With one right of passage (your first period) covered in the previous episode, we’re onto another: buying decent underwear.
Germaine (Helen Monks) hopes the lingerie department will introduce her to a grown-up world of lace and frills. Matriarch Della, a romantic not given to romanticism, is more pragmatic. When you’re a teenager on an estate and not size 8, your desires need to be practical: ‘two legs and a gusset’.
Meanwhile, Yoko states that she’d quite like a bra. She’s quite embarrassed about how things are developing. Apparently, last week, as she was running for the bus, three people on the top deck whipped out their phones to film her top deck. She isn’t happy. So it’s off to the shops the girls go. Germaine’s already singing the song from the Boots adverts. But Wyatt isn’t on the trip.
Della (Rebekah Staton), concerned that son Wyatt is being adversely affected by growing up in an all-female environment, and enlists her dad’s help: a bit of male bonding. Grampy (Phillip Jackson) points out that Wyatt’s rucksack – a Dora The Explorer number – is for girls.
Della won’t be swayed: ‘It features a girl. Doesn’t make it a girl’s thing, you know? Like strip clubs.’ The lads go tramping in the wilderness, presumably hoping to discover a small boy training a kestrel.
In town, Germaine is pushing her luck, hoping to add to her fall collection. ‘The season is called Autumn,’ Della tells her. ‘In this country, Fall is what happened to your Great Grandma,’ In a canny move, Germaine – essentially based on Caitlin Moran – is not the most likeable: she’s selfish, and in pursuit of her desires, more myopic than her glasses-wearing sister. You’re likely to alter your allegiance to your ‘favourite character’ about as often as – well, as often as you change your underwear.
Mariah gets a great dancing in the street moment, but let’s take a moment to acknowledge Alexa Davies’ Aretha. Now we’re into the second episode, we’ve got a bit more room to breathe, and see that Aretha displays great warmth and affection with her family. Pretty neat trick, since most of the time she’s gimlet eyed and set-jawed.
There’s a lovely moment when the show pulls a reverse-Pretty Woman as the two store assistants welcome the fragile and nervous Yoko with open arms. The remaining shop assistant coos over the baby in Aretha’s care. ‘She’s. Not. My. Baby.’ Aretha intones before gliding backwards, out of shot.
Aretha tries to get in on whatever Grampy has bought for Della’s birthday, but he refuses: nothing says I forgot like a load of names on the same card, and Grampy doesn’t want to be accused of being the one who forgot. Aretha is calm: ‘Your lack of cooperation has not gone unnoticed,’ she promises him in the style of Marlon Brando chewing on cotton wool. Grampy’s so terrified he almost runs the car off the road. It takes him almost the entire episode to recover.
‘Tell Aretha I’m not intimidated,’ she says later. Aretha smiles softly, like someone winning chess with an opponent’s entrails. When the US remake kicks in, this character will end up running for president.
Aired on Monday 23 March 2015 on Channel 4.
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