‘The Casual Vacancy’ Episode 2 review

In not so sleepy Pagford, Barry’s body is hardly in the ground and his ghost is causing havoc amongst the council candidates.

As tensions rise and suspicion breeds paranoia, we discover that the voice from the grave is actually that of ‘Arf’ Price (it really is the quiet ones you have to watch). At last Arf has found his spine and is standing up to his hideous bully of a father, even if it is via the Internet.

First on Ghost Barry’s name and shame list is Simon Price, his half brother (Arf’s Dad) and a thoroughly revolting character, with no apparently redeeming features. Simon has been more than a little light-fingered at work, and a bit of a thug at home.

So devastated is Simon that his brother has died, that he uses the funeral as an opportunity to campaign for the council, putting election handouts inside the church order of service books. Luckily, Barry calls from the grave and it’s no time at all before everyone knows of Simon’s sideline in stolen goods and questionable morals.

The Casual Vacancy Rory Kinnear

With the sneers and smears of campaign life bubbling away in middle England, there’s a jolt back to the real darker underbelly of Pagford with mother and daughter struggles in the shape of Terri and Krystal Weedon. Terri has neglected her family and home with repeated drug abuse and teenager Krystal has been left literally holding the baby.

Their troubles highlight the frivolity of the council’s campaign, when there’s real life or death situations happening on the council’s doorstep. Local social worker Kaye (a single mother herself, whose relationship with her own daughter couldn’t be further in contrast to that of Terri and Krystal) visits the Weedon’s and tries to offer Krystal advice on education and her future.

Wise beyond her years, Krystal reminds Kaye of the reality she’s living in – ‘If you really want to help,’ she tells her, ‘bring UHT milk, it lasts longer.’ Krystal is just about surviving day to day. She’s formed a misguided relationship with ‘Fats’, he’s from the other side of the tracks – he likes her because she’s authentic, but I’m at a loss at to why she likes him.

Delighted and smug at Simon’s public shaming, Howard and Shirley are sure that their son Miles will be the latest addition to the council. Shirley likes to rule the family just how she likes things, much to the annoyance of her daughter in law Samantha (the superb Keeley Hawes).

The Casual Vacancy Keeley Hawes

Samantha is just on the right side of naughty, but with her lingerie shop closing down and her marriage on the rocks, she medicates in the most middle class of ways – through wine and wind ups.

When Miles becomes the next victim of the Arf’s afterlife webpage, Samantha brings together all of the members of the council to discuss Sweetlove House and their options. Everyone is invited with the exception of her parents-in-law. Predictably they turn up anyway and when the mud slinging gets out of hand, all secrets are spilled and Howard is left shaken.

Following a physical encounter with Krystal, Terri digs deep and starts to clean herself up, with the support and security of Sweetlove House, proving its worth more to the town than a luxury spa. Returning home she reaches out to Krystal, breaking down her emotional walls and confirming that this is girl who just wants to be loved and believed in, and there’s nothing wrong with that Krystal.

The Casual Vacancy Michael Gambon

Howard is having trouble sleeping – with ghostly apparitions haunting his dreams. Skeletons and a recently deceased Barry returning from the grave, help show Howard the errors of his ways. ‘What will be your legacy?’ Barry questions him as worms and maggots pour out of his mouth and eyes. ‘Cheese,’ Howard tells him. I think it may be time to lay off the cheddar Howard.

Last week’s first installment of this adaptation was a thorough who’s who of Pagford, with potential tales opening up all over the cobbled town square, but this second episode has torn through the lives, stories and ties between the lengthy list of who’s who with suspense filled, politically driven storylines. And as young Arf beds down for the night in a sleeping bag, on the cold floor of Sweetlove Hall, with only one more episode to go, we’re left wondering how it will all end…

It may be an adult departure from Rowling’s ‘children’s books’, but I’m hoping that her tried and tested theme of good versus evil triumphs – with our hero in the shape of a young boy, unloved by his guardians, at the helm of slaying the enemies.

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Aired at 9pm on Sunday 22 February 2015 on BBC One.

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