The Mill, second series: There’s more trouble at mill, but ankle-flashing Esther lifts the gloom - Reviews - TV & Radio - The Independent

The Mill, second series: There’s more trouble at mill, but ankle-flashing Esther lifts the gloom

Rabble-rouser John Doherty sounded like he’d been cribbing from the Occupy movement

Please, Sir! Not another series of The Mill! You could almost hear the plaintive cries of TV-watching urchins everywhere last night, as Channel 4 mercilessly inflicted a second series of its unrelentingly grim, fact-based drama. The series was Channel 4’s highest-rated drama of 2013, but perhaps this should be set in context: last year’s Summer of Sad also included debuts for grief-stricken Southcliffe and BBC1 misery memoir, The Village. At least The Mill can plead authenticity. The characters and plots are all drawn from the archives at the Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire.

This new six-part series opened in 1838, as the mill workers were in the midst of debating the effect of immigration on their livelihoods. Not Eastern European builders, mind, but agricultural workers from Bedfordshire displaced by amendments to the Poor Law. “The men I speak for, they’re scared,” said union firebrand Daniel (Matthew McNulty). “They’re scared that they’ll drive down our wages.” Not Daniel’s most evocative speech, perhaps, but rest assured there’s plenty more where those came from.

Most of the characters in The Mill seem to function as mouthpieces for history text books albeit with a not so subtle contemporary relevance. Daniel’s rabble-rouser chum John Doherty (Aidan McArdle), for instance, sounded like he’d been cribbing from the Occupy movement: “The English labourer did not cause the downturn, a banking crisis in America started it – so why should he suffer?”

Amid all this gloom and speechifying, there remains one inextinguishable spark of life: Esther Price, energetically played by Kerrie Hayes. When she wasn’t dishing out cheek to the factory overseer, Esther found time to flash an inch of grubby ankle at the dishy new cobbler’s apprentice, Will Whittaker (Mark Strepan). It’s a wonder he wasn’t overcome by lust. Hope of a brighter future also remained in the household of the new family from down south: “We’ll prove ourselves,” said Pa to the child labourers over a supper of watery gruel. “You work hard, you get your reward.” He’s definitely not from around here, is he?

It’s no stretch to imagine Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne in the stovepipe hat and three-piece suit of a 19th-century industrialist. They’ve been lording it over investment-seekers in the Dragons’ Den (BBC2) warehouse since what feels like 1838. It’s actually only been since 2005, but in last night’s opening episode of the new series, these original Dragons looked more imperious and weary than ever. The Mill - Year 2 Episode 1

The contributions of relative newcomer designer Kelly Hoppen consisted mainly of variations on one phrase: “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that is hideous.” Yet these well-timed interventions proved indispensable, saving the British consumer from not one, but two unforgivably ugly products: radiator covers in a Union Jack design and chunky faux-retro frames for Instagram print-outs.

Design is not such a priority for Peter Jones – one look at his stripy socks will tell you that. In what may be a Dragons’ Den first he offered InstaFrame guys Jake and Joe a job at his company Jessops (salary and title unspecified). That was a compliment, right? Or was it an insult? “I’m not entirely sure what just happened,” said a dazed Joke in their post-pitch interview. Perhaps the selfie they took in the lift will help jog his memory.

Jake and Joe were among the lucky ones, however. John and Claire’s sob story of debt and veggie crisps failed to move the Dragons, as did the ultimate boys’ toy, a drivable mini tank. For entrepreneurs, pitching in the Den means total humiliation with very little expectation of financial reward. Still, it beats the workhouse.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week