Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cucumber: Episode 6

"You've taken a wrong turn, but you can turn back."

I hate to simply echo what's being said all over the Internet, but this is one of the finest pieces of television in recent years. It's extraordinary.

We're shown from the framing device at the start that this episode will be different; this time it is Lance, not Henry, in the supermarket. And Russell T Davies gives the game away from the start with a caption: "Lance Edward Armstrong, 1966-2015".

Davies, in a recent interview with the Radio Times, has likened the structure of this episode to Lance's life flashing before his eyes in those last few seconds after the golf club connects. More than half the episode takes place before the start of the series, including Lance's getting together with Henry and the early part of their relationship, from his perspective. But the heart of these early scenes are in Lance's early scenes, his discovery of his sexuality, the difficult coming out and the slow acceptance, Christmas by Christmas, of his father. There is tragedy, too, with the childhood loss of Lance's mother and the loss of a partner to AIDS. All of this rounds Kance as a character and, of course, gets us to emphasise with him so that his death will hurt more. You're a right bastard of a genius, RTD. This episode feels like a punch in the face to a Eurythmics soundtrack.

It's a huge relief that Henry gets to see Lance before he dies, and to finally tell him that he loves him. Lance doesn't take the proffered olive branch, though, and coldly rebuffs him. Instead he goes off on one final, terrible night out.

Daniel gives out warning signs at every moment, as he always has. His behaviour in Canal Street is extremely disturbing yet, as Lance explains to the strange, unreal ghost of Hazel from Queer as Folk, he's handsome enough to be worth it.

These scenes with Hazel, written as a kind of fairy godmother, are the emotional heart of the episode. The fact that she is a ghost adds a note of unreality; RTD has  postulated that, if the whole episode is Lance's life flashing before his eyes, this could be a bit his subconscious has changed. But it's nicely ambiguous, and a nice choice. And dramatically, of course, it's the point of no return.

The final, fateful scenes are in real time, and are masterfully scripted and acted, with Daniel finally acting fully on his suppressed desires, but then lashing out in a fury of denial and gay panic, snuffing out this sweet man whom we have come to know and love. It is sudden, devastating and crafted to hit hard.

And then we have a masterful visual sequence from director Alice Troughton, and tears, and no more Lance. And this is going to leave a huge hole in the world.

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