Waterloo Road Series 8 Episode 1: The school moves to Scotland but the storylines remain the same

by Matt D

Towards the end of the first episode in the eighth series of the school drama Deputy Head Tom Clarkson turns to head Michael Byrne and says ‘this really is Waterloo Road.’ That’s because despite a move to Scotland the stories are very much the same a troubled new student, bullying issues, teachers who really shouldn’t be teaching and Grantly Budgen spouting witty one-liners. As anybody who saw the last series knows the original Waterloo Road in Rochdale was shut down however thanks to Michael’s former pupil Lorraine being a multi-millionaire she agreed to fund a new school for him and any staff or students that wanted to join. The location she eventually found was in Greenock, Scotland but the majority of the staff decided to up sticks and move as did the students however most of them had very few family commitments back in Rochdale. The last series also finished on a cliff-hanger as the students and staff were hit by a truck while all posing for a photo without us knowing who lived and who died so if you don’t know what happened after this look away now.

We start our first episode with a rather arty nightmare vision of the accident seen through the consciousness of Tariq Siddiqui who survived though as we learn early on is trying to survive in a wheelchair. Tariq’s failure to cope with his disability makes up a small portion of this episode though Josh, who now seems to have got his psychiatric problems under control, tries to show him that his life isn’t over but he is yet to be convinced. Tariq is at least alive which is more than can be said for poor old Denzil Kelley a character who hadn’t done much since his sister died so the writers obviously thought there was little reason not to sacrifice him for this story.

As for the rest of the pupils they’re now living in a school house run by former dinnerlady Maggie and her husband-to-be Grantly the latter of whom is currently living in his idea of hell sharing a house with a bunch of teenagers. Scout is having problems of her own as she is the target of the bullying Rhiannon, a character who has moved from Rochdale but one we’ve never seen before, there’s obviously a reason that this new girl has so much hatred towards her but for now this plot has been put on the back-burner. Other returns include Phoenix and Harley Taylor as well as the majority of the staff room where it seems that Janeece has finally fallen for Chalky’s charms as the two go on a date towards the end of the episode. New editions to the staff room come in the form of Georgie Glen’s formidable history teacher Audrey McFall and Laurie Brett’s alcoholic English teacher Christine Mulgrew whose son Connor is also a new edition to the autumn intake.

Aside from the opening of the school though this week’s big story is the introduction of Jade Fleming and Drew Kelly a couple of runaways who pose as brother and sister in order to be enrolled in the school. It is clear from the outset that Drew has a strangle hold on Jade who fears leaving him as he’s very mentally unstable and she tells him that he needs to control himself. Drew gets increasingly paranoid as he feels that various members of staff are trying to steal Jade away from him however as the staff learn later they were lucky that they hadn’t intervened more. As Michael tries to help Jade, as he did the Taylor brothers in his very first episode, he discovers several shocking truths however at the end of the day he and Tom are able to sort things out while Lorraine learns to butt out of situations after being the one to champion Drew in the first place. It seems though that Michael will have other issues this series namely a feud with Havelock High headmaster Gerard Finlay as well as family issues that were bought up briefly here.

Though the views are nicer than they were in Rochdale not a lot seems to have changed in the writing or characterisation as far as Waterloo Road is concerned. I felt like I’d seen the Drew and Jade storyline done several different ways on the show before as children struggle to cope with adult situations on their own before the teachers of Waterloo Road intervene while none of the subplots really got a look-in. The pay-off though is that one of these characters is staying on for the rest of the series and this episode seems to have set up a problem that they will have to deal with however it is again one that this programme has had to deal with before. Having said that I’m enjoying it more than the majority of the last season which was set around the unconvincing gang wars storyline where Britain’s Got Talent winner George Sampson played the leader of his own crew. Laurie Brett, best known as Jane Beale in Eastenders, is a welcome addition to the cast as she is convincing as the alcoholic single-mother whose relationship with her son seems constantly strained while I’m guessing it’ll take a few weeks for the rest of the staff to wise up to what she’s really drinking in those coffee cups. As well as Christine’s story this opener set up stories for the next nine weeks namely Tariq’s struggle with his disability, Michael’s feud with Finlay, Rhiannon’s bullying of Scout, Maggie and Grantly’s impending wedding and the relationship between Chalky and Janeece which will obviously end on a sour note due to actress Chelsee Healey quitting the show halfway through this run.

Though some may criticise Waterloo Road for me it’s mainstream drama done well and seems able to combine larger and smaller issues with ease because I certainly didn’t lose interest once within the hour. While I’m not sold as much on the current crop of students as I have been in previous years there’s enough promise in the new cast members that they’ll improve as they go on while both of the debuting teachers got off to a fine start. So despite the change in location there’s very little difference this term than there was last term so ultimately I do agree with Tom this is definitely Waterloo Road and I for one am glad of that.

Related:

10 Comments

  1. Rushas on August 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Sorry, but the whole premise of this move is ridiculous. So they’re all going to follow the Scottish curriculum? I don’t watch the programme and this certainly doesn’t encourage me to do so. DAFT.

  2. Lauren on August 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Hii i love water loo road and im really excited to watch t again, i really want 2 thank the perosnwho made it up yor the best!!!!
    i love WATERLOO ROAD, have to be their bigest fan

  3. Darren on August 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Rushas – Why comment if you don’t watch the programme? Indeed why waste your time reading the above article and then posting a negative response to it? You’re probably one of those saddos who likes to p*ss on everyone’s enjoyment and I’m willing to bet you’ve got a face like a boiled sh*te as well.

  4. Maureen on August 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Absolutely unbelievable!!! The original series storylines were ridiculous enough (anyone involved in the production EVER worked in education???)but this latest one where the whole school and the majority of its pupils move up to Scotland (who have a different education system to England anyway) is just beyond the pale. These kids turn up to “enrol” – where are the parents, what about the transfer of data from their previous school?? really just too ridiculous this programme – take a reality check please – it just wouldn’t happen !!!!!!

  5. John on August 23, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Cracking review! Didn’t see last series & completely mystified by start of this one but thanks to Matt’s great work we now know why we are in an old house in Scotland, why Denzil’s dead and why Jane from Eastenders is there, alive.

  6. James on August 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I thought that the old waterloo road episodes were great, but this series just dosen’t feel like the same show anymore. Too much has changed compared to the old series. I do admit its similar story lines but it feels like they are been told by a different show. When I used to see the next time trailer I just couldn’t wait until the following wednesday, however tonight I just wasn’t too bothered. The episode was OK and maybe the best is still to come but so far… I’m not too happy

  7. Matt D on August 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment I got the impression that most of the kids who made the trip from Rochdale were living in care or had parents that didn’t want them hence them moving to Scotland made the most sense (with the exception of Tariq as I don’t believe his parents would’ve made him move away following his accident).
    In terms of the curriculum it seems that they have chosen what they are going to teach and while I’m not sure exactly how that works in terms of exam boards at the end of the day it’s just a TV show and maybe we shouldn’t analyse it all that hard.

  8. Ed on August 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I too have little understanding of the English or Scottish curriculums, however maybe as the school is privately funded the government have less control over content taught and have to relinquish control?

  9. Teri on August 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Have the script writers never heard of Child Protection? This is utter nonsense – teachers would never behave in the way they do on WR – they would be before a disciplinary instantly for the way they behave!!!

  10. maya on August 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    i much prefered the old series as the gangs added a ton of drama!! so far the plot has been quite gripping but like other people commented you would never have teachers doing the things they do!! i dont think i will be as gripped with this series as so far i hardly understand anything!!! but this page has helped alot!!!!
    Thank you xxxxx

Comments are closed.