Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Cucumber: Episode 7
"I thought we'd seen the last of this- funerals at too young an age."
After last episode's extraordinary demonstration of Russell T Davies' genius, we get another example of what a master of structure and storytelling he is. It feels as though Cucumber ascended to another level last week and is staying there. Cucumber is not only bloody good telly, it's I, Clavdivs good. Edge of Darkness good. Absolutely superlative stuff.
No supermarket framing sequence this week,it's straight to Lance's funeral. Once again a group of gay men of a certain age are mourning one of their own, as in days of old, but this time there's real anger, especially as Daniel Coltrane is using that tired old "gay panic" defence; Cliff appears to be quite sincere as he offers to kill him. But this is all wearily familiar territory for these Middle Ages men, who have grown up with the spectre of both premature death and homophobic violence. The contrast between this generation and the casually on bisexual generation of Freddie and co is both a big theme of the series and hugely perturbing for Henry. Vincent Franklin is incredible here.
This being RTD, the heavy stuff is leavened by a bit of fun with cock hairs. But this is followed by a harrowing scene of Henry crying, in the gents, too proud and repressed to do it anywhere else. This says an awful lot about him as a character. Earlier in the series he seemed an abrasive and brave choice for a main protagonist, but by now he just seems nuanced, fascinating, not a tragic hero in a plot structural sense but certainly of that lineage. Again, RTD and Vincent Franklin deserve all the plaudits in the world.
Freddie gets further development here, coming to resent, and feel trapped by, Henry's dependence on him, in large part because he was the one who happened to be there during that phone call. He's shallow, perhaps, but shallow people, at least when written by RTD, can be interesting and have hinterland.
Perhaps the most upsetting scene, though, takes place afterwards between Henry and Marie, and their huge falling-out on what happens with the house; Henry was not married to Lance, and only has half the rights to it. Worse, she now has possession of all the savings from the joint account that Lance took. There's a subtle homophobia to all her actions and attitudes here. And their dinner descends into deep acrimony with Henry screaming insistently that Lance's death was not his fault. It wasn't, of course- it was Daniel Coltrane's alone- but the cruel unspoken accusation that Henry was somehow responsible hangs horribly over everything.
The scene between Henry, Freddy's and Dean in the car is extraordinary; such a long scene in such a confined space would seem to be more theatrical than televisual, but it works, and is a necessary way of getting Henry to discuss his hang-ups over sex, and how Lance was so good that he put up with no penetration for nine years. The narrative needed this catharsis and, as akways, RTD leavens the harrowing stuff with humour as the three men bond as Freddy discusses the respective sexual plumbing systems of women and men.
We end, as with much of this episode, in a scene of legal brutality; Henry, Freddy et Al are all evicted from their flat, which was only ever an outrageous legal con to steal their stuff. But Henry, his mid-life crisis at its peak, invites all of the newly homeless twentysomethings to his house, much to Marie's outrage. This is the best telly, with the best written parts, that I've seen in years.