‘Brief Encounters’ review: Episode 3 continues to impress

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In the wake of Brian’s hit and run accident, the Brief Encounters ladies’ lives are artfully woven even further together, with the women facing a lot of tough choices as a result.

“I offer you a place to stay and you repay me by telling everyone my business.”

With Spakes Butchers having financial troubles, Pauline is forced to step up and host a party. Pauline has been painted as such an unfulfilled character so far, so it was lovely to see the fiery, driven and motivated version of herself explode through.

Her scene, demonstrating a vibrator to her first party goers is genuinely hilarious, but it is her emotional breakdown that really captivates. Raw and moving, Wilton mesmerises. To be her age and finally have friends and fun is helping to slowly bury the unfulfilled Pauline, which also really resonates in her maternal chemistry towards Sharon Rooney’s Dawn.

“Don’t be naive. Men can’t be just friends, you’re a married woman.”

The parents are not painted in a particularly good light here: Steph’s mother wants her to sacrifice her own happiness and take cheating Terry back. Helena’s mother refuses to acknowledge the relationship she had with another woman in London and Dawn’s father continues to avoid any real responsibility. Interestingly, these developments push the main cast to fight for what they want and it makes for compulsive viewing.

One of the wonderful things I like about Brief Encounters is that it has subtly woven in all kinds of social relationships: Helena’s lesbianism is handled well, as is the interracial relationship of PC Daniels and Steph. Even the older generational sexual exploration of Pauline and Brian helps to add such layers to the programme.

“Those men left him for dead. What sort of animal does that?”

Angela Griffin’s Nita is fleshed out superbly here. Having found the money from the robbery and realised Kieren’s involvement, she confronts him to tell the truth. When those involved threaten to quiet Nita if she goes to the police, things darkly escalate. Griffin is wonderful here: brash and feisty, ye total and nurturing. A lesser actress would not be as compelling.

Brief Encounters continues to impress, with strong dramatic and comedic performances from all, but with a sense that the best is yet to come story-wise.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 18 July 2016 on ITV.

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