Catch up TV reviews: Trauma, Damned, The Job Interview, The X-Files
Ivan Radford | On 18, Feb 2018
Trauma (ITV Hub)
Mike Bartlett heads from one surgery to another, as he follows BBC’s Doctor Foster with ITV’s Trauma, a drama about Jon, a surgeon who finds himself fighting to save a young boy’s life, and Dan, the father of the boy, who is distraught when he doesn’t make out of the ER alive. Was is Jon’s fault? Dan decides it is, and devotes his grieving hours to torturing Jon at every opportunity.
John Simm is fantastic as the mourning father, switching smoothly from understandably heartbroken to borderline unhinged, as he rails against Dan every time they cross paths – and, thanks to his stalkerish obsession with the doctor, that happens a lot. Adrian Lester, meanwhile, does equally superb work as the cool-headed surgeon, whose calm, professional facade starts to crack – not all at once, and never too far, but slightly, slowly and at all the wrong times.
Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the hunt to find out who stabbed Dan’s son to begin with? Lester’s performance gives Simm a hint of guilt to toy with, and their gripping chemistry makes any contrived behaviour easy to swallow. Bartlett, meanwhile, leaves the central question just ambiguous enough to keep us hooked, as what we suspect is a lie from Jon festers and gives his tormentor an uneasy control over him. From the opening scene of family rock-climbing, which captures the pain of a child at risk of dying, the playwright has his finger firmly on our pulse, and slowly escalates the pressure with every minute.
Damned: Season 2 (All 4)
When Damned first landed on Channel 4 two years ago, the social services comedy made a gentle splash on our screens with its blend of low-key laughs and gentle character work. In 2018, it feels like a hard-hittingly topical swipe at the current state of society, as the team face pressure to help a historic abuse case and a single mum sex worker – all the while dealing with the more familiar issues of exes, families and children.
Jo Brand and Alan Davies remain reliably entertaining as the downbeat veterans of the team, interacting over everything from their colleagues to their respective private lives – and the fact that she stood in some dog poo on the way in. But there are bigger laughs concealed in this understated sitcom, from Kevin Eldon’s awkward office sad sack to Isy Suttie’s scene-stealing Nat, who still can’t work the phones and has her own solutions of how to solve the dog poo shoe dilemma. But she’s upstaged this season by the arrival of an incredibly woke new intern, who throws buzzwords around the office at an alarming rate – and is met with indifferent deadpan by the case workers who have been worn down by years of this work. This time around, things certainly feel grimmer, but that weight pays off: it’s funnier too.
The Job Interview: Season 2 (All 4)
A refreshing antidote to The Apprentice, Channel 4’s reality series that follows people applying for jobs is a wonderfully warm affair, closer to First Dates than Alan Sugar. This is less a spectator sport and more a cathartic reassurance that not all interviews go brilliantly – and sometimes, even those interviews can still turn out to be a success. The second season remains as charmingly sweet affair, as a group of people apply for either a job on Virgin Trains or a social media position with a make-up firm.
The latter opens up endless cringe-worth opportunities for hashtags and media terms, but the show manages to find a way to sympathise with both those answering and asking the questions, so you never feel too awkward – for every over-qualified contender, there’s another with an enthusiasm for orang-u-tans, or the moving story of a blogger who has overcome her own issues to find online success. The former, meanwhile, introduces us to Jagat, a long-term unemployed man who has been caring for his mother for years, and likes trains a little too much, in the best way possible. The result is as encouraging as it is entertaining, and may even have the odd tip or useful lesson in there for those braving the job market at the start of a new year.
The X-Files: Season 11, Episode 2 (My5)
If the opening episode of Season 11 was a little too mythology-heavy for you, The X-Files confidently, comfortably slips back into mystery-of-the-week mode with this hugely enjoyable second outing. Playing out like a cousin of Black Mirror, and written by Glen Morgan (Final Destination veteran and brother of X-Files legend Darin Morgan), it’s a darkly witty conspiracy thriller that manages to play on modern fears of identity, technology and consciousness.
The starting point? The reappearance of Richard Langly, who may or may not be alive and starts leaving mysterious messages on Mulder and Scully’s phones. Meanwhile, as luck would have it, assassins turn up and start trying to take them out. It’s a cracking start to an episode that repeatedly balances action with near-preposterous plotting, serving up a slice of Russian phobia and some old-school NSA programmes for good measure.
There are still ties to The X-Files’ wider picture, not only in the Lone Gunmen’s legacy, but in the way that Skinner’s bond with Mulder and Scully is notably shaken following this season’s opener, and the involvement of the sinister Erika Price. The discovery that The X-Files themselves now live in the cloud and have been hacked, meanwhile, tees up some intriguing questions for the rest of the season. But this is mostly fun because it’s a standalone story, one that glibly opts for bleak humour in place of an easy resolution. The truth is out there, as always, but victory for our duo remains as elusive as ever.
Photo: Shane Harvey/FOX