The Politician’s Husband: Episode 2 Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
The Politician’s Husband continues to impress this week, as the struggle for supremacy between Aiden and Freya threatens to tear the ‘Golden Couple’ apart.
The conflict arising in this episode between husband and wife, Aiden and Freya, brings to mind the old fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Freya, having been waiting in the wings for so long, shadowed by her husband’s rapid ascension to the Cabinet, is reaping the benefits of her astute foresight and subdued confidence. Aiden, much like the Hare stopping here and there throughout his race against the Tortoise, was possessed of a similarly assertive and costly arrogance when he made his play for leadership. The fact that The Politician’s Husband’s allegory is comparative to a children’s fable says all you need to know about the pettiness of modern politics.
I mentioned in my review of episode 1 (here) that the systematic deceitfulness that the business of politics demands serves to unravel any who try and play nice. It was Billy Connolly who famously said, ‘The desire to be a politician should be enough to ban you from ever becoming one.’ – and how apt that quote is. For all Aiden’s lauded integrity in the first episode, it’s only lasted so far as his ambitious desires are being fulfilled. His remark to Freya last week about doing bad things so you can be in a position to do some good (the greater good mantra, in effect), was sign enough of this. Now, though, he’s pulling out all the stops to reclaim his position atop the pedestal he previously occupied. His Twitter antics providing a means to undermine the secretive allegiance being formed between Freya and Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard), and the latter’s move for the leadership that Aiden covets.
I’m going to make a slight divergence at this point to mention Doctor Who for the second week running. Keen eyes will have no doubt noted the relevance of the false name Aiden adopted for his Twitter account; John Smith, the sudanym the famous Doctor often goes by. But there’s more. His false e-mail address also consisted of the number 789, and at the time of filming on The Politician’s Husband (prior to “The Snowmen” and everything since), that was the total number of Doctor Who episodes there had been. This might seem irrelevant to a review of this episode, but it’s really pleasing as a fan of the show to see the popularity of David Tennant’s defining role being observed. The BBC and creators will be fully aware that no small amount of those watching this will be doing so because of the Tennant factor.
Back to Aiden and his deceitful games, the most troubling of which was his primal play for dominance over Freya. His “backdoor” approach in the bedroom was rather haunting. The mind games between the two of them are all well and good (Freya’s own emotional manipulation of him upon her return home, and his subsequent moves to undermine her from out of her line of sight), but that he descended to a physical level of torment as a means of eliciting some sort of subservient response was a drastic turn for his character. The fact that he did so this soon, even more so.
Freya’s beginning to seem more and more like the character who warrants the audience’s sympathy most of all (the problem with stories full of politicians is that there is next to nobody to care about), caught between the duelling male egos around her, and suffering for it. She’s playing the game as best she can, but the metaphorical battlefield of her political career is also inhabiting her home life with Aiden. Whilst there are shades of grey in Emily Watson’s portrayal at times, she’s starting to take shape as a character infinitely more trustworthy than her conspiring cohorts.
The Politician’s Husband cements a strong first outing with an even stronger second. I’m not without my criticisms of it, though. As with Freya’s dreamy stroll through the Cabinet room last week, this episode, too, has its moments of being far too on the nose with some of the messages it’s trying to get across. Marcus Brock’s (Roger Allam) comment about politician’s having ample time to cure certain ills of the world, which they instead choose to spend bickering amongst themselves over positions of power, was contemptibly unsubtle. Marcus isn’t even the sort of character that should be making such observations, and while it’s no doubt true, the writing does a fine job of conveying such damning views of modern politics without being so direct about it.