Those hoping to delight in the cancellation of Peter Moffat’s legal drama with a pun – ‘Silk cut’ – will be sadly disappointed to find it back for a further run of episodes. Those who enjoyed the first series, however, will be pleased to learn that the highfalutin, coke snortin’, free lovin’ barristers are back for more soliciting shenanigans at Shoe Lane.
Yet on the evidence of the opening episode, at any rate, many of the more sensationalist elements seem to have been jurisprudentially cut back in favour of the judicial proceedings at the show’s heart.
With Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) having earned the right to bear the exalted initials ‘QC’ after her name at the expense of Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones), she dons her silk for the first time and goes up against Caroline Warwick (Doctor Who‘s Frances ‘eye patch lady’ Barber), a voraciously vicious veteran of the High Court known as Lady MacBeth, in what appears at first glance to be an open-and-shut case of GBH.
Brendan Kay (Paul Kynman) is accused of deliberately blinding a carwash attendant by pulling the poor bloke’s eyeballs out, and with the evidence heavily weighted against him, even Kay’s own lawyer is certain that that his client will end up behind bars. In fact, he’s counting on it, because Micky Joy – a brief so bent he walks at angle – is also the legal representative of the Farrs, a notorious London crime family.
Kay also works for the Farrs; it was Jody Farr (Finbar Lynch) who started the altercation with the man at the carwash; and it’s the gangster whom Martha perceives as guilty of the crime, not his slow-witted enforcer. Perhaps understandably, Joy (the understatedly splendid Phil Davis) disagrees; more surprisingly, so does the Cockney Iago of Shoe Lane Chambers, senior clerk Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke).
With Joy also representing many more of the capital’s criminals, he’s a source of considerable income for the firm, and Billy makes it clear to Martha where her priorities ought to lie. ‘You won’t have any clients if you don’t get real,’ he warns her.
Elsewhere, Clive is apparently sanguine about being passed over for Queen’s Counsel; he certainly hasn’t allowed his disappointment to get in the way of his insatiable appetite to sleep with as many of the other characters as possible.
‘Do you want to go for a fuck?’ he asks new solicitor George Duggan (Indira Varma), unabashed at having mistaken her for a man a short while earlier. ‘A drink,’ he corrects himself shamelessly, but George seems immune to his charms… for now.
This opening instalment of Silk’s second run is as polished and efficient as any of the episodes that preceded it, although with the focus on the courtroom rather than the bedroom – more Perry Mason than Perry Farrell – the pacing is noticeably slower, as if the barristers have all ditched their uppers for downers.
In this more relaxed setting, Neil Stuke dominates as Billy, his character pulling strings with the dexterous masterfulness of an elderly puppeteer, delivering Shakespearian soliloquies around the chambers, and ordering eager junior clerk Jake (Theo Barklem-Biggs) around like the impatient owner of a puppy slow to potty-train. The scenes featuring him and Micky Joy, two old school London legalists trying to maintain their grip on a world gently but inexorably passing them by, are the episode’s undoubted highlight.
Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 15th May 2012 on BBC One.
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