We have an entirely noble but dangerous instinct to romanticise people in recovery and consider them thriving once they have given up whatever substances controlled them. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, and Patrick Melrose explored this in its penultimate episode.
A significant time jump found Patrick married with kids and visiting his mother during her final days. There's no denying that he seemed in a better place than when he was convulsing on a hotel room floor in New York in the 80s, but though he has, for now, quit the smack et al his addictive instincts remain.
He can't, for instance, stop picking at old wounds, or jumping down people's throats at the first opportunities, or jumping into their beds for that matter. Clean but bored, he self-sabotages. He clearly thinks he's a piece of shit, so in his weaker moments acts like one.
Episode 4, 'Mother's Milk', handled all this deftly, save the comparisons between the experiences of young Patrick and his own son which started to feel a little too on the nose. The series doesn't patronise the viewer though and trusts them to withhold judgment, so when Patrick very sneakily cheats on his wife while she's just a few metres away down the hall with friend Julia, we're not expected to view him as saint or arsehole. Life is just messy.
Patrick entertained his mother's wish to kill her this week (euthanasia being an intriguing idea to anyone who doesn't value their own life greatly) and, depressed by his mother's ability to abandon him right up until death - signing the deeds of her house over to an opportunistic spiritual healer - and his own parenting skills, hits the bottle.
The soft pastels of the episode were a nice contrast to the acidic conversations and the acting was once again stellar, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch's as he made a desperate phone call to Julia mid-freefall and Jennifer Jason Leigh's as a fading Eleanor.
Having never read Edward St Aubyn's books, it's intriguing to see where the action jumps to each week. I'll be fascinated to see how Patrick's story ends, or rather, is left, in the final episode next Sunday, and knowing that depression can be an even more resilient beast than addiction, I sense that we probably won't see an at least entirely happy ending for our protagonist.
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