Middle-aged, middle-class – lots of recycling – married scientist Yvonne Carmichael (Emily Watson) has just finished giving evidence to a parliamentary committee when she bumps into a good-looking but nameless stranger (Ben Chaplin), who might or might not be a civil servant. Within minutes, they’re vigorously at it in a House of Commons cupboard; over the ensuing weeks, they will pursue a more and more risky yet carefully-organised affair, for now hidden from Yvonne’s attractive-but-dull husband Gary (Mark Bonnar), an academic who could well be shagging a young research assistant. What we do know is that, somehow, these circumstances set off a chain of events which will lead to Yvonne ending up on trial at the Old Bailey, for an as-yet-unspecified crime.
According to the extensive advance publicity around Apple Tree Yard, the big news is that middle-aged women can be attractive, sexual beings. Which might come as a revelation if you aren’t middle-aged, don’t know anyone who’s middle-aged, and don’t watch any TV or films or read any books featuring middle-aged female characters. Otherwise… yeah. To be clear: I unequivocally think it’s something worth saying, and saying loudly and repeatedly. The idea that this somehow makes this show unique, though, really doesn’t bear much scrutiny at all.
Two other things are unsurprising. It already looks as if three episodes, rather than four, would have been enough, but it’s a British TV drama so that’s only to be expected. And Emily Watson is great, because Emily Watson is great. (I’d have liked a little more chemistry between her and Ben Chaplin, to make her headlong dash into a broom-cupboard hookup a little more plausible, but your mileage may vary on that.) One thing was surprising: I haven’t read the book, so I didn’t foresee the sickening act of violence which ended the episode. And one thing was worrying: is this another show on which a sexually-active woman ends up getting punished for it? But I don’t want to rush to judgment after only one episode, and on the basis of this one I’m on board, just about, for the next