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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Silk: Our Final Verdict

As Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones prepare to hang up their robes (only one of them made of silk) at the close of another series, it’s time to reflect on what dramatic delights Silk has brought to our TV screens.

Last night was the last in the second series of BBC1’s courtroom drama, Silk. Did it all come to a silky smooth end? Did it heck! As per usual there were more twists and turns than an over excited ballet dancer and personally, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

As expected, the ‘Martha Costello defending Jodie Farr’ thread was the focus of the hour and whilst it began as one might have expected, with Martha showing full, unsullied contempt for one of the biggest drug dealers in the country, the entire case became more and more contorted by the second. At one point, the plot seemed to get just a little bit ‘Legally Blonde’ with the defendant claiming their innocence and the existence of an alibi, but one which cannot be used in court for fear it might ruin their life (although unlike Legally Blonde, Martha did not win her case solely on her knowledge of perm maintenance).

Not that the convoluted plotline is a negative. I mean, very few people (4.2 million in fact) have better things to do at 9pm on a Wednesday evening than use up their entire capacity for concentration on a fictional drugs trial. Having said that, it’s fair to say I also spent a great deal of my evening trying to work out how Martha Costello seemingly spends every night consuming an unbelievable amount of red wine without so much as gaining a single pound. And how CW (Frances Barber) can smuggle what I can only assume is vodka or gin, into the courtroom (in the same manner I did last summer at a music festival, doesn’t everyone?) and continue to swig away at most of it without wincing and/or vomiting. One can only conclude that lawyers and barristers must be equipped with not only a sharp wit and buckets of intelligence, but also a liver made of steel.

I propose that if you want an easy life as a barrister, it probably also helps to have no morals, however Martha Costello seems to suffer from quite the opposite; a trait well recognised by pupil Daniel (Shaun Evans) when he tells Martha, “You’re pathologically incapable of not doing your best for your client. Pleaing mitigation for Adolf Hitler and Martha Costello will give it a hundred percent”.

And Silk has brought us plenty of moral dilemmas this series. Everyone seems to adore Senior Clerk Billy (Neil Stuke) aka the dodgiest man on the planet and yet between the close of last series the start of this one, I was beginning to find both his manner and his morals fairly egocentricbut also irritating. But then Peter Moffat plays the cancer card and the combination of succinct scriptwriting and credible acting ensures that we don’t just see Billy as a ‘bit of a knob’, but actually as a human being, one with emotions and fears just like the rest of us. Job done.

Clive’s given us a run for our licence fee too in this series. Aside from a substantial view of his naked buttocks a few episodes back (thank you BBC!) he’s gone from jealous bad-boy to needy colleague in the space of six episodes, and if I’m honest, I’m quite liking the softer side of Mr Penry-Jones. If Moffat was aiming to paint a picture of the Bar as a place for egotistical, narcissistic, arrogant lawyers, he almost succeeded. Though I confess that in his true quest to depict an accurate view of life both in the courtroom and out, he’s conquered the ability to portray characters as real people, though clearly with the help of some extremely talented actors.

And now for some good news… It looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of our favourite barristers down at the bar (both the one with the wigs and legal papers, and the one with the wine) because reports suggest the BBC has already re-commissioned Silk for a third series. A celebratory drink all round I think.

Now… let’s see if we can’t get poor CW a proper glass instead of that shabby old Evian bottle.

Contributed by Vicki Greenfield Follow Vicki on Twitter

Read a statement from writer Peter Moffat on Series 3
Buy Series 2 on DVD

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