My Mad Fat Diary s3 ep 1

We know that the good place Rae finds herself in at the start of this third and final season isn’t going to endure forever, because we’ve seen this show before. But for a while at least everything’s great: she’s working in a record shop; and, much more importantly, Finn has told her that he loves her.

And the rest of the gang’s all still in Stamford, including recent addition Danny Two-Hats. Rae’s trying to fix Archie up with her boss. Chop’s got a silly tattoo. Chloe’s taken to dressing in business suits and is frantic with worry about her A levels; Rae’s not bothered about hers, and even though she screws up her entrance interview at Bristol University it doesn’t matter, because she doesn’t really want to go anyway: Finn’s getting a flat, and has asked Rae to move in with him.

But the clouds don’t take long to appear on the horizon. Rae’s told everyone that her application to Bristol was rejected; but despite (or because of) her strident behaviour at interview she’s been accepted after all. Word gets out, though, and Rae has to grapple with the pride of her family and friends at an achievement in which she professes not to be interested. More demandingly, Finn then has to contemplate being – or being regarded as – the person standing between her and university. And just as that’s happening another of her tentpoles is being kicked away: Kester, a constant in her life for years now, tells her that he intends to start winding down their level of contact and that she doesn’t really need to see him any more.

The question of what would actually be best for Rae is one which lurks beneath the surface of the episode: ordinarily, it would be clear that the best thing she could possibly do would be to get away from her restricted home life and social circle and broaden her personal and intellectual life (as advocated during a return visit by successful Bristol student Katie Springer). But it isn’t that straightforward for Rae: is she in a position yet where she can leave her support network behind? And what about Finn? Under increasing pressure Rae almost inevitably turns to self-harm again, which has an unintended but potentially deadly consequence.

As ever with My Mad Fat Diary, it’s deceptively powerful, beautifully acted, with a charm and lightness of touch. If there was a difference between this episode and the last two seasons – it’s not a criticism, and it’s possible I’m imagining it – I thought the humour level was down a bit. But that happens in real life too, particularly when you realise that adulthood sometimes needs to be taken seriously.

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