A Passionate Woman began with a bang – a trembling hand holding out a revolver (oddly plastic looking) and putting several rounds into the handsome young man spinning the cars on a fairground waltzer.
He ends up covered in blood (also oddly plastic looking), slumped across the laps of some girls who weren't ready for quite that much of a thrill. We end up – period music melting away – on the back of a motorbike with Sue Johnston, who appears to have run away from a wedding in order to go rummaging around in her attic for an old dress. How the hell did we get here from there, you wonder, but any explanation will have to wait because almost immediately we've left here and are back there again – watching the dress in its glory days as it wanders round a Leeds dance hall with Billie Piper inside it.
Piper plays Betty – shy, easily flustered and married enough to get a little breathless when a handsome Polish refugee came on strong. Her sister, Margaret, might be up for a bit of a knee-trembler in the municipal gazebo on the way home, but Betty is the quiet one. Margaret disapproved of her restraint: "Honestly, Betty, you're such a prude – you have to live a little." And it would only take a very little for Betty to live it up – the best she has to look forward to at the end of the evening being the chance to take her husband home a fishcake and get a lecture about wasting the electric. Betty is married to someone who won't even burn the candle at one end, let alone two.
Mellor's drama, which had its origins in her own mother's confession of an extramarital affair, presents Betty as an innocent, possibly even a dupe. She didn't see that Craze – the Polish sweet-talker who eventually persuaded her to forget the fishcakes – seemed more in love with himself than any of the women around him. Her passion, though, was real, even if it was pursued here with a recklessness that didn't always fully take account of the beady vigilance of a Northern town. It's true that this might well be how a love affair feels, as if the world has emptied, leaving only two people in it. But it isn't quite the truth of how an infidelity has to be conducted, when a shy young woman would be likely to feel that there are eyes everywhere.
Next week's second episode, back with Sue Johnston, may prove more interesting than this first one, in which Billy Piper didn't have a great deal to do beside keep the Yorkshire accent on track (no obvious derailments) and look stricken, either by lust or love or uncertainty about the accented men in trench coats urgently trying to track down her lover. Has Craze stolen the property of Polish Jews or is he just a common burglar? And is his past in Poland a bit darker than he lets on, perhaps even a fulfilment of Betty's mother's dread of anti-Semites? For that matter how important is it that Betty herself is Jewish? These red herrings occasionally swam across the screen, briefly obscuring the sight of Betty getting feverish with Craze. But then, rather disappointingly, they swam off again without ever being resolved one way or the other.
No such untidy endings in Foyle's War, which began its latest series with some nice in-jokes about Foyle's indispensability. "It was very good of you to return," Foyle is told by his superiors. "Put simply you're a hard act to follow." He is, but even now I imagine the ITV commissioners are looking for a replacement.