MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 2
Bloody hell. So Cat’s dead then.
If you made it to this point unaware of Laura Fraser leaving the show, Cat’s death comes (as car accidents are sadly want to do) out of nowhere. Episode 2, it turns out, is a serious game changer.
Through much of the first twenty minutes it’s business as usual. It’s Cat’s birthday and Sam (Heather Peace) continues to love and support her girlfriend, bringing her flowers on her birthday, planning a great evening… However, this is clearly called smothering in Cat’s distracted mind.
Meanwhile, Nora (Sinéad Keenan) continues to be a brilliantly entertaining bitch at Tess’s rehearsals. Fortunately the loveable Hugh (Stuart McQuarrie) is supportive of Tess despite going through his own messy marital tragedy.
Off screen, Fin (Lorraine Burroughs) has been unceremoniously dumped by Tess for reasons of incompatibility – aka, likes football not shopping – and while we’re in the business of disposing of Series 1’s leftover cast members, Jay (Emun Elliot) gets offered a job in London and “may take it”.
With these two unceremonious departures, the new addition of Lexy’s (Anna Skellern) gay doctor colleague manages to add witty banter – “I have a sixth sense. I see gay people.” – while simultaneously coming across as fairly likeable.
Cat and Frankie’s affair continues to defy the logistics of the work day but compensates the audience by adding a little corset kink to the proceedings. Their pillow talk is wondrously childlike and both actresses do a convincing job of playing two women clinging on to their teenage love.
Inevitably Tess catches Frankie and Cat kissing in the hall way, causing Cat to have a moral crisis/start smoking…
And then get hit by a car.
It’s a brave move by the producers to lose a main character like Cat but it feels like the right one. Suddenly none of the characters are caught in the same rehashed web of unfaithful relationships and in one heart stopping swoop the producers have left the tired meant-to-be-together/young-love-forever trope behind.
Suddenly there’s no one for Frankie to cling to and no one for Sam to play the noble cuckold for. Both characters are freed to think about their lives and relationships in new ways – unless of course they choose to drown themselves in grief and bitterness, but that remains to be seen.
Heather Peace’s intense portrayal of Sam’s grief, her pauses, the way Sam seems underwater when she interacts with people is just as heartbreaking, if not more so, than Frankie draping herself over Cat’s coffin. Frankie’s love for Cat was big and melodramatic and, in its own way, self-serving. (That said, another glimpse of Frankie’s horrific mother makes Frankie’s refusal to let Cat go understandable). Sam’s love was adult, quieter and more forgiving, if somewhat wilfully blind.
Heathcliff-like Frankie goes to lie beside Cat’s grave, and then turns to Sadie (Natasha O’Keefe) for comfort sex, leaving Sam has the unenviable job of going through Cat’s things. Inevitably Sam finds what she never wanted to – a hint of Cat and Frankie’s affair – and the betrayal washes over her face.
What comes next for the Lip Service girls just got interesting.
Aired at 9pm on Friday 27th April 2012 on BBC Three.
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