It’s a real compliment to those involved in The Smoke that we care as much about these characters and still have so much to learn about them.
Lucy Kirkwood, who penned this episode with Daragh Carville (Cherry Bomb) has clearly enjoyed the slow reveal to everyone’s story. Episode 5 manages a fine juggling act, as it provides necessary screen time to those whose stories need to be advanced, respectfully acknowledges the secondary players and opens up new plot threads for future development.
Jamie Bamber is back at the forefront of proceedings, and the episode is all the better for it. He is, quite literally, in the skin of his character now, if you’ll pardon the pun. Bitter, angry but capable of drawing in audience empathy, Bamber plays Kev with command, charm and a nice line in comic timing.
The stand-out scenes for me are the characters openly vulnerable moments: displays of emotional weakness and sensitivity, which plays off brilliantly against his testosterone-fuelled work environment. A great example is his outburst at Mal, and goes a long way to explain the characters motivations and emotional fragility.
Taron Egerton continues to impress, displaying a palette of emotions as the conflicted Asbo. His loyalties clearly lie with White Watch, which is why it is initially so heartbreaking to see him shunned by the group when he flakes out during the training exercise. Egerton evokes necessary sympathy here and again later, after his tense confrontation with Gog (Sam Gittins). The groundwork is clearly being laid for their showdown and I, for one, cannot wait.
They say nothing bonds like a crisis, as is evident here. Asbo and Mal’s situation brings issues for both characters to the fore, in a series of pivotal and poignant scenes that culminate in one big necessary face-off between Mal and his workmates. Kev taking in Asbo after the Gog confrontation shows the growing depth of paternal feelings Kev can express. Even Trish, in meeting the disabled child she gave up for adoption, is superb and played with a knowing emotional undercurrent.
Jodie Whittaker as Trish develops so much in this episode. Whittaker approaches her character honestly, highlighting her weaknesses and flaws, and ultimately delivers the most earnest performance of all concerned. Trish is a very fragile persona though, and it’s these brave and heartfelt moments that highlight what a shame it is that she’s facing it alone.
Things are clearly building up to a resolution. Gog’s threat to Asbo will no doubt play out soon, given the directness of his threat. The repeated Churchill Estate fire clips, as well as mention of the fires anniversary the following week means the secrets surrounding it should be at the forefront soon enough.
Even the reappearance of Nick (Amit Shah) and Mal highlighting his lies on the night of the Estate fire will no doubt have bearing later on. In an episode as jam packed as this, it would have been easier to shelve certain characters or ‘kitchen-sink’ it, shoving every possible plot-point you could to please the viewer. That it creates such a nice balance of interaction and development and still leaves us wanting more is a real testament to this wonderful series.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 20 March 2014 on Sky1.
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