Doctor Foster recap: series two, episode two – everyone's miserable. Isn't it...

Doctor Foster recap: series two, episode two – everyone's miserable. Isn't it splendid?

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I could swear the shape of Bertie Carvel’s face is actually changing as his character becomes ever more evil. Here, leering at Gemma and then Neil, he is basically made of triangles as his rat-faced gloating hits shrill new heights.

For those of you happy to hitch up your skirts and chase after this melodrama charabanc of doom, keep up, because tonight’s episode barely pauses at the lights. Gemma’s spying, Simon’s sneering, the shape-shifting Sian. Parminster is one messed up, mixed up town (and end destination for Warwick uni graduates).

Diagnosis

Poor Gemma will spend almost all of this episode stalking Parminster’s autumnal pavements, looking for her lost son. Well, he’s lost to her anyway. Tom doesn’t want to speak to his mum and she doesn’t believe it can just be her unbelievably embarrassing closeness to his teacher.

Even while she is mid-stalk outside the school gates, lovely, understanding educator James asks her out again “for breakfast” as he has a free period first thing. His extra-curricular commitment to biological studies during said free period is admirable but after Gemma’s shenanigans with Sian the night before, I’d be tempted to ask him if he went to Warwick university, just in case.

His extra-curricular commitment to biological studies during is admirable … lovely, understanding educator James won’t stop asking Gemma out. .



His extra-curricular commitment to biological studies is admirable … Tom’s lovely teacher James won’t stop asking Gemma out. Photograph: Laurence Cendrowicz/BBC/Drama Republic

While Gemma is off probing work frenemy Sian over Tom’s mysterious visit to the surgery, neighbour Neil is on a mission to find out about Simon’s business dealings – which isn’t easy since Simon and Neil’s friendship hit the skids two years ago, about the time Neil slept with Gemma.

He pretends to bump into Simon at work (Simon isn’t that stupid) and the two men end up having a truly Shakespearean pint at the pub; Simon peering over the top of his glass like a modern-day Iago, suggesting weak Neil chats up that woman flirting with him across the bar.

Having ruined Neil’s marriage (with Neil’s willing help), the grinning psychopath trips out of the pub only to have his half-cut ex practically fall at his feet. Naturally, he takes a picture of her looking a bit tired (the rest of us are probably thinking, “That’s me on a good day”) and she is suitably furious when he texts it to her the next morning.

But just when we’re having too much fun watching Simon and Gemma do the full bullfighting routine, our gaze is dragged back to the collateral damage, thoroughly chastening us for enjoying the fireworks. Poor Tom (I think I’ll call him this from now as we’re referencing Shakespeare a lot) is not only suffering anxiety and insomnia (if Sian is to be believed), he’s becoming violent at school and even turning on his friends.

This is perhaps the result of Gemma’s truly unbelievable behaviour, stalking her son’s friend Max who sits stiffly while she swigs his parent’s wine having suddenly appeared at his window in the middle of the night. She grills him about Poor Tom, enormous wine glass in hand. Has he had sex? Does he smoke? I know the woman spends most of her down time lurking in bushes, but this is a bit much even for her.

“He says he doesn’t love you,” says Max, shattering her world anew. Whatever Simon said to Poor Tom, she’s thinking, it must be monstrously bad. Maybe he’s just sick of his kippered, mood-swingy mum being consumed by vengeance and having sex with his teacher.

Prognosis

Truly unbelievable behaviour … Gemma stalks Poor Tom’s friend Max.



Truly unbelievable behaviour … Gemma stalks Poor Tom’s friend Max. Photograph: Nick Briggs/BBC/Drama Republic

Gemma is devastated. Simon is furious. Tom is a mess. And Kate might or might not be having an affair. Either way, everyone is miserable. Isn’t it splendid?

Whose side is Sian really on? What is she up to, meddling in Gemma’s life without declaring her previous friendship with Simon. And what is going on at Warwick university? I’ll leave you with this: I went to Warwick university. Trust no one.

Notes

What is happening to Gemma’s left hand? She keeps clenching it when she’s driving. Is the space formerly occupied by her wedding ring actually burning, such is her fury?

The carefully-timed arrivals of the estate agents at Gemma’s door were a lovely touch. Imagine how much you’d have to hate someone to send a plague of estate agents!

“What was she like? My wife, when you slept with her,” Simon asks Neil over a pint of Red Ribbon. It’s a line like that, verbal cape flourish followed by a small bow, that make me adore Bartlett’s ludicrously juicy writing.

I’m delighted with Sian Brooke’s character; another unknowable weirdo who drops little clues to who she might be but appears largely opaque, even when apparently oversharing. We do at least know she’s now into women, not men. Sticking a pin in that.

Gemma tells James she had a 28-year-old bit on the side for a while and she PAID him in order to keep him at arm’s length. If you reversed the sexes, this would be a truly shocking revelation.

Doctor Foster with her hair down is exactly like Doctor Foster with her hair up, just drunker and more promiscuous. May she throw away all her scrunchies.



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