06 March 2015

TV: Cucumber vii

There's a few ways to go following a death. Russell T Davies' choice sits perfectly well with me. However much we can now see the first six episodes of Cucumber were the story of Lance, it's always been about Henry. Following the death of a loved one, most of us are something of a mess, especially emotionally. The seventh episode in the series follows Henry as he struggles to come to terms with his loss. I've read reviews complaining that this is an inconsistent episode, but that seems to be entirely the point to me. Grief, like love, is like no other emotion, and everyone handles it differently.

We begin at Lance's funeral, where Henry resents the deceased's sister Marie revelling in all the sympathy. He retires to the safety of his friends, and I'm pleased to say the marvellous Con O'Neill as lawyer Cliff features very prominently in this episode. This is an illustriously heady mix of emotions like you've not seen before. There's much sorrow as Henry balls his eyes out, lust as he and his flatmates chase down a man with a little help from Grindr, anger as he rages at Marie, and finally ecstasy in the closing moments.

The scene between Freddie, Dean and Henry in the car as they wait for a shower to pass is one of those that should go down as a writing masterclass. Davies proves once again how good he is at writing characters trapped in a confined space - as he has rightly received much acclaim for doing in Doctor Who's Midnight. At the top of the episode, we see Freddie ready to leave the flat, to move into a place that's more expensive, smaller, but with better prospects of sex. Slowly though, he reverses that decision and really grows up from the hedonistic thrill-seeker we were introduced to at the start of the series into a young man more focused and driven. His girlfriend seems to have been forgotten, but that's understandable really. 

There's so many superb scenes in this, and I think Vincent Franklin must be in every single one of them. A lot is demanded of him, but as always he more than rises to the challenge. I can totally understand Davies' comments in a video interview for Channel 4 that he knew he had his Henry as soon as Franklin entered the room. He embodies the character, and makes him one of my favourite of all time. The scene in the bar (the same one as in short tie-in drama Screwdriver?) between him and Marie is icily electric. She comes across as a real bitch, thanks to a solid performance from Adjoa Andoh, and it's oh so satisfying to see her storm from 'her' house at the conclusion.

I knew the flats were going to play a part towards the end of the series. How, though, I couldn't have predicted. The mystery of the cheap rent was built up so much over the opening episodes, I could tell it was going to come back to bite our leads. And indeed it does as 'Roderick' decides to reclaim everything on his property. The scenes of Henry standing still, watching barefoot as the shit hits the fan, are just mesmerising. In an unmentioned twist of irony, it may well have been better for Freddie if he had moved out after all.

It's so good to have Euros Lyn's work back on our screen. There's several memorable high shots in this episode, and he accurately captures the scale of every scene. I know I've praised him every week, but Vincent Franklin is once again the star of the show, and Con O'Neill is just fantastic as Cliff. There's no supermarket scene here, because things have moved on. Although it must conform to TV standards to some extent, I love how much of a natural flow Cucumber has. Events that would normally be saved for a finale surprise the audience two episodes early (was I the only one wondering whether there'd be a marriage, not a death, by the way?), leading us to question just how big Davies plans to go next week. The final scene really does feel like the end of the series, so I can't wait to see where Cucumber goes in its last ever (sob!) episode. 

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