The one year anniversary of the Churchill Estate fire was always going to be an episode that was packed with drama: revelations being made, secrets being exposed and people dealing with the consequences. However, in what is easily the best episode of The Smoke yet, even I was unprepared for how affecting it would be.
It is an episode of necessary moments, that all build to help the storylines and characters progress. The ‘Pauline’ visions are brilliant in their simplicity, and Gary Lewis’ cameo as Asbo’s ex-jailbird father is excellent, providing the acting gravitas needed to further propel the Asbo/Kev scenes. Even the Nina the Cleaner storyline provided some welcome development for Dorian Lough’s Billy.
Also evident is a confident mixing of the characters with Trish (Jodie Whittaker) and Asbo sharing screentime, as well as Mal and Little Al (Gerard Kearns) developing further. Kearns is also given his best development since the cage-fighting episode as we see his life developed with son Liam, ex Tina and his friendships with his White Watch colleagues, particularly Mal.
Of course, the biggest development is that Kev and Trish now know of Asbo’s involvement in the Churchill Estate fire. Taron Egerton has been a stand out performer since this series started and his performance here only highlights that further. It’s genuinely heart-breaking, particularly when he states that he wishes he had the guts to kill himself, echoing Kev’s feelings from earlier in the series.
Jamie Bamber once again proves his emotional dexterity during a conversation with the mother of the baby who died in the fire. This poignant scene in particular goes a long way to explain his isolation and internalised grief, as well as progressing the storyline and catapulting us into that long awaited confrontation.
The scenes with him and Egerton are electric, played with such raw emotion that you can’t help but feel for all concerned. That this confrontation also leads to a moment of honesty between Mal and Kev is welcome, as is his hopeful moment with Trish at the end of the episode.
Director Julian Holmes, who also oversaw last week’s waterlogged episode, continues his lovely work here, making full use of the firehouse sets. The Smoke has always had a cinematic style and this is continued here with some lovely camerawork and dramatic editing. There is also a nice line in humour in this episode, including a hilarious advert for criminal injuries and a raucous hen party. The episode crams a lot in, but in no way feels gratuitous or padded out, focusing on all the right stuff.
So, the secret is out, but where does White Watch go from here? The first five weeks have been building up to this episode. Hopefully the remaining two episodes will deal with the aftermath in as dramatic a fashion as we have come to expect from The Smoke.
It won’t be long before the rest of White Watch find out about Asbo’s involvement and Kev finds a way to confront Gog, and those events will hopefully leave us wanting the second series that The Smoke really deserves.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 27 March 2014 on Sky1.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…