It’s a great showing for Glue this week, thanks to a more prolonged than usual focus on two if its strongest characters, and the reveal of answers to some important questions. If you’ve stuck with the drugs & dobbins drama so far then Episode 5 is a bit of a reward for your patience.
Believing that it’s James (Billy Howle) who’s doing such a damn fine job of blackmailing him, Rob (Jordan Stephens) concocts a plan to get his tormentor to fess up by dropping some acid into a Thermos of coffee and giving it a good mix. I’m more partial to a sachet of Sweet’N Low in mine.
If the old adage ‘In vino veritas’ is true, surely the same can be said for ‘In venenum veritas’? (Latin references, oh yes, we keep it classy here at CultBox) That seems to be his thinking. However it shows Rob’s utter lack of consequence and perspective that he decides to covertly drug his target when James is holding a shotgun. Narcotics and firearms are historically as productive a mix as coyotes and ACME merchandise.
As the grande drugguccino kicks in, James undergoes a sort of vision quest in the woods. Think that Simpsons episode ‘El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer’, but with the Johnny Cash coyote replaced by the hallucinatory form of Cal (Tommy Knight). Yet unlike the vision quest’s true purpose of turning a boy into a man, it exposes how vulnerable and young James still is. Billy Howle is terrific. Any actor who can convey emotion in the act of smooching thin air deserves praise.
We discover that, despite the age difference, James and Cal were romantically involved, and that there’s was a relationship that tied the otherwise disparate Roma and the farming community together over the (soon to be glue?) horse Blackout.
As Ruth says, it gives him more than enough motive to be a suspect. And hey, isn’t it nice that we’ve seen Ruth doing some proper detective work this week, rather than pouting at her ‘Gimme your badge and your gun’ dick of a boss and leaving her boddler to wander into the road? It the first time she’s felt like a proper copper.
Without any detective work, Rob discovers the identity of his blackmailer: a Roma girl whose sister he ‘strayed’ with years ago. It’s a chance to see the consequences of Rob’s excess – let’s face it, the character has deserved his comeuppance – and while Jordan Stephens has effortlessly played the slacker, he proves he can also manage something more complex. Rob’s a youth who’s more sorry that he’s been caught, rather than that he erred in the first place.
As another consequence of his straying, Rob’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Tina (Charlotte Spencer), and the rural Stanley Kowalski, Eli (Callum Turner), are ‘straying’ on a bail of hay, damn the potential friction burns. But there’s nothing that feels consequential about their rutting. If you want to see what the true consequences of forbidden love and youthful lust are, just look at James’ bloodied fists, or his face right before the credits envelope him.
That expression, and the meaning behind it, is why we stick with Glue.
Aired at 10pm on Monday 13 October 2014 on E4.
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