Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 5 and 6: Fugue States
Written by Ed Whitmore; Directed by Ben Bolt
I have one significant complaint about this episode, and that’s the suspension of disbelief required in order to accept the massive coincidence involving one character and the revelations regarding his/her relationship with another. Otherwise, this is cracking story, one of the very best of the series, which sees the team investigating the disappearance of a twin brother and sister during the Notting Hill carnival of 1990. The case is reopened when a DNA check on a young homeless man injured when he steps in front of a car reveals him to be the boy, Jason (Joe Armstrong), but a bout of amnesia (real or faked?) prevents him from revealing where he has been for nearly 15 years… or the whereabouts his sister, Cindy. In digging into the circumstances surrounding Jason’s disappearance, the team uncovers a history of child abuse and dodgy dealings involving crooked goings-on with social services and an abduction conspiracy.
Any episode involving a missing child runs the risk of becoming repetitive given Boyd’s own experiences in this area, and yes, it’s true that he clearly sees Jason as something of a surrogate for his own missing son, becoming uncharacteristically protective of him (even turning down an opportunity to uncover further evidence as to where he has been because he is afraid it will traumatise him). However, the main personal thrust of this episode, unusually, falls on Mel’s shoulders, following the revelation that she was in fact born Mary Price and, at a young age, was forcibly removed from her mother (deemed mentally unfit to care for her) and placed with foster parents. (This in turn results in a noticeable continuity gaffe in the sixth series when the issue of Mel’s ancestry is raised, but I’ll cover that at a later date.)
I’ve said this previously, but I’ll repeat it here: I think Claire Goose is seriously underappreciated as an actor. Far from simply being a pretty face, she gives the characters she plays a degree of authenticity beyond what is on the page. When she was in Casualty, she gave what is in my opinion the best performance any actor has ever delivered in that show, in the episode Love Me Tender, and she does much the same here, imbuing the character with enough depth that, when she flies off the handle and acts impulsively, you don’t simply think she’s being self-centred and projecting her own personal situation on to the ongoing investigation. Here, she commits a horrific act that is purely the result of her heightened emotional state, resulting in her jumping to the wrong conclusion as to a suspect’s intentions, but she somehow retains our sympathy throughout.
Elsewhere, we get the usual witty banter between the team. I previously said Ed Whitmore’s scripts tended to be drier than, say, Stephen Davis’, but I should probably now take that back, as there are some absolute corkers in this episodes’ dialogue, some of them rather clever. It’s also, for once, reasonably coherent throughout, although I did find myself having to pause a couple of times to work out exactly what was going on in my head. Massive coincidence aside, it’s all pretty logical too. A solid entry and the point at which this season, after a slightly rocky start with In Sight of the Lord, finds its feet before going to enjoy a continuous run of high quality episodes until its end.