‘Brief Encounters’ Episode 2 review

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After last week’s solid introduction, this episode takes strong but subtle steps to fortify the relationships of the women involved, focusing on building their chemistry.

As a result, we are treated to some wonderful performances.

“Brian, I’ve been to a pub…and I liked it.”

Penelope Wilton continues to be the best thing about Brief Encounters, both in terms of performance and character. It’s ironic that in 2016, (a time where we’ve pretty much seen everything on TV) that we can still be drawn into and genuinely invest in the specifics of someone’s growing sexual identity: the fact that we find the sexual awakening of a 60-something, childless woman so compelling is a testament to Wilton’s acting chops.

An aspect I particularly like is the relationship between Wilton’s Pauline and Sharon Rooney’s Dawn. Both women have a longing within them: Pauline to be a mother and Dawn to be mothered. It’s a wonderful, genuine chemistry, layered with relatable comedy, which adds to the shows appeal.

“You want to get Steph to cover with you. She’s the sexpert!”

Sophie Rundle continues to be a great anchor for the shows main themes: that a woman can be outspoken, sexual, liberated and independent. Yet still retaining a vulnerability and emotional conflict.

I love that she is, effectively, caught between three men. She doesn’t want to be with Terry (Karl Davies) after he cheated with Lisa: a situation made all the worse when Steph is forced to host Lisa’s bridal shower. She is also still enjoying the attentions of PC Daniels. However, it is her son Dean that, as a mother, defines her in this episode. Rundle is genuinely moving in the scenes where Dean is missing, but one has to wonder how much of herself she will give up for her son.

“Mum, what I’m selling isn’t dirty or disgusting. It’s fun, it helps couples.”

To a modern audience, this all may feel a little tame in today’s more explicit world. What I like about Brief Encounters is that the shame is not just men against women and it’s not just about selling sex toys. It’s a wonderful social commentary about a society not willing to accept the world is changing in terms of sexuality and love, and those forward-thinking few who challenge the norm.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 11 July 2016 on ITV.

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