With the characters and their respective storylines established in the opening two episodes, the story of Hazelwood Manor and its staff focuses attention mainly on one character this week.
We learn more about Sean’s past and why he was so keen to avoid the publicity over the group’s lottery win.
Richard Rankin is given a lot to do here and the use of flashbacks throughout really helps to add some depth to Sean’s story, making it really compelling as we find out the motivations behind his secrets and lies. That he was a young police officer, struck off from the force and placed on the sex offenders’ register after sleeping with a 15 year old, is a compelling story, with themes that relate to the Amy’s disappearance, making for revelatory confessions.
Rankin is genuinely brilliant here, as the tortured and conflicted Sean. However, whilst the story is tied up just a little too neatly by the episode’s end, it does give the blossoming romance between Sean and Sarah (Cara Theobald) some much needed push and exposure. Rankin and Theobald have a lovely warm chemistry and it’s a coupling you really root for.
However, there is drama everywhere else. With Amy now missing for four days, the Stevensons have had national press at their door, held a UK wide televised appeal, all the while still canvassing with ‘Missing’ posters on their doorstep. It heightens the drama with a sense of scale, but at its heart is a broken family who just want their daughter back safe and sound. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
“Do you think she’s alive?” one of Amy’s parents asks the police. “We’ve got no reason to think otherwise” the policewoman reassures them.
The actors involved do a sterling job here, particularly the consistently good Elizabeth Berrington and Polly Walker as DI Baker. Kay Mellor writes incredibly real and rich characters and this episode really showcases that, coupled with some beautifully artistic direction from Dominic Leclerc (Emmerdale, Coronation Street).
The tension continues upstairs too, as the tightly wound Lady Rachel (Alice Krige) begins to buckle with her grand plans unravelling around her as her deceit makes her husband suspicious and the lottery win makes the staff bolder towards her. Krige plays Lady Hazelwood with just enough aggressive repression and it makes her so watchable.
This season of The Syndicate continues with all the successful elements of any Kay Mellor story: accessible and understandable characters, human interest stories and poignant moments of humour within the drama.
At this halfway mark in the run, The Syndicate is definitely onto a winner.
Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 16 June 2015 on BBC One.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…