It didn’t take much prescience to predict that National Treasure would slow down at some point, just a working familiarity with British TV drama. I didn’t expect it to happen quite as quickly, though. In fairness, the episode gets off to a flying start, as the first scene is one of the strongest: Paul, against legal advice, gives a radio interview intending to protest his innocence, and complains about how the police publicised his case in the hope of drawing out other complainants. Which, if he’s innocent, is a reasonable point to make. On the other hand, if he’s guilty, the police might well be justified. “What should the law be doing?” he’s asked. “Protecting possible victims or protecting possible perpetrators?”; and since it’s not an easy question to answer even from a dispassionate standpoint, it’s no surprise he flounders.
Thereafter, though, much of the episode is given over to his daughter Dee (Andrea Riseborough, excellent again if occasionally, perhaps, a little too mannered), and the implication that her self-destructive – and, as in the final scene, generally just plain destructive – behaviour is in some way attributable to a not-so-Secret Pain: i.e. she was abused by Paul. Although on what we saw this week the babysitter (one of Paul’s accusers) also looks like a reasonable outside bet for the infliction of Secret Pain. Anyway, lots of flashbacks, lots of woozy colours, all hinting that something happened; but stopping short, for now, of making clear what that something might be. It comes to a head at Dee’s birthday party, when Marie – very clearly wondering herself about her husband’s guilt, but suppressing those doubts – slams into Dee for embracing victimhood. It’s Julie Walters at the top of her game, which is of course saying quite a lot. Marie also has to deal with Paul’s comedy partner Karl, and the strong suggestion that he might be a wrong ‘un: he makes a half-hearted pass at her, which he hurriedly withdraws when she makes it clear that there’s nothing doing. Which makes him a cad and a bounder, perhaps, but not – not yet, anyway – a predator.
It’s not bad, by any means. It’s actually quite good. In particular, every scene with Babou Ceesay as Paul’s lawyer confirms him, once again, as a talent to be watched. But it doesn’t feel essential, and last week’s did.