I should first of all direct you to Luke’s excellent analysis of the use of flashback in this series, not least because we had mercifully little of it in this episode. I almost wonder whether repeating scenes isn’t a cost cutting exercise by the BBC. Although I suppose with all the flashy locations in The Syndicate, they had to save money somehow.
This week was Alan’s story, and once again Kay Mellor went for shock tactics over a decent storyline, though it wasn’t without it’s decent moments. As I’ve come to expect, excellent acting saved the day. Some critics are calling for a third series but without decent plots, what would be the point. And how many lottery winners can you have? I didn’t watch At Home With the Braithwaites, about a single family who wins the lottery, but I understand that in order to sustain several series (try saying that with Alan’s drink problem), the plots got more farcical.
So yes, Alan is an alcoholic. Dry for 7 years, he falls off the wagon spectacularly with one sip of champagne after winning the lottery and having Rose spurn his advances. He is estranged from his son, his ex wife can’t stand him so he decides to quit his job as hospital porter (largely to avoid being sacked for negligence) and take a holiday to Thailand. Unfortunately, while looking up holidays on the internet, he stumbles across a website for Thai brides. There follows some comical and endearing scenes of him getting a makeover for when Su Lim, his potential bride, comes over to visit.
Su Lim seems very sweet and genuinally nervous of a sexual encounter, not what you’d expect from a money grabbing prostitute. She realises that Alan is a good person with troubles and helps him to mend his relationship with his son. Su Lim is also honest about the way the agency has manipulated her. Sadly, and in a not very surprising twist, she hasn’t been honest about still having male genitalia. I found this utterly unnecessary, Alan could have just come to his senses in realising that he had feelings for Rose (which happened anyway). He did explain to Su Lim that however lovely she may be he wouldn’t be able to get past her medical history and gave her the money for an operation. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Su Lim, I know it’s unlikely but it would be nice if she and Alan stayed friends and the Syndicate clan helped her adjust to life as a woman. Next week’s the last episode though so this seems unlikely. I think I’d have put Alan’s story earlier on so we could have got a refreshing and modern perspective on issues of gender reassignment. Perhaps I’ll pitch this drama to the BBC!
In a traditionally heartwarming ending, Rose and Alan gently confess their feelings after she rescues him from a house fire. He has passed out drunk in his loft and his lit joint falls to the ground. Luckily Rose, concerned she hasn’t heard from Alan in a few days, has popped round, along with Alan’s sponsor, Colin. In what were quite dramatic scenes, given it involved climbing up a loft ladder and far too many shots of Alison Steadman’s bottom, the plucky pair rescue Alan. Which just leaves us Mandy’s problems to deal with.
To recap, Mandy has locked her violent husband in the cellar after a fight and daughter Becky has just discovered this. This episode we learn that Alan has been in on the secret from the beginning, having stolen bandages for Mandy and helped her set Steve’s broken leg. Alan returns to Mandy’s house before attempting to incinerate himself, just as Becky has freed her Dad from the cellar. Steve gets Mandy in a head lock and Alan kicks his bad leg. Steve drops Mandy and falls over, hitting his head. Alan calls an ambulance so the secret is about to be made public. Or is it? Previews of next week’s episode suggest Helen is continuing with her blackmail so will Mandy get away with her self defence?
Contributed by Victoria Prior