ITV’s Titanic – Episode Three Review – stereotypes make the drama predictable but Jenna-Louise Coleman was a highlight

by Matt D

So far in these reviews of ITV1’s Titanic series, we’ve seen a mediocre first episode and a much improved second part which certainly showed promise to a programme that some had already written off.

I would put this third episode, which deals almost exclusively with the lower classes, somewhere in the middle as overall I found it rather bland. The focus this week was on two relationships that between Jenna-Louise Coleman’s maid Annie Desmond and Italian steward Paolo Sandrini as well as the forbidden love that exists between electrician’s wife Mary Maloney and swarthy Eastern European Peter Lubov. In fact it is Peter’s background that is explored in more detail at the beginning of the episode, as he is a fugitive on the run after, having killed several policemen and he changes his surname to disguise his identity so he can depart Europe. In fact Peter’s escape is one of the only scenes on dry land and again gives Julian Fellowes his excuse to bring in a little more historical context in the form of a cameo from Winston Churchill.

The on-board scenes that we’ve previously been witness to were rushed through here, however we did discover that Mario got his brother a steward’s job after getting one of the original stewards so drunk he wouldn’t be able to make the voyage. This subplot provides this week’s most hilarious line as Paolo worries that his brother has conned the original steward out of a place on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Mario replies ‘he’ll live.’

The scenes between Paolo and Annie are stretched from last week as we see his slacking off work to flirt with her and telling her of his dreams when he makes it to New York. Obviously there is no woman that can resist an Italian without a job or any prospects to speak of and after only one day of knowing him will accept a proposal of marriage. As we know though, the relationship is doomed as this week the flooding of the boat is witnessed and as water seeps through the cabins in steerage, Paolo is rushing to be with his lady love. My theory was that Paolo thought he’d at least be able to get his wicked way if he’d proposed marriage to the prettiest girl on the ship, but at the end of it he didn’t even get a kiss as she floated away on the last life-boat while he drowned trying to save his brother, who was locked in a cabin along with the other Italians.

Meanwhile as we saw last week Peter was making eyes at Mary Maloney while she was dropping things and looking angry but episode three told the full story. So when Peter whispered in Mary’s ear during church he told her don’t be afraid of the strength of your feelings, which when translated seemed to mean ‘please kiss me later on.’ After a discussion in which Mary learnt of his past, she gave him a snog which just happened to be in front of her husband, who in turn gave Peter a right good wallop which he did not return. Peter had not given up his violent ways as he killed of a former member of the Scots Guard who recognised him and wanted to bring him to justice despite the ship going down.

I’m not really sure what to make of Titanic after a very underwhelming third episode, which did nothing to improve on last week’s strong showing. I think that all of the characters featured here were very much stereotypes – the charming Italian, the put-upon maid, the violent yet sensitive European and the tortured Irish housewife. For me the performance of the night came from Jenna-Louise Coleman who played a realist in a parade of individuals who just wanted to find a new life in America and certainly gave Doctor Who fans a chance to assess her worth as the new companion.

The other plus point in tonight’s episode was that we saw the water flooding through the ship, rather than viewing the iceberg like we have done previously and for me the fact that we saw the tragedy through the eyes of those whose cabins were suddenly flooding, gave it a much more personal feeling. The thing I’m still struggling with is the narrative structure as I have now viewed the scene in which Annie removes Muriel Batley’s necklace on three separate occasions and it wasn’t that entertaining the first time around.

I think though the biggest test will be to give some life to the characters who have yet to really receive any kind of backstory, while at the same time finishing off the story by showing us who lives and who dies. So tune in next week when we see how Fellowes finishes off Titanic and to see if Celia Imrie is actually given anything to do other than complain about things.