Rupert Penry-Jones is a very interesting actor who is able to add personality to characters who may come off as very one-dimensional and that is more than evident in his performance as Clive Reader in Silk. Initially Clive was presented as an upper-class toff who had had everything handed to him and somebody who’d lie to his best friend if he thought he’d gain something from it, however over the course of the series we learnt of his anxieties and fears mainly thanks to the actor who played him.
In this series we’ve already seen his jealousy over Martha getting silk over him, so much so that to combat his inferiority complex he went out and bought a motorbike as we saw at the end of the last episode he is going to apply to become a QC once again. It was also insinuated at the start of this episode that the reason Clive didn’t get silk last series was because Billy informed the panel that Clive had been sleeping with his pupil Niamh something that is a big no-no in the legal world. You get the impression that Billy wanted to keep Clive on as a barrister partly to put him in his place and partly because he wanted Martha to be the only to get silk. Billy wasn’t also best please last week when it was revealed that Clive would be prosecuting at his old Oxford college, as up to this point he has been put on the side of the defence, something that he wanted to keep from his new love interest George Duggan.
Yes that’s something else that we know about Clive that he can’t resist the ladies sleeping with both Martha and student Niamh last series he has finally won over the beautiful solicitor George however it seems that she is taking the lead in their relationship. After some fairly steamy scenes in the pub toilets Clive had to enlist junior clerk Jake to bring him a jacket after he somehow managed to rip both his shirt buttons and his trouser zip. Realising that Billy would be furious with his legal liaison he tries to ensure Jake’s silence, in one of the episode’s funniest scenes, however the head clerk isn’t easily fooled and finds out about Clive’s sessions with George. This doesn’t stop him shacking up with her again when she tracks him down at Oxford again Penry-Jones puts across that this man doesn’t really know how to fully be in control. Though Clive is more sympathetic this series he still sometimes can come across as a bit of a jerk like when he gets the CPS solicitor to leave so he can be alone with George this is only for Martha to come along and almost spoil his fun. Clive and Martha’s relationship is an interesting one and we are still meant to think that she’s in love with him and he trusts her more than anyone else but only in a work situation.
Clive’s case at Oxford involves him prosecuting three young students whose initiation to a prestigious society involved them being part of a plan to trash a restaurant before they were left behind to sexually assault the waitress by removing her pants to keep them as a trophy. Clive again comes across as sympathetic in his defence of waitress Izzy however again we’re not sure how much of a selfless act this is as we saw last week prosecution was recommended to him as a way of geting silk from Caroline Warwick. From the get-go Clive is up against three seperate QCs representing the lads who are always there to put him down and provoke him which is fairly easy to do. I feel that the character of Clive sometimes feels inferior to those around him as he views them as smarter than him despite him going to one of the country’s finest academic institutions he still struggles sometimes with his common sense. We see this through a very bad decision he makes in this episode which could see him not only lose his silk application but also be disbarred.
Though this is Clive’s episode we of course see Martha in court once again up against Caroline Warwick in the case of a violent young man who smashed up a shop causing distress to both the owner and his 12 year old daughter. As always Martha tries to get to the bottom of why her client does what he does however his unresponsive nature doesn’t make this too easy. In fact I feel Martha’s case is the weaker story this week with more emphasis placed on Clive she’s reduced to sparring with Caroline with Maxine Peake and Frances Barber working off each other brilliantly it’s just a shame the latter doesn’t get more screen time. I do hope that Caroline does get the job at chambers however it seems that she struggles to win over both Martha and head of chambers Alan Cowdrey who here is the judge in the trial. One of the positive aspects of Martha’s trial is that we get to see more a little bit more of junior clerk Bethany who assists her on the trial when no students are available it seemed so far that she would have little to do other than be flirted at by Jake but there’s more hope for her now after this. Of course Neil Stuke is excellent once again using seemingly unrelated speeches to motivate his staff to get what he wants and using the terms sir and miss to show he respects his colleagues but at the same time is occasionally able to use them to bring more work in for chambers.
Silk isn’t a perfect show and at times some of the scenes do stretch credibility, especially some involving Clive’s decision-making ability, however overall it is one of the best dramas on television. It’s slick production values remind me of an American legal drama however its obsession with class and its exterior locations make it seem very British at the same time. Peter Moffat’s scripts always flow neatly and I always find myself caught up in the trials and this week showed he could easily intercut the two without either losing any dramatic credibility. Of course all the cast are great and I’ve already sung the praises of Barber, Stuke and Peake with one of the only negative things about this week’s episode being that Phil Davis’ Micky Joy wasn’t on hand. But I don’t think Penry-Jones gets enough credit for playing Clive however after this episode and the character’s subsequent fight to keep his job in the upcoming weeks I think viewers will start to see him in a new light.
Are you enjoying Silk so far? What do you think of tonight’s episode? Leave Your Comments Below.
Silk continues tonight, 9PM, BBC One