Woman on the verge of a nervous breakout

REVIEW

The Governor (ITV), Lynda La Plante's new series, will stand or fall on the performance of Janet McTeer and, after the introductory episode, I have to say that things look a little unsteady. The problem is the strange lumpiness of her characterisation, a baffling combination of imperturbable poise and sheer panic. She has a peculiar tendency to widen her eyes suddenly, without apparent cause. Actually, it's difficult to think of a circumstance that could account for this expression, but if you imagine someone smuggling live minks in their underwear and being given a playful nip just as they say "Nothing to declare" you will come close. You would be unlikely to entrust her with your house keys, let alone the running of one of Her Majesty's most troubled and violent prisons.

Arriving at her new posting, recently the arena for a bloody riot, Helen Hewitt suspects that the "suicide" of a sex-offender may not be all that it seems. Between toughing it out with her sceptical deputy ("Bloody university high-flyer!"), barking orders for replumbing the men's toilet (budget considerations obviously not a problem) and subduing another riot by power of voice alone, Hewitt also manages to penetrate the cover-up, landing the embarrassing details on her superior's desk.

To be fair, there are times here where McTeer's darting changes of tone begin to make sense - particularly when her macho front for the warders crumbles in moments of privacy. There is a powerful sense of a woman forced to act a part in order to prevail, but it still won't quite rescue the earlier oddities. If she's this good at playing a role now, how come she was so ineffective earlier? Those of a nervous disposition should know that the drama is very violent - I'm not particularly squeamish but the scene in which a sex-offender is butchered to the accompaniment of "Nessun Dorma" struck me as taking a quite unseemly pleasure in bloodletting.

A bloody evening on the other side too: The Hanging Gale (BBC1) opened with the brutal murder of an Irish land-agent after a hedgerow trial ("Who spoke in my defence?" shouts the terrified man. "I did," replies one of his murderers dryly, "I wasn't very convincing.") It ended with the sight of one of the more sympathetic characters parting company with his brainpan, courtesy of a policeman's bullet, a sequence played in slow motion lest you miss any flying fragments. But the violence here isn't simply a designer flourish - it testifies to the sudden, chaotic release of suppressed anger and apprehension. There's fear on both sides, a dangerous circumstance which can only advance the ratchet of violent retaliation.

If the series looked a bit of a joke on paper - an Irish Famine saga designed to boil the McGann family pot - it actually turns out to be very good. It has a didactic strain to it which Gerry Adams would almost certainly approve of, but this is a disregarded episode of history and besides, the drama has room for nuance alongside its instructive outrage. There was a lovely scene in which Michael Kitchen (the replacement land-agent, essentially decent, bound to break because he will not bend) has his wine glass filled to the very brim by his Irish housekeeper. Dumb insolence or peasant manners? Kitchen can't tell, which tells you a lot about him and about a drama that doesn't always feel it has to make speeches.

The only explanation for the result of the Eurovision Song Contest (BBC1) is that Ireland sold Norway the winning song. Ruinous expense avoided on one side, national shame expunged on the other. A good deal all round, though I confess to a certain sadness that the Russians didn't do better with their plangent appeal to a grumbling volcano: "Don't recall your fearful past / Cover yourself, please, with grass." I think that speaks for us all.

Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
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.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral