‘Doctor Foster’ Episode 4 review: Gemma’s professional life crumbles

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After the seemingly climactic events last week in BBC One’s Doctor Foster, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was no more drama to be drawn from the Foster’s marital turmoil. How wrong you’d be.

“So he still hasn’t admitted it?” inquires Gemma’s best friend Ros (Thusitha Jayasundera). “I doubt he ever will…we’re just moving on, ” Gemma declares. “We have a child together, a life together, fourteen years under our belt so, if there’s any way of keeping all of that I have to try.”

Try as she might, it doesn’t work out for poor Gemma.

Firstly, she is forced to take an informal leave from the job she loves: the mix of the slanderous online comments, a patient complaint and police involvement over her mother-in-law’s suicide casting a dark shadow over her career.

While it is painful to see Gemma’s professional life crumble, it is hardly surprising, given her actions. In previous reviews I have asked why would a seemingly sane woman (a professional GP no less) risk her career to protect a patient from her abusive ex, potentially losing everything?

Doctor Foster Gemma (SURANNE JONES)

Whilst the story makes use of that plot point now, it still seems jarringly out of character, despite Suranne Jones selling the hell out of it. That said, it’s not the end of her problems.

The realisation that Simon (Bertie Carvel) has got back together with Kate (Jodie Comer) is both expected but tragic and it turns out Simon’s secretary has been keeping the affair secret the whole time. Kate’s subsequent meltdown is like a car crash – despite the tragedy you can’t help but look.

Even her usually placid son Tom calling her out on her behaviour (“Mum, why are you such a mad bitch?”) adds a certain intensity to the scene as well, making Gemma’s next decision as reckless as the ones she applied to her career and her marriage.

Abandoning her child and her husband, she drives off to the coastal town she grew up in, which is also where she dumped recovering alcoholic Jack (Robert Pugh) a few episodes back. The weight of her loss and her husband’s deception proves too much. So much so that after Simon lies to her yet again and she undermines Jack’s relationship with his dead lover David, she attempts to take her own life by drowning in the sea.

Doctor Foster (SURANNE JONES)

In a genuinely tense moment, aided by some beautifully atmospheric direction from Bruce Goodison (Home Fires, Leave To Remain), Jack finds Gemma’s mobile phone on the beach, only to find her, soaking wet but alive, looking out at the ocean she was going to let swallow her up just moments before. Though something has definitely changed, as Gemma’s doubt and fragility is replaced with a steely determination.

“Gemma, where are you going?” Jack pleads.

“Home,” she states bluntly, suddenly a woman with an agenda.

The tone of the last ten minutes of this episode shifts rapidly. The frenetic pace of it is now suddenly calm as Gemma dresses up and drags her cheating spouse to the house of his mistress’s parents, their daughter in awkward attendance. The slow motion camera work, with Simon looking shifty as he sits across from his lover and his wife, adds real bite to the scene.

What a shame they cut us off there, but at least it’s got us hanging in there for next week’s finale.


Aired at 9pm on Wednesday 30 September 2015 on BBC One.

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