Friday, 2 December 2016

Reviewing: White Heat, Episode 1

As promised, I will be reviewing each episode of White Heat, BBC's 2012 6-part series that starts off in the 1960s and extends its story into the present. However, rather than in chronological order, each episode takes us back and forth in time, from the present situation that leads all the characters back into one place minus the one of them who has been found dead after two weeks, to the past that leads to that uncomfortable situation.

Slowly, the story explores the friends', if they can be so called, journey and relationships, starting off at the British University they all attend whilst sharing a flat. From the very first episode, script-writer Paula Milne explores women's lesser role in society, sex, homosexuality, the contraceptive pill and drugs as well as youngsters' rebellion against the status quo.

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The tale revolves around seven youngsters from totally different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender, physical appeal and education paths. In fact, the whole thing starts out as Jack's (played by Sam Claflin) social experiment that tries to defy the nuclear family norm. Jack is the landlord, the rebel, the one who after all has gotten all the characters together at the start. I have only as yet seen two episodes myself but up to now everything points towards Jack being the leader of the pack, despite his unconventional and often rude treatment of others and outlook on life. It is my guess that he is in fact the dead man from the current day story that the series leads up to.

Maybe it is for that reason that he stands out from the other members of the group, seeming from the first as someone that is both aloof and passionate, a tough personality to contend with. Maybe he also could be regarded as charismatic, as evident in how after all the others' initial dislike towards their possible landowner, all of the lucky 'chosen ones' accept their place in his home.

The appearance of Jack's dad from the first episode helps place his general anger at the way politics and wars are carried out and against whom. It seems to me he is fighting his MP father as much as the system, or maybe it is the other way round. In fact he seems to have turned down a place at a better University just because he refused to go along with his father's plans and preferred to follow his own path. I am not sure whether this information was readily available in the first episode or the second but it is no spoiler really and comes as no surprise. Meanwhile, however, I believe it is from the first episode that, despite disagreeing wholeheartedly with his dad, Jack nonetheless accepts to be bailed out from his money troubles by him. Maybe it is Jack's dad's compliance that has helped turn Jack into who he is after all.

I applaud the filmmakers' choice in casting Sam Claflin as Jack for his interpretation is, in my opinion, as brilliant as that of his bigger roles in more mainstream and big-budgeted films. In this role, he shows us that he could play up a mean and obsessive streak even before auditioning for his more vile role as Alistair Ryle in The Riot Club. Furthermore, Claflin is, in my opinion, one of those actors who best knows how to rely on facial expressions in presenting character feelings in any given situation. The impish grin of his real-life photoshoots here helps the passionate Jack pick up girls and the defined jawline is often set into a tight lock any time he is presenting the spirited and disagreeing Jack.

The other six characters seem to have less of an imposing presence and yet each of them serves the function of fulfilling a type. Meanwhile Milne uses their backgrounds and general outlook to criticise the injustices of the time. It would be difficult to go into any of the characters' role in the episode without giving away spoilers but one situation I cannot get myself to ignore and leave out. And so I will mention just this one.

Charlotte, the pretty red-head that is herself a rebel against norms imposed on females of the time, appears in the first episode to catch out her father having an affair. The cheek of it is, that before she knows of this development in her family's life, her father has just begged her to leave her new home and go back to living with them for her mother's sake, all in order to divert his wife's attention from his own doings. When Charlotte, having been told that her mother is getting 'empty nest syndrome', suggests that either of her brothers could also do that instead of herself, is told that her brothers have enough on their plate and should focus on their careers. This appears to me as a more than subtle hint at women's treatment and the general idea that they were not held as equals in pursuing education and a career.

I could go on and on raving about this series that has me hooked. I love anthropology so this drama is right up my alley and I am glad to have bought the DVDs despite the mixed reviews that I read about it. Definitely one to rewatch in time.

On to the review of the second episode:

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