Friday, 27 January 2017

Reviewing: White Heat, Episodes 4 - 5

Following my review of Episode 3, which you can find here:

I'm covering two episodes together this time. Partly this is because it's been a while so anyone that has been following the series upon my recommendation will probably have gone ahead and watched on, sans review for episode 4, as it does get you hooked. It is also due to that as the years roll on and the characters go through their intended (or sometimes not intended) paths, they are now clearly well into the story so that episodes serve more as guides, to cap viewing time as well as to separate big clearer themes rather than for us to stop and ponder after each one. When characters are built well, they will do that, follow their own hearts regardless of where one scene ends and the other starts. However episodes four and five can still be clearly separated by the outcome of the scenes that they are made up of. So I will still be covering each one in its own right. I hate to give away spoilers so I try to minimise them as much as I can so I hope you will bear with me if in some cases my details are a little obscure.

Episode 4 - The Personal Is Political

As time rolls on, the seven friends (if they so can be called) are brought together more by events than lifestyle, as they all seem to have taken their own paths in life. It is 1979 and a reformed Jack is about to join the political scene whilst Victor keeps making passes at Charlotte whilst despising Jack's guts. There seems to be a hatred in Victor towards Jack that is quite deep-seethed at this point and Jack's next faux pas in this episode will ensure that their relationship will remain strained forever. I do believe, after seeing Episode 5 as well, that it is all Victor's fault that later on Charlotte will keep such a big secret from him that is to do with Jack. Meanwhile, as the love-triangle continues for the red-head, the rebel and the immigrant, Alan and Lilly tie the knot, though it remains ever unclear in the present day scenes whether they are in fact still together or not. Hindu Jay is having to face demons just like the rest of them, with religion in his case being the main perpetrator. Which leaves jolly round Orla in the tricky position of always trying to do the best for everyone and getting mixed up in it. Over and over she is the one who does the mothering and rounds up the gang as well as giving her help and advise. In this episode she even goes further and gives a homeless man shelter in Jack's house, which causes him concern because he is now a public scrutinised figure.

The last fifteen minutes build up on the Charlotte and Jack relationship, strained though it is, and it seems like the end to this episode is what ultimately splits them irrevocably apart. Ever a stickler for what is right, Charlotte tells Jack "you hesitated" when he shows up to clear Victor's name from a mixup that involved him. An episode guide suggests that it was Jack's idea to send Victor out for the cake in order to get him away from Charlotte and the dance floor. My own notes as I examined this outcome actually put Jack in a worse light. What if, rather than just get him away from his ex and the dancefloor, what he wanted was to get him framed?


Episode 5 - The Eye of the Needle

A very apt title for the very difficult task that all the original roommates must face in this episode. In 1982, whilst Jay and Orla are the only two remaining tenants of Jack's, they are still in touch with the rest, though sparingly so. They are, as always, the two that seem to be outcast and have between them set up a routine that allows them to live on, in their own ways and with their own beliefs, as Jack spirals out of control on account of losing his chance at politics due to the incident from Episode 4. Who else to call on when times get tough but an ex-girlfriend and her now partner or husband to help with Jack's addiction which is by now totally out of control? Sounds ominous, and it is. Add a couple who are having problems in the mix, in the form of Alan and Lilly, and the household is complete once again. Only, they have a new houseguest in the form of Charlotte's now totally crazy mother, for whom Charlotte has responsibility.

I always tend to believe that a villain is the product of his history and try to understand rather than condemn him/her. So it came as no surprise to find that this episode reveals much about Jack's childhood and relationship with his father, the father who turned out to be a supporter even when Jack tried for a seat in parliament on the opposing benches. Jack's parents are together still, so why does the mother never show up, most especially when her son needs help? Could boarding school have harmed Jack? This is a topic that is touched on in many a story yet it remains unclear to me whether it did affect Jack as badly as his father thinks. What affects him for sure are all the somewhat cruel reminders from his past, which seem to flash in front of Jack's eyes as he battles his demons whilst going through a detox. This seems to me to be the pivotal scene for his character, as well as the one that will define Charlotte's future. As always for the female characters in this plot, Charlotte's fate is determined by circumstances. Jack's downfall, her part in his detox as well as her mother's condition together with her father's lack of interest in helping out at all push in from all sides, moulding her future so that she has no way out.

There is much to talk about regarding the episode and my review could very well turn into an appreciation of the kind required for an exam in English Literature rather than a heady BBC series. So whilst I'll try to cap my enthusiasm and curb the want to explore this from a writer's point of view, I'll skim quickly over the observations.

As evident from my previous posts, I am not such a big fan of Victor, despite that he is made over and over to look like the good guy and "the injured party", as he himself says in a previous episode clip from 'Present Day'. The truth, however, as it seems to me, is that his spite towards Jack went beyond their differences and was more of an instinct. From the beginning, Jack got the girl, and he might well do so again in Victor's eyes it seems. Is he right or is he wrong? Even Charlotte knows that it is dangerous to broach any subject to do with her ex-partner when in Victor's presence. Call me biased but I noted that Charlotte's apparent 'life-partner' is quick to want to send Jack to rehab unlike the rest of the team. He remains seated when Jack loses consciousness too, a pretty low figurative punch towards his arch enemy in my opinion. And when all's said and done, exemplary man or no, Victor loses his cool just like anyone else would when given bad news (ok I must admit: truly cruel news). So no wonder Charlotte feels unable to be totally truthful about her predicament at the end of this episode. Meanwhile things start falling into place, with Lilly's past and Jack's involvment in it clearly linked to the present day hostility on Charlotte's side. Such close friends up to the events of Episode 5, the two girls share a secret (or twin secrets) that has them at opposing ends in a dilemma. But that's all I'm going to share.

I leave you to watch these two episodes if you haven't already, and to comment on here if you have. Meanwhile, keep tuned for the last part of this series of reviews, coming up in February.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A Book About Being High Up, Literally

My latest book review on EVE is about a futuristic fictional story that, whilst not being an out-of-this-world novel still managed not only to have me curious to read it through but also deals with the kind of characters that seem to come to life, never to be forgotten, nor the ending. Thanks to Agenda Bookshop who sponsored my book, here's my take on Katharine McGee's The Thousandth Floor. Enjoy!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Another Tiring Week

I'm sitting here with blurry eyes, tired limbs and a head that's about to explode for the long list of things it is still to remember to do. In fact I have to confess, I'm here out of duty today rather than my own will. Don't get me wrong, I love writing and get really excited about writing reviews, carrying out interviews, even posting pictures. My one problem right now with that, though, is that I am too exhausted to give it the time it needs.

So instead I decided to post a question today, for myself as well as my readers: What, really, is the meaning of our life? If I were to compare my life today to the one I had only a couple of years ago, I'd say I should be having more free time and time to focus on what I believe truly matters, rather than less. Isn't that one reason why I finally bought a car? After long years of sacrifice and bus rides, a car brought me a certain freedom I craved. Meanwhile, my son is growing up and should require less constant help and supervision at home (erm... well I did say 'should'!). On the other hand, we used to wake up after 6am on weekdays. Now, with my son being at the new school (and I could never grumble about this change as we wanted it since always) my morning routine starts at 5am through the week. I also ride my own car to and from work and guess what, although I've been working far from home for twelve years, I would previously sit back and relax whilst someone else (namely my husband or the bus driver) did the hard work of driving in this crazy country. Between these two changes my life has become like a marathon of trying to catch up... catch up with the laundry (does anyone ever?), make sure we're always stocked for groceries and toiletries lest we run out, try to catch up with writing deadlines (I missed one a little while ago for the first time ever and as you can see, I still can't forget about it!)

My noodles are getting cold so I'm off to my tv dinner of sorts whilst I leave you to answer one question for me: Does it ever get easier?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Reviewing: White Heat, Episode 3

Following my review of Episode 2, which you can find here:

It’s time to review the third episode of White Heat and believe me, this series seems to get better as more is revealed. Although I am sure that once I’ve watched it all I won’t be as curious to rewatch it for knowing how it all ends, it is also that type of script that has you enjoying all those little hints when you watch it for a second time. Many quotes that seem random enough on a first viewing are much more charged with meaning when you know what comes next. The most accurate ones in foreshadowing are usually Victor’s words and they are also the most spot on in defining characters and what is going on in relationships.

Just as in Episode Two he harps on the fact that Jack should treat Charlotte better, in this one he has much to say to Charlotte about Jack. His idea is that Jack’s allure is in his dangerous streak and that women are psychologically made to respond to it positively. It’s genetics, he tells her, Jack is the type of guy to make the best breeder, despite his flaws. Well, we already knew that Charlotte seems unable to get herself to move on from him. I must credit Victor for still trying so hard to get her interested in him even when he admits, “We don’t choose who we love, we only choose who we don’t.” It’s so clear he feels that he’s the injured party that I can’t for the life of me see why he struggles on to get the two apart. If anything, Charlotte has much more in common with Jack in my opinion than with Victor. That said, I have to give it to him that he is rather insightful and if I understood Charlotte’s character right then that makes him appealing. Bravo to him for noticing that, “He’s your fatal flaw.” yet being brave enough to still make a move on Charlotte despite this ominous observation. However the most accurate of his observations is clearly that “You sacrifice the best part of yourself for Jack.”


Jack too utters a very memorable quote in this episode, one that will come back to haunt Charlotte in a later episode and later on in her life. “You are the only thing that makes life bearable.” Jack admits, causing her lapse of judgement in Episode Five. It is also the truth, most especially after his first serious blow since the start of the story. His delusional dad’s rejection - that dad who believed that money could always solve Jack’s ‘problems’ and mentioned the word “cheque” more than any other word in the dictionary - is more than he can bear. It is clear Jack truly cares about him and hungers for a connection even though they never see eye to eye and this episode is key in showing this with Jack going out of his way and also against his principals to support his father at a difficult time.

I could go on and on about Jack’s side of the story and the other characters’ view of him, yet he remains my favourite despite his addiction and treatment of women. As Victor says, there’s a danger to him that makes him all the more appealing and the fact that Sam Claflin plays this long-haired barely-together man only serves to gain him more points from where I stand. However so much happens in this episode that finally it seems like this is a story about all seven youngsters and all of their problems carry equal weight. For who in real life is unscathed by their own individual reality?

It is the 1970s and a background of exploding bombs, IRA shootings and political unrest serve to undermine yet move along the characters. Alan and Lilly find a temporary peace whilst Orla wrestles with the result of an unfair choice she has to make. Jay’s true personality is a secret no more among the friends and elicits opposite reactions from Jack (rude yet loyal) and Alan (disgusted and repelled). The dinner that all seven sit down to together for the first time in a very long while is brought about by Orla - the mother figure - whilst Alan and Victor seem to have moved on from the roomie phase and are out on their own. The phrase I would look for to describe this episode is ‘Seeking Stability’ as they all seem to me to go out of their way to do that.

With the end of this episode the series reaches the half-way mark and not only so, it seems to me also to be the ending to the characters’ life as youngsters before they make their way to more serious stuff. Now adults in search of their “Holy Grail” as Jack put it, they are facing the remainder of their life. The script-writer is a tease, leaving so much still for us to find out even when we’ve already gotten to the end with the help of ‘present day’ scenes.

On to the review for the fourth and fifth episodes: