Southcliffe – All Souls – Series 1, episode 4
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 4, series 1 of ‘Southcliffe’
I’ve trudged through this bog of despair searching for closure and answers. Tonight was the final episode of Southcliffe and instead of a conclusion I found myself wading further and further into this murky swamp of gloom.
All Souls picked up the story a year on from the shootings. Journalist David Whitehead (Rory Kinnear) returned to the town after he was sent a disturbing letter promising more violence. Claire Salter (Shirley Henderson) and her husband Andrew (Eddie Marsan) were still struggling to cope with the death of her daughter. Equally, ex-squaddie Chris Cooper (Joe Dempsie) was falling to pieces.
Tonight the story really started to unfurl and develop. There was human trafficking and a moment of domestic violence. I wanted to see more but none of it went anywhere, much like Claire’s failed rescue attempt. It was all just another dose of misery: from Claire piercing her nipple using a safety pin to Chris trying to kill himself.
From the outset Southcliffe promised gripping drama and I’ve been watching from the edge of my seat to see how things develop but they never do. This series needed at least another four episodes to really explore the characters.
Added to this were the huge chunks that viewers had to fill in themselves. While some drama series challenge the viewer by offering clues and letting the audience fill in a few gaps, Southcliffe takes things too far. It is incomprehensible. The audience was essentially given a series of loosely connected vignettes and told to figure it out from that.
Watching Southcliffe has been like trying to put together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle except that most of the pieces are missing, apart from the corners, the edges and a couple in the middle. To add insult to injury, some cretin has walked off with the box so I don’t have a clue what the final picture is supposed to look like.
Then there is the misery TV element of it. I thought I was getting a handle on this new genre but on reaching the end of Southcliffe I’m just as miffed as before. Are our own lives so terrible that we need to watch other human beings suffer in such abject misery? It would seem so.
Clearly EastEnders just isn’t hitting the spot like it used to. Now we need our misery to be highbrow, shot artistically in HD to catch every tear glisten as it slides down a cheek. We have to make sure that every excruciating moment is captured and that the characters are placed in the most horrific situations imaginable. We need the finest crop of British actors involved to make us believe it and really feel their ‘pain’. To top off it, there has to be a grey filter to wash away any hint of warmth. This is misery TV. We don’t do smiles.
It would be far easier to install HD CCTV cameras in care homes and prisons. Why not live stream it as well? None of that Panorama hidden camera rubbish. Watch Mrs Jones being starved while a carer wolfs down her lunch. Or see prisoner X get attacked with a shiv by a gang of fellow inmates after the lights go out – on night vision!
I find the whole concept of misery TV rather depraved. It’s a horrendous viewing experience. This is not entertainment. This is not thought-provoking. I have learned nothing new. By the end of Southcliffe I have a hollowed-out feeling. Any cheer or joy has been sucked out of me. If this was the mission statement then Southcliffe you have left me broken.
There is no denying that the performances have been spot on with Sean Harris as the deranged shooter and Shirley Henderson and Eddie Marsan as the grieving couple. While Rory Kinnear is great as the emotionally scarred hack coming to terms with Southcliffe tragedies past and present.
I appreciate the magnificent performances, the beautiful aesthetics and the topical plot but it’s too bleak for my liking. With 24-hour rolling news tragedies only a flick of a channel away, watching misery TV is simply crass and gratuitous.Tagged in: Eddie Marsan, Hungerford, joe dempsie, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Shirley Henderson, shooting, skins, Southcliffe
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