Prisoner’s Wives Series Two: Polly Walker and Pippa Haywood shine in the return of this BBC drama series

by Matt D

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When Prisoner’s Wives first debuted in February of last year it got a mixed response to say the least. A lot of people were put off by the name thinking they were getting another Footballer’s Wives so didn’t bother watching in the first place. However there were a select few who really enjoyed the show and stuck up for it when others criticised it. I was on the fence when it came to series one as I felt it was a well-produced drama but was nothing special. Despite the criticisms, Prisoner’s Wives is now back for a second series of four episodes. This series also introduces us to two new characters that appear alongside two familiar faces.

The first of these familiar faces is Polly Walker’s Francesca the wife of a known crime boss who continues to visit her husband in prison. Francesca’s life is turned upside down in this first episode as her house is set on fire and her family is almost killed. It transpires that this attack is part of a turf war between her husband Paul’s associates and a rival gang. Francesca is then tasked with transporting a number of guns to another gang member in order to facilitate a deal. However the deal goes wrong when the man accompanying Francesca is shot and she is forced to sit in the back of a car with a dead man. It is later revealed that Paul was behind the shooting and when Francesca finds out about this she decides not to take his calls. Meanwhile the family move into a new flat which doesn’t seem to suit Francesca’s timid daughter Lauren and her father Frank.

It is Frank’s theories on the fire that interest the police who are intent on locking more of Paul’s criminal associates. One of Paul’s original arresting officers, Nicola Walker’s DCI Fontaine, comes to visit the family intent on finding out more information. However when Francesca discovers her at the flat she sends her packing but Fontaine doesn’t seem to be giving up too easily. Meanwhile Paul instructs his wife to be the face of his new car valeting business which will act as a front for his criminal activities. Francesca will be assisted in this business venture by Paul’s ‘accountant’ Margaret who is played by a very out of character Anne Reid.

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Also returning to HMP High Cross is Pippa Haywood’s Harriet who is continues to dote on her dim-witted incarcerated son Gavin. It appears that both mother and son may be going on a religious quest this series although for very different reasons. It seems that Harriet has developed an interesting relationship with the prison chaplain after attending his Bible Studies classes. However when she tries to make physical advances towards him he brushes her off and tells her that he just wants to be friends. But Harriet doesn’t give up that easily and by the end of the episode she and the chaplain begin to get intimate. Gavin meanwhile wishes to convert to Islam primarily to join in with his Muslim allies. Though Gavin does put in an application to change religions it is turned down as Gavin isn’t thought to be converting for the right reasons. The fact that his request is put on hold means that Gavin won’t be protected by his brothers and faces the threat of several attacks.

The first of the two new characters is Karla Crome’s Aisling whose father Brendan is a regular face at the prison. It is established early that Aisling is no stranger to the institution as she and Francesca are old acquaintances. Indeed Aisling believes that Paul will lead her father astray and tells Francesca that she doesn’t want her father doing any jobs for Paul. The reason for this is that Aisling is getting married in six weeks and wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. It also appears as if her fiancée, and presumably his family, are a lot classier than Aisling and her father. Despite this Aisling clearly loves her father and when he appears drunk on her next visit she chastises him for ruining his chances of getting out on time. There also seems to be a spark between Aisling and Francesca’s son presumably because the two are used to visiting their fathers in prison on a regular basis.

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Our second new character is Sally Carman’s Kim who at the start of the episode is just a normal suburban mother with a loving husband and three young sons. After watching her husband Mick’s junior football team win the league she prepares for the annual party. However at the party things take a turn for the worse as Mick is arrested. It transpires that one of the youngster in Mick’s team, who is also his next door neighbour, has accused him of sexually abusing him. Though Kim knows this is utter rubbish it appears that the courts aren’t convinced and refuse Mick’s bail application. Kim believes that the claim made by the boy’s family is a vendetta against her for complaining about their dog. However when she goes to appeal to their better nature they slam the door in her face. Though Kim is convinced that Mick will be out in no time it seems as if his time in jail won’t be a pleasant one. This is especially after he is attacked by a gang of men led by Gavin who believe him to be a child abuser.

I think one of the problems I had with the last series of Prisoner’s Wives was that the stories dragged from time to time. This was partly due to the fact that they had six episodes to fill so had to expand the four plots as much as they could. Therefore I applaud the fact that this series has been shortened to four instalments as it means that each episode has a faster pace. Though I still find Francesca a little bit of a caricature there’s no denying that Polly Walker adds a certain depth to her gangster’s moll. The scene in which her companion is shot dead shows how much of a fantastic actress she is as we see her be visibly shaken by the incident. I’m also looking forward to what Nicola Walker and Anne Reid can bring to this story and the show as a whole. I’m glad that Pippa Haywood has returned as she is such a versatile actress while I’m also looking forward to her romantic storyline with the chaplain. Though I feel it will all end in tears I’m still captivated by Haywood who gives a standout performance as the mousy God-fearing mother. The ubiquitous Karla Crome also adds something new to the show as the daughter of a prisoner rather than a wife or a mother. Though Aisling’s storyline has had the least time dedicated to it so far I can see trouble in the future as she believes she isn’t good enough for her fiancée. Finally, I did think that Kim’s storyline could seem a little bit clichéd however the way it was played out by Sally Carman and Enzo Cilenti made it feel very realistic.

While I can’t say I was completely gripped throughout this first episode of Prisoner’s Wives it still has given me enough reasons to tune in over the next few weeks. This is mainly due to the four central performances as all of the lead actresses are great in their respective roles. Julie Geary’s script has also set up a number of different storylines that will play out throughout the course of this smaller series. Ultimately it’s great to see a drama that is based around a police investigation or a hospital and for that reason alone Prisoner’s Wives feels fresh. If you didn’t bother with it the first time around I would encourage you to watch tonight’s opening episode and judge the drama purely on quality rather than by its name alone.

What did you think to Prisoner’s Wives? Will you be watching the rest of the series? Leave Your Comments Below.

2 Comments

  1. julie on March 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Love love love it the only thing i have got to watch Neva miss it glad its back x

  2. Barbara Stanbridge on April 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Definitely my fave tv series at the moment. Hope there will be some more soon

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