13 February 2015

TV: Banana iv

It feels staggering that this story hasn't been done before. Transexual Helen is plagued by obsessive ex-boyfriend Eddie as she tries to move on with her life. He clearly feels some kind of entitlement and ownership over Helen. He might feel because she isn't 'ordinary' he feels that he is owed for treating her like she was. The dismissal of this idea is the concept at the heart of this episode of Banana, and I'm very pleased by this.

The first act concerns Eddie, Helen and potential new flame Ross. On Helen's birthday, Eddie shows up at her flat bearing a second-hand DVD and a whole heap of trouble. Later, he shows up at the restaurant where she works before gatecrashing her date with Ross, whose defiance is really heartwarming. Following a fight, Eddie posts a sex tape of him and Helen online. 

The second act is an entirely different beast and features only Helen and her parents and brother. It's no wornder newcomer Charlie Covell was commissioned for two episodes of this series. In half an hour, she encapsulates twenty-first century values as they should be. Helen's parents are without judgement and there are some particularly touching conversations between our lead and various family members. The chaos as the tape spreads is tense and palpable thanks to Lewis Arnold's strong direction, in what I believe is his last episode of the series. He's helmed the first half of Banana, and given it its own identity, whilst linking closely to the parent series.

Bethany Black is superb in the role of Helen, and it's shocking that this is the first time a transexual person has played a transexual character on British television. It's right that Russell T Davies be there at this landmark though. Hopefully more light will be shone on such characters in future, without giving it such prominence that it smacks of trying to be 'different'. I can't begin to understand the trauma people must go through in this situation, but Covell's writing and Black's performance successfully convey its enormity.

When it comes down to it, the plot at the heart of the episode has nothing to do with Helen (formerly Ken)'s gender though. It's just a heartwarming tale of a family pulling together. I look forward to Covell's next episode greatly. There's some neat little tricks in this script, such as the ongoing passive-aggressive feud between Helen and slack waitress Grace, that complete the realism of the piece and give it immeasurable depth. There's some really strong performances too - Dean Andrews and Christine Mackie as Helen's parents spring to mind. Another incredibly strong episode, and it seems that Cucumber and Banana really can do no wrong by me.

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