Thursday, 29 March 2018

TV Review - Survivors S1E02: Genesis

The problem with a concept like Survivors is that it would quite rapidly get depressing to just watch everything break down and everyone die. Terry Nation's concept for the series was more about how people would deal with the result than the plague itself, which was really just an excuse to get society in a good position to be explored. So here, as the name suggests, are the first kernels of a new start for the characters. A handful of isolated cases over the next few episodes aside the plague has done its' killing - but worry not, as Nation will show, there are plenty of other ways to die horribly in this brave new world. For now though we've hit a level where most of the people who would die from the death or initial death-related stupidity have done so and the survivors are beginning to respond.

Abby's path takes her to the set-up of Arthur Wormleigh, a former union leader who's banded together with a few men and got an estate running. Right from the outset it's clear that he's more interested in short-term power than any greater good, something illustrated by his reaction when Abby expounds on Bronson's views from the first episode (without giving credit, the bitch). These scenes are quite well done; while Wormleigh is instantly sinister you very much get the impression that Abby is deliberately blocking a lot of it out just because she's pleased to see someone and some sort of functioning domesticity. It's possible she thinks he's broadly harmless if a bit insular up to the point an alleged raider (Peter Jolley's flapping panicked acting or perhaps the lack of acting adds a lot to this brief scene) is summarily executed.

She is, though, largely confined to secondary duties, at least in terms of screentime. Jenny does even worse for the most part; there's rather a silly moment where she just misses Abby's campfire (either this scene or her just missing Abby's car last week should have gone, really) and then once again runs into Tom Price briefly (again, all but recycling a scene from the first episode isn't great) before the plot dovetails at the end. Tom for his part also just reinforces what we know about him, though Talfryn Thomas looks genuinely chuffed as beans driving around in his stolen Rolls-Royce; this and his ardent belief that some other power will sort everything out once more show the stupid response to the crisis. It's not hugely subtle but it works.

Instead both are largely overshadowed by the introduction of the first series' other major star, Greg. Even in such a cynical setting it's brave to have your new male lead's first scene being grim satisfaction that his wife's died. Considering the character's future it's ironic that he seems without motivation or even a particular desire to be of particular value here; he seems to help Ann and Vic as much because he can't think of a really good excuse not to. Still, rescuing Vic from under the tractor and amateurishly fixing his legs show his mechanical initiative and he's clearly shown to be a smart cookie in that he takes an almost immediate dislike to Ann once he's indulged her curiosity. Whereas Abby offers forthright ideas when interacting with others all Greg does is pour (admittedly well-founded) scorn on Ann's vision.

As for Ann she's a bloody masterpiece of a character. Straight away there are signs of her bullet-proof bitchery with her contemptuous grumblings about daddy sending the servants away and her black laughter at the warm champagne and Myra Frances plays her brilliantly. Her scenes as she expounds on getting people to work for them in return for supplies (arrogantly assuming that as a posh girl she will have some sort of hold over the serfs rather than getting beaten to death for her stash) while Ian McCulloch looks on in disbelief are brilliant and her ice-cold decision to abandon Vic followed by her grumpy refusal to follow Greg and Jenny are great moments.

Greg gets a further layer when Jenny blunders into him and faints; it would be easy enough to just leave her having just disentangled himself from Ann. Maybe he takes a shine to her or maybe he just thinks he can shove her out of the car if she turns out to be a maniac but as it is she turns out to be normal. It's curious that he instantly seems to believe Ann saying Vic's died as well; maybe it's guilt. Still, the three leads finally meet in the last scene and that means an end to scenes of Jenny missing everyone (well, for a couple of years anyway) and completes the job of setting everything up for the next phase.

It's another good episode and provides a strong introduction for Greg, a decent one for Ann, a good guest appearance from George Baker as Wormleigh and some more strong, gritty scenes. It's a little bit slacker in places than the opener - notably the aforementioned redundant scenes which suggest an edited feature-length opener might have worked better but still excellent drama.

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