one of whom doesnt work, the other is a trainer salesman, manage to get a mortgage for what looks like a pretty large flat in a substantial building in London? There is no explanation that they received a 99% deposit from the bank of mom and dad.
    Why would Kieron even agree to go to the pub with Michael, let alone drink the beer?
    Liz was living there for 5 years and nobody noticed??

    keep up the good work

    • Cheers man. I’d give them a pass on your last point, because shows should be allowed fantastical elements, though you can criticise how they are utilized (and we’ll see this next week judging from the trailer of Liz creeping about the building). Totally agree with the rest of your points though, especially the shoe salesman affording the flat; it’s either lazy, lazy writing or a failure to properly edit the script. Why not just give him a reasonably well-paying job? Appreciate the comment, thanks!

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