Television Review

REVELATION REGULARLY plays a role in drama it rarely manages in real life: in real life, secrets are guessed, fears are confirmed and surprises don't happen too often (or at least, they happen infrequently: even that may be too often).

One of the problems with Births, Marriages and Deaths (BBC2) was that it contained far too many revelations, and made them too important. The key moment of last night's final episode was the revelation that the demonic Alan (Ray Winstone) was the father of nice Molly's long-lost son Josh, having raped her in the school toilets when they were both 15. This discovery was the catalyst that finally enabled the rest of the gang to exorcise his malign influence; but it was hard for the viewer to credit it, if only because Josh's paternity had been manifest since some time back in episode two.

After the initial stunning impact of the first episode, Tony Grounds's drama slipped surprisingly quickly into a mid-season slump, with predictability ruptured by moments of faintly gratuitous Grand Guignol. Last night's episode started badly, too. Terry (Mark Strong) stumbled on the corpse of Peter, his step-sons' real father, and was drawn by Alan into a plot to dispose of the body. Grounds struggled to make this seem like a believable course of action, but the fact is that his script and Winstone's monstrous performance had together made Alan too vile and clumsy for this to work: since he had previously run over and killed Terry's wife, alienated Peter (whose co-operation was Terry's only hope of happiness) and gone temporarily but very obviously insane, you wouldn't think Alan had much pull left.

Grounds had my sympathy here: I can't think how a writer goes about constructing a character that can contain Winstone. But the sequence in which Alan, Terry and the put-upon Graham (Phil Davis) set about disposing of the body left me feeling pretty alienated from the whole process.

What redeemed it was the final sequence at Alan's mansion, a Borgia dinner-party in suburbia that turned into a barking mix of Sophocles and Macbeth. Alex (Maggie O'Neill), his meek wife, suddenly turned into a Clytemnestra-like figure, holding a knife to Alan's throat as Graham declared that "The devil's been amongst us". Incest, murder, rape and the ghosts of the dead clustered round the table.

This terribly strange finale more than made up for the earlier sense of bathos. It also gave the programme a hitherto unsuspected sense of optimism. Before, what had been most noticeable in Grounds's writing was the way that the rhetoric of love - "I love ya, mate", "I adore you" - seemed to be constantly disproved: either love was too fragile to survive the pressure of events, or it was a camouflage for self-interest, power or lust. If normality was to be restored, it was going to be a normality underpinned by death and lies.

But with the departure of Alan, everything came up roses - as if all we have to do to achieve happiness is cast out evil. And one of the best touches was saved till last, as Nick Bicat's flamenco theme tune turned out to have, like Elgar's Enigma theme, another, unheard tune running underneath: in this case, a rousing chorus of "I Will Survive". For a moment, it almost had you believing in happy endings.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game