Monday sees the return of our favourite legal drama. Yes, Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones, Neil Stuke and Frances Barber don their wigs for the third series of Silk. We’ve been fans of Peter Moffat’s superb series since day one and the wait for this third series has been far too long.
Believe it or not Series 2 finished in 2012 just before we were swept up in Olympic madness, but ever since that final episode we’ve been checking listings to find out when the third will arrive. Whenever there’s been such a long gap between series we worry that we’ll find it hard to slot back in where we left off, but we’re happy to report this is not the case with the fast paced opener. We are thrust straight back into the into the courtroom as if we’ve never been away. It feels a bit like I’m stating the obvious, but Maxine Peake is wonderful as passionate barrister Martha Costello and within seconds of this first episode we’re reminded just how good Peake is.
One of the biggest surprises of the last series saw Senior Clerk Billy Lamb discover he had prostate cancer. At a recent press event for the BBC, Neil Stuke, who now works for Prostate Cancer UK ,told journalists that viewers will follow Billy’s treatment throughout this third series. Stuke also revealed that he had yet to have himself checked out. “We made a promise on live television with Matthew Wright of the Wright Stuff that we’d go and get checked out together, so I’m waiting for him really. Because Billy is so macho, I think Peter (writer Peter Moffat) liked the idea of him having his manliness taken away. The operation he undergoes is basically modern day castration and they put hormones into you that make you more feminine. He opens up to Martha but he keeps everything very close to his chest.”
This third series also sees the introduction of Miranda Raison as practice manager Harriet Hammond, who is brought in to oversee Senior clerk Billy. Stuke says “it’s a very complicated relationship that we have. It’s old and new rubbing against one another. It’s a really clever dynamic.” Another newcomer to the chambers is 21 year old Amy Lang played by Jessica Henwick. Jessica describes her character as “ballsy” and says that she is thrown in at the deep end. “She’s a really strong female character. This show has no weak female characters. I see Amy as sort of half way between Martha and Clive in terms of the way she looks at the bushiness and her moral integrity“. Rupert Penry-Jones, who returns as newly appointed Silk Clive Reader, says “Amy becomes a pawn in the politics of the chambers because she basically is the swing-vote. Penry-Jones also said that this series focuses heavily on what sort of chambers they want be and with everyone wanting Amy’s attention it soon “gets messy.” As for joining an established cast, Jessica said the they were all very welcoming.
We don’t want to give away too much about the episode itself but it centres around Martha defending a man charged with murdering a policeman when a protest turns violent. What makes Silk such a joy is the perfect mix of top notch writing backed up by believable and steady performances. The opening scene which sees Clive celebrate getting Silk is the perfect example of this. It’s not a spoiler to say that Clive and Martha share a surprisingly passionate kiss and that Martha dances to The Clash but it’s a strong scene that sets the tone brilliantly.
The episode shines the light on Martha Costello more so than the newcomers or even Clive but the balance between courtroom drama, chambers arguments and personal interactions makes for a quick and engrossing hour. If you’re an unfortunate soul who hasn’t seen the two previous series you may struggle to understand the relationships between the key characters and how the chambers works, but that’s something you could pick up, and I’m convinced you’ll find yourself immersed in the drama.
If I were to try and pick fault, a minor complaint would be that you don’t see enough of the wonderful Frances Barber. Barber’s battle with alcoholism was a strong story in series 2 but we no sign of it at least in this opening episode.
Whenever a UK drama reaches a third series I start to worry that it could be ending. As for whether we can expect a fourth trip to chambers, Penry-Jones admitted that the cast aren’t sure. “It’s a courtroom drama so it could go on and on but it feels like everyone gets blasted off in different directions at the end of this series. It’s almost like Peter’s thrown a grenade in and blown everything up, so we’re not sure. It’s going to depend on how people react to the series”. Penry-Jones also had high praise for the success of services like Netflix. “I think it’s brilliant that they can put a show on and not really have to worry about viewing figures. If there’s a way of that happening in this country it would be so exciting.”
Whatever may happen, and judging solely from this first episode, the wait has been worth it and everything I found so engrossing about the previous two series is still on display here, whilst managing to feel fresh and exciting. With overnight ratings now being a greater influence on whether a broadcaster commissions a new series it’s important we watch Silk on Monday or on the IPlayer if we want more, and I’m wanting more NOW!
Silk Returns Monday at 9.00pm on BBC ONE.