TV review: Dates, Channel 4 - Bryan Elsley's new drama about modern relationships

The Fall, BBC2

In life, a one-night stand can scarcely be counted a success if it doesn't end in consummation. In television drama, no such rule applies, though there's always a dangerous temptation to go for the easy climax. You're not going to be seeing each other again, after all. There isn't another date next week when the disappointments of the evening can be made good with something extravagant (as Breaking Bad does so brilliantly).

So the writer who wants to leave an impression behind will always be tugged towards a gratifying finish. Credit due to Bryan Elsley, then, for ending the first of Dates, a series of dramas about modern relationships, with an ambiguity. Will David climb into the cab with Mia? Or will he stick to the diagnosis, made just seconds before, that she's a "nightmare"? Dates doesn't tell us. More to the point, it doesn't offer much of a clue as to whether he should.

Strictly speaking, a one-night stand isn't the perfect analogy here, because some of these characters are going to reappear in different permutations, in a kind of updated version of Schnitzler's La Ronde. But each half-hour episode also works as a stand-alone two-hander. I can't say I'll be in a hurry to meet Mia again, because the point of Oona Chaplin's character is that she's an ocean-going harridan, so entangled in a sense of her own sexual allure that she can barely utter an un-sarcastic sentence.

David, her blind date in this opening episode, is the exact opposite. Straightforward, plain-speaking, nervous and unassured. Mostly straightforward, anyway, since we discover that he's fibbed about his profession on the dating site. He's not a lawyer, he's a lorry driver, though he spills the beans about this deception so rapidly it barely qualifies as one.

Mia seems to be a semi-professional girlfriend and the counterpoint between his authentic openness and her defensive nastiness was the central theme. When he brushes off her brush-off, she's sufficiently piqued to stay and goad him into wanting her. We seem to be set for a simplistic confrontation between healing honesty and sexual scar tissue, one that depends on an over-neatness in David's apprehensions. "You are too clever for the world and it's hard being this beautiful and one step ahead of everyone all the time," he says, "I think it wears you out."

If you're that self-possessed, you think, how come you haven't got a girlfriend already? She blinks, unused to having a man look past the body-form black dress. Satisfyingly, though, her response is not a grateful surrender but a stepped-up viciousness. Even at the end you couldn't tell whether she was toying with him, which was intriguing enough to warrant a second date.

There's a vulgar name for what happened at the end of The Fall. It rhymes with "pleasing" and means precisely the opposite. In fact, so audacious was the drama's denial of climax that you could probably hear a muted roar of frustration as the credits rolled. We were not foolish to expect some kind of resolution. The BBC presented the series as a five-part drama and announced that there would be a second series only a little way into the transmission, as if to imply that their decision had been affected by audience response. So they must have known all along how sadistic they were about to be.

I find myself torn between disappointment and admiration. On the one hand, we have been left gagging for some kind of narrative release. On the other hand, Alan Cubitt's drama has always tried to twist away from the conventions of the form to something more complicated and unsettling. "Art gives the chaos of the world an order it doesn't deserve," said the killer last night. He would definitely have approved, I think.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before