As expected, we start where we left off last week, with Gemma and Simon dropping in on the Parks family for the dinner party from hell: Kate’s there, as are her parents Chris and Susie. It doesn’t take Gemma too long to detonate her unexploded bomb: she warms up by shattering one of Susie’s ornaments, which seems a little gratuitous, unless she thinks that Kate’s parents – like just about everyone else in Parminster – knows what has been going on. Which they might. Then, round the dinner table, Kate once again coolly provokes Gemma – she’s organising divorce parties – but what she doesn’t know is that this time Gemma’s going for it, and she reveals that she knows about the affair, the pregnancy, and Chris’s dubious dealings with Simon. Mic drop.
So once Simon heads off to Kate’s, and Gemma’s made sure that she’s done her best to wreck the lives of everyone in her family – including her son Tom, who she sends to the door of Simon and Kate’s lovenest just to make sure that he knows all about the affair as well – Gemma rocks up at the door of her neighbours Neil and Anna, for no good reason other than to ruin their marriage as well. At this point, though, Anna steps up in spectacular fashion, and having said that she knows about Neil’s philandering, that she can live with it, and that if Gemma thinks she can split them up she’s kidding herself, she really sticks the knife in: “You have no idea”, she hisses to Gemma, “how you come across… it’s clear you think you’re very slightly better than all of us”.
Which essentially confirms something alluded to throughout Doctor Foster’s run: Gemma really isn’t a particularly nice person, and hardly anyone likes her. (Not even her son Tom.) This is both a good and a bad thing: on the one hand, if your central character is a wronged woman, it’s reasonably courageous to make her an unpleasant one; and, added to the fact that Simon’s relationship with Kate has endured for two years and is hardly a fling, it means that the show has an agreeably ambiguous approach to its central relationships: relationships can be messy, breakups more so, and apportioning blame isn’t always black and white.
And Gemma doubles down on this when she gives Simon the very strong impression that she’s murdered their son. Simon’s behaviour in this scene, of course, is appalling, which illuminates the downside of the show’s handling of its characters: almost without exception, these people are savagely unlikeable. I really didn’t care for, or about, any of them, and was entirely indifferent to their fates. Once again this includes the rather whiny Tom, who in particular doesn’t get a free pass for calling his future stepmother a slut.
Which left me, in turn, not sure what to make of the show as a whole. Doctor Foster finished its run with excellent ratings – and, as with the similarly-flawed Broadchurch, I always like it when a scripted show captures the imagination of viewers. Parts of it were good, and Suranne Jones and Bertie Carvel were excellent, as was Jodie Comer. On the other hand, it was of course way too long – three episodes, max, would have done the job; and phenomenally silly in places. Still, it was worth watching, and after the madness had calmed down I liked the ending, in which no-one got everything they wanted, but the possibility of a happier future was held out. The BBC is, for now, refusing to rule out the possibility of a second season, although in my view it should.