The Syndicate review: Natalie Gavin and Siobhan Finneran shine in the return of Kay Mellor’s BBC lottery drama

by Matt D


Last year, Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate went on to become one of the most watched dramas of 2012. Indeed a lot of you commented on how you wanted a second series and you’d really grown to love the characters. However when a second series was announced it transpired that it would be an entirely new set of characters that would go on to win the lottery. This series of The Syndicate is set in a Bradford hospital and once again sees five staff members win the lottery. However, just like last time, things don’t run smoothly for the group especially when the ticket goes missing.

The opening scene of The Syndicate sees a number of characters searching high and low for a missing lottery. It transpires that junior nurse Becky bought the ticket from the hospital shop but has since misplaced it. The action then flashes back to the day before when Becky’s mother, and senior nurse, Mandy instructs her to buy the ticket. Becky is uncomfortable buying the ticket in the first place but agrees to as she wants her parents to babysit her young daughter Reah. However it is Mandy’s bingo night so she has to ask her husband Steve to babysit. As the drama continues it seems as if Steve has quite a temper on him and gets angry when he realises Becky hasn’t paid the fees for Reah’s afterschool club. To curb Steve’s temper, Mandy crushes pills she’s stolen from work and puts them in his beer essentially knocking him out. As Mandy wakes Steve up, he agrees to babysit for the night as he feels completely knackered. The fact that Mandy hides these pills in a box in the kitchen means that Reah will probably end up taking them at some point. Meanwhile Becky goes off to a 1980s night at the university bar where she meets Luke, an aspiring rugby player who seems genuinely interested in her. As he goes to leave, Becky writes her number on a piece of paper not realising that she’s just given away the lottery ticket.

The Syndicate 1

Mandy is later informed of the lottery win by former syndicate member Helen whose numbers are still used by the group. When Becky is unable to find the ticket anywhere she presumes that she left it at the shop however it is nowhere to be seen. Shop owner Frieda later informs the syndicate that Luke technically could now claim the money as Becky didn’t sign the back of the ticket. As the syndicate head up to the rugby ground they discover that there is no Luke playing for the team. However just as they are about to leave Becky spots Luke serving at the rugby club’s café. After denying he kept her number he finally reveals that he kept the lottery ticket meaning that Becky and her friends are now millionaires. In a nice little nod to the last series of The Syndicate, Lorraine Bruce’s Denise turns up as she is now working as a representative for the lottery. Meanwhile Helen believes she should have a cut of the winnings but is denied this by the rest of the syndicate.

As with the last series of The Syndicate, each episode will seemingly focus on one character at a time. The primary focus this time was on Becky a young woman in her early 20s who really wanted to enjoy her life. However this couldn’t happen as she now had a daughter to care for and therefore had more responsibilities than she could handle. Becky’s mum Mandy also featured a lot in this episode as a put-upon mother and wife who did everything for her family. As we saw her husband Steve getting violent a number of times it wouldn’t surprise me if she left him by the end of the series. The other three members of the syndicate are fellow nurse Tom, hospital cleaner Rose and jovial porter Alan all of whom have their own worries. Tom’s issues stem from the fact he and his wife can’t have a baby together. As we learn they’ve previously been through IVF treatment and are currently looking into adopting. Rose is having issues with her knees and has been told to lose weight by the doctors. However it appears that losing weight isn’t that easy for Rose as she is constantly tucking into chocolates left by deceased patients. Meanwhile Alan is a recovering alcoholic who also grows cannabis in his loft. Alan is seemingly on the wagon until he starts downing the champagne to celebrate the lottery win. Obviously all of these issues will be heightened know that these characters have won the lottery.

I personally found the first series of The Syndicate to be a decent enough lightweight drama with some well-drawn characters. This second run appears to deliver more of the same and once again gives us the message that money won’t necessarily make you happy. To me the biggest difference is that this series of The Syndicate has a much stronger cast all of whom play their parts excellently. Natalie Gavin was the star of this first episode as she was able to portray Becky as a likeable girl who’d grown up far too soon. Also the fabulous Siobhan Finneran was on form here as the mousy Mandy whose job appeared to be keeping everybody happy. Finneran really made me feel for Mandy as Steve attempted to beat her up when he thought she was going to leave him. We are yet to see much from Alison Steadman, Mark Addy and Jimi Mistry though they all showed promise in their brief appearances. The supporting cast was also well-rounded with Sally Rogers suitably belligerent as the bitter Helen while Steven Waddington was surprisingly sinister as the unstable Steve.

At the end of the day you know exactly what you’re going to get from The Syndicate but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Once again Kay Mellor is able to give us five intriguing characters all of whom think they’ll be better off with a bit of money. Mellor skilfully balances the moments of light and shade in her script meaning that a lot of the story feels fairly realistic. While I was never blown away by The Syndicate I was still never bored and the hour running time passed quite swiftly. Ultimately I think that this series of The Syndicate will be more successful than its predecessor due to a tighter script and better performances. I also believe that people will like these characters just as much as those in the first series and will be willing to follow them over the next five weeks.

What did you think to the opening episode of The Syndicate? What do you think to the new characters? Leave Your Comments Below.

1 Comment

  1. JoKimblin on March 23, 2013 at 10:54 am

    KMellor-nothing worth watching since GOLD—-DIRE overacting/storyline

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