Patrick Melrose episode 3 review: Benedict Cumberbatch shows great range in stylish, soulful drama

Patrick is such a brilliant protagonist it's a shame this series is only five episodes and not five seasons

Benedict Cumberbatch must have precious little time outside of filming all the Marvel movies these days, so it's fortunate he chose so wisely with this television role. Patrick Melrose is a fiendishly enjoyable series and, next to A Very English Scandal, has formed a twin-pronged skewer of the British upper classes.

If the addiction adventures of episode one were mostly angled toward satire while episode two's bleak backstory was all about emotion, episode three is sort of a mix of the two. Having holed up in a flat with the curtains closed since his bi-continental binge, Patrick finally finds the courage to rejoin society, throwing himself in the deep end with a lavish party attended by Princess Margaret at his friend Bridget's enormous country house.

The viewer probably expected this to devolve into a relapse for Patrick, but instead we got an unexpectedly reserved and soulful episode, which he started with his default facade of silver-tongued aloofness, but ended broken open and confiding on his past in a friend (a man whose friendship he valued over sex too - not so easy for an addict). Cumberbatch was excellent as ever, having already shown off a spectrum of emotions ranging from maniacal overindulgence to quiet detachment in just three episodes.

What pitiful and pitying voyeurs addicts make at parties was the central thrust of the episode, but there was a great deal of humour along the way, the appropriately-named Pratt having some particularly great lines ("What I find with beautiful women is that after one's waited around for ages, like buses are supposed to do, not that I've ever waited around for a bus").

The party scene was beautifully staged and shot, director Edward Berger making use of long takes to roam around the room and eavesdrop on different conversations. With so much talent in front of and behind the camera, along with some incredibly interesting themes and subject matter, it's only a shame this miniseries runs five episodes and not five seasons.

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