The Town Episode Two review: ITV’s drama continues to impress with its conspiracy theory plotline and realistic characters

by Matt D

I love it when a TV drama divides opinion as it shows that not everybody shares the same view and that was certainly the case with ITV1’s latest offering The Town which kicked off last Wednesday. Some of you praised the programme, in particular Andrew Scott’s performance as the troubled Mark Nicholas, describing him as a gem of an actor and the first episode of the drama as promising. However others had differing views saying The Town was a stereotypical ITV programming and that TV programming needed more inventive writing. I definitely think that the writing improves in this second episode as we discover more about the secrets that Mark’s parents Kate and Tony were hiding before they supposedly both committed suicide.

At the end of last week’s episode we saw Mark decide to stay in Renton to look after his sister Jodie and grandmother Betty and this week he gets a job working in the same department of the council as his mother did. Mark is then horrified to discover that his mother’s personal belongings have been thrown away however this isn’t the case as one of her co-workers squirreled away the box as they featured photos revealing Kate’s affair with the married Police Inspector Franks. When Martin Clunes’ mayor Len discovers this he tells his deputy Shireen to destroy the pictures however her conscience gets the better of her and gives the box to Mark revealing the affair once and for all. As Mark has already been suspicious of the investigation the revelation of his mother’s long term relationship with the inspector tipped him over the edge and he took his conspiracy theories straight to Franks’ door who tells him that there was no cover up. This statement though is also bought into question when Franks disappears following this altercation with Mark and Mark is then later arrested under suspicion of doing something to the inspector.

The revelation of the affair also has a negative effect on Jodie, portrayed by the excellent Avigail Tlalim, who discovers that her parents only stayed together when Kate became pregnant with her. When her boyfriend Harry invites her to a party she acts out attempting to sleep with him however when he tells her that it isn’t the right time she falls into the arms of a neighbourhood bad boy. Mark himself is also starting a dangerous relationship when he reconnects with his married ex-girlfriend Alice as the two share a quiet drink together. As it is evident that their feelings are still strong for one another they both embark on a night of passion together however this is bound to end badly thanks to Alice’s suspicious husband. Finally the under-utilised Julia McKenzie also gets her own storyline this week as Betty rejoins the workforce in order to contribute to her family’s income. She eventually finds work at a hotel with help from Daniel, the young undertaker from last week; however she wonders why he is so eager to help her out. Betty later realises that Daniel is wearing the watch that once belonged to her late son-in-law and therefore marks Daniel out as another potential suspect in the murder.

The beauty of The Town is that it provides multiple storylines to show both how the death of Mark and Kate has affected their family and also provides multiple reasons why their death may not have been a double suicide. This week’s episode successfully built up two suspects as both Inspector Franks and Daniel are presented as characters with possible motives due to the discovery of the affair and the watch respectively. I do like the fact that writer Mark Bartlett has presented Renton as a town that protects their own and as Mark rightfully notes the town is a place where everything is carried out under cloak and dagger. After being presented as a comical drunken figure last week Martin Clunes’ Mayor Len reveals a more sinister side to his character after her relieves Mark of his duties at the council following his altercation with Franks. I think Clunes is great in this role as someone who is very protective of his town to the extent that he’d cover up a murder to make it appear as ordinary as possible.

Though the conspiracy element pushes the action along the really special moments in The Town are those that explore the humanistic aspects of the characters. So while Mark’s investigation into his parents’ death continues I was much more interested in how his relationship with Alice would pan out especially seeing as she’s married. The scene the pair share in the pub where he encourages her to continue with her singing, a passion that she gave up once she became a mother, was tenderly played and written. Similarly Jodie’s story is utterly compelling because, as we learnt last week, she is already a damaged child when she discovered she was an accident she completely went off the rails. Avigail Tlalim has such an expressive face that we feel for her when she overhears the conversation between Betty and Mark about the affair and why her parents stayed together. If there was any question that the story about the family unit was more compelling the final scene, in which the trio come together to scatter Tony and Kate’s ashes, was utterly moving and something you don’t see in a lot of conspiracy dramas.

While I still don’t think that The Town is completely perfect, I still personally don’t see the point of the two girls who work in the florist shop, I think this week I identified with the characters more thanks to both the performers and Bartlett’s script. But as always I am more interested to see if those who didn’t like the show last week have come around or those who thought it showed promise last week have gone off it.

So are you still enjoying The Town? Do you think it is one of the more compelling dramas of the year? Leave Your Comments Below.