Saturday, 14 February 2015
Cucumber: Episode 4
"You're actually patting my vagina..."
Wow. What a masterful piece of television. Such a triumph of structure and characterisation from Russell T Davies and such an extraordinary revelation of a performance from Vincent Franklin. Where to begin?
The episode is framed around a number of dates, all of them different, leading to sex, or not, and using these things to examine the human condition. Some are quite straightforward: Lance doesn't end up having sex, firstly because he's with a bottom and secondly because he's with a rather I likeable, laddish closet dweller. Freddie is pursued by a girl with a fetish for men who sleep with other men, something not uncommon. And Dean, being Dean, has a very kinky time, thereby wrecking someone else's relationship.
Most movingly, though, this is about Cleo and, of course, Henry. Cleo is tentatively trying to explore sex with an old friend for the first time since having her vagina reconstructed. She gets a moving monologue about how the births of two children have made her vagina fall apart, and how for years the medical profession has not cared; there's a quietly and rightly angry point here about how little society cares about women's sexual pleasure. Henry, meanwhile, has a nice date with a top but pulls all sorts of tricks to avoid sex. Finally, following a chance meeting with Leigh (AJ from EastEnders) in a fast food place in the small hours, he finally gets to confess his neuroses about sex; it's implied here that his fear of sex is bound up, him being the age he is, with the fear of AIDS which must have so affected his youth. There's a real gap here between Henry's generation and the young people with whom he lives. Rather sweetly, though, it looks as though he's got himself a new boyfriend.
This is an extraordinary episode which really pays off the groundwork leading up to this. I hope the four remaining episodes can somehow match this.