The Politician’s Husband: Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
BBC2’s new three-part political serial adaptation of Paula Milne’s The Politician’s Husband, starring David Tennant and Emily Watson, gets off to a very respectable start.
Having just recently recovered from the fever of ITV’s Broadchurch (like most of Britain, I’d imagine), seeing David Tennant’s name next to another new series was something too tantalising to ignore. The Politician’s Husband is, unsurprisingly, a much calmer affair. It provides an intriguing insight of how the political game is played within our government, and how the dishonesty rooted in the very fabric of politics favours those with the natural talent to deceive and succeed, whilst undermining and unravelling those with the genuine integrity to do some good with the power they wield.
Aiden Hoynes (David Tennant) is the rising star on the political scene, and wastes no time in enacting his desires for the leadership position of his party. A bold stratagem, which sees him resign his post in an effort to provoke drastic attempts to keep him in place, backfires as close friend, Drew Bailey (Luke Neal), betrays his trust for his own personal gain.
This portion of the episode feels a bit humdrum, as we’ve seen it all before. It’s no secret that politician’s are egotistical ***holes whose interest revolves almost completely around themselves. And anyone who starts out riding so high in a politically-focussed story is inevitably set for a fall (see: State of Play). What later ensues as a result of Aiden’s fall from grace (or should that be “push”?) is where The Politician’s Husband really gets into its stride.
Freya (Emily Watson) is Aiden’s other half, and similarly employed as part of Her Majesty’s Government. Although further down the ladder and in her husband’s shadow at the start of things, it’s not long before the tables turn and she is the one beginning to cast the shadow (behind every great man, and all that).
When it comes time to enact Aiden’s retribution against those who thwarted him, on live television no less, her unbridled ambition is instead what greets him. Having coached her on what to do on his behalf, Aiden’s own ‘show them your not a puppet’ really does come back to bite him.
Freya’s veiled ambition is noticeable in her first few scenes to those with a keen eye. A few questionable glances here and there are just enough to get it across and Emily Watson nails it right from the start. It’s also a key aspect of the chemistry she and David Tennant share in their roles, as she assumes a quietly authoritative demeanour whenever they’re together on screen.
While Freya’s deceitfully ambitious streak is an interesting facet of the story, her literalised dreams of being part of The Cabinet felt a bit too on the nose. The subtle indications prior to this were more than enough to get across that she, like Drew Bailey, possessed the necessarily distasteful attributes required to succeed in politics and was similarly bound to place her own desires ahead of her husband’s.
Aiden’s relationship with his son, Noah (Oscar Kennedy), is also a point of interest. Aiden, for all his integrity, seems inexplicably resentful of his son, whilst lavishing his daughter, Ruby, [Ruby, Ruby, Ruby] (Lucy Hutchinson), with affection. It’ll be interesting to see this explored more in the next two instalments, but an early guess would be that Noah’s Asperger ailment is certainly a factor in Aiden’s attitude towards his son. What was also of note in one of the various scenes between the two was Aiden’s remark about Noah becoming obsessed with things that he retains in his mind for too long. It was a nice touch to have the son’s condition prompt a mental state to mirror that of his parents ambitions.
The Politician’s Husband has gotten off to a good start, and its solid character-focussed storytelling is carried well in the hands of such adept performers like David Tennant and Emily Watson. For cult TV fans, the ‘better inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in’ remark made by Aiden’s dad, Joe (Jack Shepherd) will have no doubt been of note, given the phrase’s prominent feature in Broadchurch. As will Anamaria Marinca starring as the Hoynes’ nanny (Darla from “Asylum of the Daleks”).