Did we like it?
An eerie, captivating drama that played out like a cross between Twin Peaks and Heathers, which sometimes floundered amid the drowning profundity as it tried to create an convoluted web of (mostly unresolved) secrets and lies. However most importantly for a pilot drama, was that we want to see more of it, much more.
What was good about it?
• The narrative, while similar to Twin Peaks, cuts its own individual path. It begins at the end of the story as Ailsing (the impressive Elizabeth Day) is first spooked by a stalker and then mown down and killed by a driver. As she lies dying in the road, her body twisted at perpendicular angles, she begins to recite the tale of how she got there.
• Aisling is driven by a desire to find her mother who abandoned her when she was just six years old. Recently, her fervour has been stoked by a chat room friend called Blue Eyed Boy, whose identity she doesn’t know. He’s been telling her what to do in order to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
• The most painful, and acutely observed, sacrifice Aisling has had to make is to estrange herself from best friend Laura in order to associate with the social elite of her school, a vile little madam by the name of Geri West (brought to life with sadistic relish by Nathalie Lunghi). In order to ingratiate with Geri, Aisling has somehow found out a deep, dark secret of hers and is blackmailing her to travel to school with her, to sit next to her in class and ultimately to invite her to one her exclusive parties where, Blue Eyed Boy assures her, Aisling will finally discover what happened to her mother.
• The scenes between former best friends Laura and Aisling were excruciating to watch because of their flagrant truth. In the toilet, Geri prevents Laura from washing her hands and evilly coaxes the on-looking Aisling to join in with her mockery, branding the innocent Laura as “a bitch who spreads diseases”. And when they later meet in the corridor, the upset but defiant Laura is perplexed at what has caused Aisling to metamorphose into such an unpleasant creature.
• The tortuous layering of the plot that oozed one secret after another. Who was Blue Eyed Boy, and why was he trying to help Aisling? What was Geri’s secret that she couldn’t keep hidden forever? What role did the insouciant Sarah have to play, and was she responsible for burning down the school? What were those marks on the arms of Sarah and Aisling’s on-off boyfriend Danny, and what did they signify? Despite being fatally wounded in the car crash, is Aisling’s soul somehow still alive (another nod to Twin Peaks) and trapped inside her personal page on a social networking site?
• Of the many questions that The Things I Haven’t Told you posed, we could make an educated guess at a couple. On Geri’s secret, it could be that she’s a lesbian as at one point Aisling seemed to tease her to kiss her on the lips. A fact of life in the adult world, but to puerile, inadequate teenagers such alien feelings may seem like the end of the world, especially to someone as superficial and absent of substance as Geri. And the driver that killed Aisling looked like Laura’s mother Dawn, although she also resembled the machete wielding maniac who butchered Donald Sutherland in Don’t Look Now.
• And it’s the very fact that after just one hour we’re sent into a frenzy of theory positing we’ve not been gripped by since the second series of Lost that exemplifies how enthralling we found this drama.
• A soundtrack that included Venus In Furs by Velvet Underground and This Is Hardcore by Pulp. However, we must point out that such songs would never, ever be tolerated at a party of the teenage social elite as such people are, and always have been, worthless, shrieking vermin satisfied to bop along brainlessly to whatever is top of the charts that week. And as we have forlornly tried to put Unknown Pleasures on at such a gathering, it’s a ruthlessly enforced dogma we are keenly aware of.
• The assembly scene where the vice-principal (who was also Aisling’s dad) lamented the recent fire in which the secretary had perished, which was ostensibly a normal assembly until a few of the pupils started to cower from a leaking roof. It was only when the camera panned out that it was revealed the roof hadn’t been repaired and was instead little more than a charred fringe, with few flimsy beams in one corner, and the children hurriedly raised their umbrellas as the heavens opened.
• Ryan Sampson (the saving grace of After You’ve Gone) as “weird” Mark, who was being brainwashed by the school psychologist.
• Andrew Lincoln’s cameo as DC Rae investigating the car crash, who will become the series’ very own Agent Cooper figure.
What was bad about it?
• The original idea for these one-shot BBC dramas was that one, and only one, would be made into a full series. This, in short, is insanity. Of those we’ve seen Phoo Action, Being Human and now The Things I Haven’t Told You all have the potential in spades to be rolled out into a full series.
• When Aisling communicated with Blue Eyed Boy in the chat room, the spelling of the messages was unrealistic i.e. it was grammatically perfect. In the real world or at least a bastardised Bebo version of it “Did you get an invite for tonight?” would be: “Dd u gt n nvt 4 2nite????” And “I’m working on it” would be “MayB”, in that repressive, squalid argot that is effectively taking the English language to the car crushers and pouring away a millennium of lexicographical evolution to condense it down to the size of a single verbal atom.
• The main problem for The Things I Haven’t Told You was that, because it relied on mystery and intrigue for the suspense, it fell between the two stools of needing to keep enough secrets shrouded in impenetrable inscrutability for the potential series that will (hopefully) follow, while offering up the resolution of some of the mysteries in order to provide a satisfying conclusion. To our mind, too few puzzles were unravelled to make the ending fulfilling, and it instead left us pondering a vacuum of bewilderment.
• If there is a full series, there will be no place for the dead Aisling.
Aired Monday 17 March 2008