Doctor Foster s1 ep 4

At the start of the episode Gemma and Simon’s marriage looks as if it’s survived, which would – sort of? – vindicate Gemma’s repeated and otherwise inexplicable failure to confront her husband. Anyway, as we find out this week, she lost both her parents when she was a teenager, which perhaps explains her willingness to overlook Simon’s infidelity and financial chicanery; she doesn’t want to lose this family. And she loves her house.

In the workplace, though, it’s all going wrong. Someone is posting online – h8ers gonna h8 – about how terrible a doctor she is. The police are wondering in what way her mother-in-law got hold of those sleeping pills. And an official complaint has been made about her threatening to burn someone with a lit cigarette. The other partners clearly don’t know just how off-the-wall she’s been recently – and these complaints barely scratch the surface of her unethical behaviour over the last three episodes – but she’s encouraged to take a leave of absence until it’s all sorted out. Whether her best course of action is thereafter to go round to Carly’s boyfriend and offer to pay him off if he’ll withdraw his complaint about the cigarette is open to question, but she’s sufficiently unhinged to do it.

And from then on things just get worse. She finds out that Simon and Kate have reconciled when she sees them kissing round the back of his office – which presumably means that we can add “everyone Simon works with” to the lengthy list of people who are aware of his affair. Is there anyone in Parminster who didn’t know before Gemma? And, once again, instead of confronting Simon about it she decides that there’s a much crazier and more complex way to deal: she drags her son and Simon’s assistant into some demented lie about her suddenly having to go to a conference, then pisses off to the seaside to hang with Jack, her old lush ex-partner, and with Mary, a woman who seems to have had a hand in her post-parent-death upbringing, although I didn’t quite follow that bit.

Anyway, what follows is actually quite revealing: she flirts with suicide, and she exhibits a staggering degree of solipsism when she insists, over and over again, that her grief at catching her husband playing away from home outweighs everything else, including Jack’s sorrow at the death of his partner of 30 years. “You’ve always known exactly how to hurt people”, Mary coolly observes, and once again we get a flash of something selfish and unpleasant at Gemma’s core; something which – dare I say it? – might just start to explain why Simon’s prepared to risk everything for a fling with a younger woman.

After last week’s detectable improvement this episode was a big step back, though, and – leaving aside the continuing implausibility of the story – yet another example of a British TV drama in which fifteen minutes’ worth of plot is somehow made to fill an hour. The point, I think, was to set up the last scene, an impromptu dinner party at the home of Kate’s parents. Simon and Kate are both there, presumably starting to suspect that Gemma’s got the goods on them; and Gemma herself is an unexploded bomb. One would guess she’s going to detonate in next week’s finale, and that no-one’s going to be able to avoid getting damaged.


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