In this final episode of the season, Steph hires out the hall at the Maythorpe so that she can host a Ladies Only exotic lingerie party.
However, the event becomes a night to remember for all kinds of different reasons, to each of the girls.
“Don’t waste your life with someone you don’t love. You’re better than that.”
Steph’s story comes full circle in this episode and provides Sophie Rundle with her most confident performance so far. It’s nice that she also gets her man (with a little encouragement from Pauline) and her story ends on a really positive note, with her reuniting with Johnny on the train station platform, like something out of a classic old movie.
“I came home and told my father I wanted to travel, see the world. And he told me that I wouldn’t last five minutes on my own.”
Pauline’s story comes to a very bittersweet conclusion in this episode. We finally get the payoff for Pauline’s uncaring attitude towards Johnny, coming in a powerhouse scene from Penelope Wilton. She shines in a heartfelt monologue that gives the clearest rationale for her behaviour and immediately had this reviewer back on her side after a few episodes of seeing her as unsympathetically played.
Sadly, this is in contrast to her confession to Brian about Johnny, and he sadly walks away from her, unable to cope with the secrets of her past.
Elsewhere, Kieran confessing to his involvement in the hit and run means that Pauline finds out that Nita knew about it and didn’t say anything, leading to a tense confrontation.
“Sorry. Is that all you’ve got?”
The eventual confrontation between the two women has been bubbling up since Nita first found out and has created a tense undercurrent in all their shared scenes. As good as the confrontation is, anchored by Angela Griffin’s genuinely broken Nita, it is undercut somewhat by the convenient baby labour and the comedy that comes with it as the women put their differences aside, stealing away some of the potential drama.
The episode is full of little touches that really bring things full circle. It’s lovely that Steph’s mother finally seems to be less of a hindrance than a help regarding her daughter’s life choices, which is lovely to see after the evident friction in their relationship. It is also good that Barry (Kent Riley) finds out about Lisa’s infidelity with Terry and that the baby may not be his.
The resulting fight sequence is artfully shot by director Joss Agnew (Jekyll & Hyde, Mr Selfridge) and is one of many scenes that make the episode stand out.
With enough material covered to create a satisfying ending, Brief Encounters concludes the ladies’ stories well enough.
However, there is clearly plenty left open here (the hit and run confession, Johnny & Steph, Pauline’s confession) to be the starting point for a very welcome second run. I for one would definitely be watching!
Aired at 9pm on Monday 8 August 2016 on ITV.
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