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TV Review: Prisoners’ Wives

12 Feb


Image: BBC

After watching the first hour of the BBC’s new six-part drama series, I was left fundamentally confused. Admittedly, first episodes rarely show any series in the best light, but with this one I wasn’t even sure as to what genre it was supposed to be.

The basic premise is fairly simple: girl living in middle-class paradise, world falls apart when husband is is arrested for a crime that he (as far as she knows) didn’t commit, meets lots of eccentric characters whilst visiting said husband in prison. But will it go on to unravel the mystery of the husband’s crime, or is it just to consist of rather soppy character studies of the wives? From the watery drama which the first instalment delivered, it’s looking like the latter.

I didn’t exactly warm to the main characters either. Emma Rigby does the sweet and innocent act well enough as Gemma, but I quickly grew tired of her constant snivelling and all-round lack of intelligence, which didn’t help me empathise with her plight. Husband Steve does at least have the benefit of being played by Jonas Armstrong (also known as Robin Hood) but he says little and spends most of his time staring moodily into the middle distance, giving me little to go on as to figuring out his character.

It’s the other characters which actually make this worth watching, particularly Francesca (Polly Walker), who practically embodies the phrase ‘fur coat and no knickers’ but is good-hearted with it, driving Gemma home from prison visits and helping her with bathroom emergencies (when she isn’t seeing how much havoc she can wreak during visiting hours, that is). I am also intrigued about Lou (Natalie Gavin), who deals drugs by night, but does everything she can to make life good for son Mason (Oliver Hannam) during the day, including telling him that his dad is away building a top-secret football stadium. It’s these characters, who for the most part remain in the background, who make me think that there may still be hope for this series.

Not too much hope though, as a handful of interesting characters can only carry a dismal plot-line so far. It may not be good for a series to give away too much too early, but Prisoners’ Wives gives away very little at all which leaves me wondering if I will be bothering to switch on again.