It’s fair to say that 2012 has been an excellent year for ITV drama from early offerings such as Scott and Bailey till the recent autumn season which saw programmes like DCI Banks, Mrs Biggs and A Mother’s Son do very well in the ratings. This week we have one of the final ITV dramas of the year in The Town an interesting drama which combines both a character-led saga with an intriguing central mystery which will play out over the next two weeks. I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible however if you don’t want to know anything about the drama I suggest you read this after you’ve watched the programme.
The Town starts with us seeing the life of Kate and Tony Nicholas, a normal suburban couple, who are getting ready for bed with her chastising their teenage daughter Jodie for using her computer when she should be asleep and checking on her elderly mother Betty. But after this opening scene things get very dark and a shocking incident propels their son Mark, played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, to return to the home town he left ten years previously. When we first meet Mark he appears to be very surly answering the questions given to him by a taxi driver in a monosyllabic fashion and seeming like he doesn’t want to talk to anybody. Mark’s depature caused a friction between he and his family and also separated him from the love of his life Alice and on his return to town he wants to fix both relationships. The problem is that Alice has now moved on with a lovely little daughter and a husband that adores her with Mark not winning her over by standing outside her house when drunk and proclaiming his love. It seems that not everybody has moved on though as the majority of Mark’s old schoolmates still drink in the same dingy pub and party in the same tacky club that he did when he was still at school.
Mark’s sister Jodie also appears to want to distance herself from him essentially blanking him for not spending more time with the family during his ten years away in London. Jodie’s response to Mark’s return is to bunk off from school and mess about however she finds a friend in the process in the form of new boy Harry who is being bullied due to his privileged background. As Jodie and Harry set off on a path of destruction it seems that she’s happy to have someone to confide in however the information she gives to Harry isn’t possibly the wisest thing to say to a potential new romantic interest. Running concurrent to Mark and Jodie’s family trauma is the story of the town’s mayor played with vigour by Martin Clunes cementing his dramatic status after a great performance in A Mother’s Son. Clunes’ Mayor Len is presented a disgrace to his office with a recent piece in the paper picking up on the fact that he recently got into a brawl at one of the town’s pubs while he was drunk. Len’s alcoholism is an issue that his assistant Shireen is losing patience with and at one point she encourages him to step down from his post however an impassioned speech towards the end of the episode may just have won the local community back around.
While it’s easy to talk about the character-driven stories of Mark, Jodie and Len it’s harder to talk about the central conspiracy which may well involve everyone from the Mayor to the Local Police Chief. It is Mark’s quest to get to the truth of what’s happened and there appears to be a lot of people who have information that they’re not divulging with one being town’s apprentice undertaker as well as Douglas Hodge’s Inspector Franks who appears keen to palm Mark off with a myriad of excuses. For me it is this piece of the tale which will make me return for future instalments of The Town as I’d like to see what certain characters are hiding especially those that are keeping their motivations hidden.
In regards the programme as a whole I thought there was definitely enough to sustain an hour’s long ITV drama with three separate plot lines being supported by three brilliant performances. It is hard for me to watch Andrew Scott without picturing Moriarty, which is a problem I had with his appearance in Blackout, however here he at least tries to play a character who is more likeable. Scott portrays Mark’s quest for the truth well however it is his attempts to win back Alice which appeal to me more and I have to say that he and Charlotte Riley make a believable couple. Clunes meanwhile is great as Len as he is able to add some of his comic experience to this role and his speech towards the end of the episode makes you believe that the town would be won around to him leading them once again. For me though the stand-out performance comes from newcomer Avigail Tlalim who as Jodie is completely captivating from almost the first moment she appears on screen. Hers is a role that could’ve easily lapsed into rebellious teen cliché however she is able to express what she is feeling simply with a few looks and Tlalim also expresses the deep pain that Jodie feels with ease.
While on the whole Mike Bartlett’s script does tick along nicely it does suffer from an over-abundance of characters some of whom do little but explain the background of our central protagonists. For instance I personally could’ve done without the comedy head undertaker or the girls from the beauty salon however both appear to recite lines about Mark’s past in the town something I feel that could’ve been done without them being present. Overall though I thought The Town was another successful addition into ITV1’s great year of drama thanks to three captivating central performances and enough plot to sustain the next two upcoming episodes which I’ll definitely be tuning in for.
What did you think of The Town? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Leave Your Comments Below.