20 February 2015

TV: Cucumber v

As funny as Cucumber is - whether its characters realise it or not - it seems to be edging more and more towards a tragedy, in the classical sense, with every episode. The two main characters - Henry and Lance - are forcing their lives to be increasingly separate, even though clearly neither of them really want it. Of the pair, though, it is ironic that Henry, who was initially the one less keen to settle down, is now missing his partner far more than he is missed.

And Henry can't do wrong for right, either. His little foray into internet videos has left his relationship with his sister burned and his mugs smashed. The scene between Cleo and her brother in her kitchen is one of those great Russell T Davies moments of delivering something completely credible, but completely unexpected as she recounts trauma her daughter has gone through as a direct result of his attempted money-spinner. It's just as well Cleo intervenes and shuts the whole thing down when she does, to be honest, as it seems to be spiralling out of hand. More and more boys are showing up to be in the videos, and they're beginning to question why they need Henry. Indirectly, she's saved his bacon.

Speaking of which, Lance's chances of hooking up with Daniel seem to be improving. After spending a very private evening together, the latter's sexuality is surely being called into question. As Anjli Mohindra's Ronnie Chandra (very original!) posits, it does seem likely that Daniel is at least bisexual, but doesn't know it. I'm sure that realising you're gay is one of the biggest moments of your life, and Banana isn't quite long enough to show us that journey. Taking place over a few months, Cucumber provides the right kind of scale, and how interesting to see a man in his thirties undergo that journey. He clearly enjoys his time with Lance, but the confusion in his mind is just as clearly distressing, leading to certain scenes across the series of him refusing to interact with Lance, deciding it's easier to shut it out. 

I continue to be amazed by the production values of this series, too. I don't know whose idea it was, but the imagery of Henry in the forest is stunning, visually and metaphorically. One of the things I've loved about this show since the beginning is how bold it is, and this episode is no different. I love the little supermarket cutaways at the start of each instalment, and the way Alice Troughton shoots her little expansion, which is neatly referenced at the climax of Lance and Henry's lengthy cafe scene, is superb.

Vincent Franklin is once again staggeringly good as Henry, with his strongest scenes being the two handers with Cleo (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and Lance (Cyril Nri), especially that which closes this episode. The shot as his world finally collapses entirely is quite harrowing. No imagination is demanded of the viewer, Franklin puts it all on display. It's clear now that this was merely a phase for Henry, and he did want to move back home. He's blown his chance though, and has to deal with the consequences of his actions - another sophisticated element of Davies' writing. I can't wait to see where this goes next, but I get the distinct feeling something big's just around the corner...

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