When Doctor Foster first debuted on BBC One back in 2015 we at The Custard TV were unsure what to make of Mike Bartlett‘s drama. Whilst there was no denying that the series looked fantastic but at times the story was far-fetched as Suranne Jones‘ Gemma Foster discovered her husband Simon’s affair with a younger woman and decided to take revenge. However, as the series progressed, we became entranced with the show thanks to the performances from Jones and Bertie Carvel who bounced off each other perfectly. With Simon’s affair being exposed in the final episode it appeared that Gemma’s story was at an end as the series’ issues had been resolved and she was back to living a quiet life with her son Tom (Tom Taylor). So, we were surprised when the second series was announced as it was uncertain where Bartlett could take the characters, especially after the explosive events of series one.
The answer to this question was given almost instantly as series two’s opening scene saw invitations being cut and sent out to most of the show’s supporting characters. When Tom opens his invite, it’s revealed that it’s from his father announcing that he and his second wife Kate (Jodie Comer) are moving back to Parminster after two years in London. The invitation is soon followed by a text from Simon informing Gemma of his new address in the swanky Acres estate and it’s not long before she’s snooping round his new abode. Simon and Gemma’s first confrontation in two years is brilliantly played by Jones and Carvel as the former questions if his ex-wife has moved on from their separation. It’s clear that he still exudes some sort of power over her as he reveals that he still dreams about her and remembers exactly how she takes her tea. Although this meeting seemingly has her a bit shaken, Gemma vows to move on from Simon and soon agrees to go on a date with dishy patient James (Prasanna Puwanarajah) on the same night as Simon and Kate’s housewarming bash. However, Gemma can’t appear to keep her mind on the man sitting in front of her and when she receives a picture message of Tom and Simon enjoying a glass of champagne together she storms off to The Acres to join the party.
Part of my issue with this episode of Doctor Foster was that I struggled to understand the choices certain characters made and this includes Gemma’s decision to gatecrash Simon and Kate’s party. Whilst I do feel that Gemma is trying to remind all of Simon’s guests about his prior actions I still don’t believe a clever woman like her would make such an odd move. That being said, her arrival at the party creates plenty of brilliant drama from Kate’s barbs towards her rival during her thank you speech and Simon’s second meeting with Gemma in his new master bedroom. During the screening I attended, Suranne Jones described Doctor Foster as having a weird sexy edge and that was definitely the vibe that this second scene between Gemma and Simon had. Carvel and Jones’ chemistry was brilliant once again and her trying to entice him into playing games with her was brilliantly played. But Gemma’s presence at the party has an adverse effect on her relationship with Tom as he feels embarrassed by his tipsy mother gatecrashing the party with her date James who is revealed to be Tom’s teacher.
The final third of the episode was arguably the most intense as Simon reveals his latest scheme to Gemma and how she’s already fallen into his web. He reveals that his intention is to get Gemma to leave Parminster as its an area where both he and Kate have roots whilst she does not. Furthermore, it appears that he’s already won Tom round and convinced him to move to The Acres rather than stay with his mother. This is another decision that I didn’t particularly understand as Tom knows the trauma that Simon put Gemma through and you’d thought that he’d want to stand by his mum at a time like this. Bartlett appears to suggest that Gemma’s embarrassing showing at the party was Tom’s reasoning for moving in with his father but it was a bit hard for me to believe. By the close of the first episode it appeared that Gemma had lost everything and was consoling herself by melting her wedding ring. It also seems that Gemma may well take Simon’s words about him only leaving her life in a coffin quite literally and I did feel like she might try to off him before the series ends.
Doctor Foster is a drama that works best if you don’t think about it too hard and instead enjoy the heightened world in which the show exists. Everything looks fantastic from the clothes the characters wear to the houses which they inhabit with Jeremy Lovering‘s direction highlighting these aspects perfectly. Bartlett paces the story perfectly, punctuating the three pivotal scenes between Gemma and Simon with more light-hearted fare such as our protagonist’s battles with her abrasive new colleague (Sian Brooke). However, it’s the performances that really make Doctor Foster what it is with Jones demonstrating why she won a BAFTA for the first series as she forces us to sympathise with Gemma despite some of her crazier decisions. Carvel is equally fantastic as he combines charm with a side order of sleaze to play the manipulative Simon and when he and Jones are on screen together the chemistry is electric. Jodie Comer, whose star has risen significantly since series one, is also fabulous here and is on scene-stealing form during the aforementioned wedding speech scene.
In my opinion, the opening instalment of Doctor Foster’s second series allays any fears about whether the drama should’ve returned. Simon’s return and his plan to get Gemma to move away both make sense in terms of the story and I’m eager to see what happens next. At the same time, it feels like some of the characters have been altered to suit this new storyline and I’m still struggling to understand Tom’s motivations for abandoning Gemma so quickly. Overall though this was a confident and dramatic return to the world of Doctor Foster which delivered an episode that was utterly enjoyable as long as you didn’t think about it too much.
Doctor Foster continues on BBC One on Tuesday Nights