‘The Paradise’: Episode 2 review

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What could have been nothing more than derivative autumn filler is elevated by stunning guest cast performances in the second episode of BBC One’s new period drama The Paradise.

The main storylines introduced in last week’s series opener are mostly relegated to the background in this week’s episode, which instead centeres on a subplot involving the hitherto seldom featured Sam (Stephen Wright) and Katherine Glendenning’s troubled friend Jocelin Brookmire (Olivia Hallinan).

Jocelin’s excessive and unfettered spending in The Paradise is initially embraced by the store’s staff, but is eventually met with suspicion, particularly from Joanna Vanderham’s Denise. About to suffer an emotional breakdown on the shop floor, Jocelin confides in Sam, divulging information regarding the breakup of her marriage, the source of her erratic mental state. Misreading his flirtatious customer service manner as affection, Jocelin forcibly kisses Sam just as Katherine Glendenning and her father (Patrick Malahide) are about to enter the room. Jocelin then proceeds to construct an elaborate fabrication to save her own skin, with her accusation that Sam in fact came on to her resulting in him being demoted at The Paradise.

Predictably, everything is sorted out by the hour’s conclusion, likely never to be discussed again, and this in tandem with the episode’s complete lack of development of the show’s main narrative strands would usually result in a somewhat underwhelming hour of television. However, the episode remains enjoyable throughout, thanks in no small part to Olivia Hallinan, who delivers a stunning performance as the volatile Jocelin.

Sarah Lancashire is habitually brilliant as the love-to-hate Miss Audrey, bringing depth to a character we previously wrote off as a tired genre archetype. It’s a shame the central character Denise isn’t more heavily featured, but our past misgivings regarding Emun Elliott’s portrayal of Mr Moray are washed away this week – he seems to be growing in the role and does a thoroughly decent job at fulfilling the demands placed on him by this week’s script.

Despite the inclusion of the altogether superfluous “Miss Pink Paradise” subplot, the second episode of The Paradise builds on the strengths of the first, but without necessarily rectifying its weaknesses. Whether or not it is bringing anything new to the genre is debatable, but judging by the first two instalments, we hope The Paradise continues as an enjoyable addition to BBC One’s schedules.

Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 2nd October 2012 on BBC One.

> Buy Series 1 on DVD on Amazon.

What do you think of The Paradise so far? Let us know below…