Monday, November 19, 2012

Domestic Dispute

Melodramatic Mondays

Hannah struggles to balance a relationship with Alex against Belle's work, and grows steadily more worried about her future when a client's wife comes to her door demanding answers.

The review for "Professional Development" can be read here.

Time and again Hannah (Billie Piper) has been forced to put her work as Belle ahead of her own personal life, and, up until now, has maintained that romantic relationships, in her line of work, simply can't work. With Ben (Iddo Goldberg) having been pulled away due to his fiancée's influence, Hannah is feeling more alone than ever before, and is finally willing to let herself reach out for company in the form of Alex (Callum Blue.)

Hannah has grown very adept at maintaining a proper divide between her personal life and the goings-on of Belle, but here she's forced to let that guard down in an effort to calm down her client's angry wife Helen (Olivia Poulet.) Hannah has the decency to give Helen her own space, allowing her time in the bathroom alone to collect herself, as Hannah just wait patiently by the door, ready to speak when Helen is ready, and prepared to provide whatever comfort this stranger may need. While her momentary kindness may initially be seen as a selfish act in order to appease Helen and rid her from Hannah's apartment, it's only later, when Helen's husband Matt (Adam James) returns that we see the full impact that Helen has had on Belle's performance. Belle begins hallucinating Helen's presence as she tries to pleasure Matt, imagining herself being critiqued and judged, and it's the fact that Matt's personal life now has a face, an identity, that makes it impossible for Belle to continue working with him. Knowing that he's married is not something that normally would bother her, but having met his wife and connected with her in such a manner leads her to refund Matt's money, telling him that he needs to sort things out with his wife and not bother calling around again, realizing all too late that her career may be ending should she become "the tart with the heart."

Belle states, and Bambi (Ashley Madekwe) agrees, that some men can simply sense an escort, causing their stares to linger somewhat longer than they normally might, ultimately leading to days when Belle and Bambi simply feel more attractive than they normally might. It's an interesting way to describe the confidence boost that comes with being desired, but it's also something of an explanation of why they might enjoy their work so much. Bambi's previous encounters have not been all positive, and when given the proper security of an agency, finding clients that are previously screened, she is able to enjoy the process much more, and having returned to Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) for a job, she is both safe and undaunted.

In performing fellatio on Matt, Belle appears to have swallowed his semen, which, given the nature of their relationship, is extremely dangerous. It's very possible that this is an issue of framing, or that director Fraser MacDonald simply didn't wish to show her spitting out a mouthful of jism, but given the fact that Hannah/Belle has no idea what Matt's sexual history may be, it might have been a better choice to have simply cut away as he climaxed rather than lingering on her face.

As the story draws closed, Hannah makes an attempt to break things off with Alex and he completely ignores everything she's saying. In persisting, he reveals that, even though he understands that she's not as interested in him as he is in her, he's unwilling to let her walk away, stating that "[he] want[s] to do things to [Hannah] that [he doesn't] want to do to [his] friends," leaving her struggling for words. Alex goes on to describe her walking out on him at dinners, hanging up on his phone calls, and doing any number of things that indicate a lack of interest, which he then describes as sounding like a relationship, and his lack of self-respect here, his determination to trap Hannah in a relationship that she clearly wants out of, is disturbing and sociopathic. Alex refuses to take Hannah's desires and needs into account here, determined to get his way no matter what, and there are any number of warning signs that should be going off in Hannah's head; were a client to treat her in this manner, she would end the session immediately, so why she allows herself to become his girlfriend here is strange and against everything she is as Belle.

Piper and Blue have a very good chemistry here, playing up their flirtation very naturally and connecting in the awkward manner that new loves usually do. Poulet's role as the scorned woman is acted very well, from her initial rage to her later disbelief and confusion, and James does well in his role as the two-timing husband.

MacDonald's episode presents a contrast to Hannah's relationship with Alex through Belle's girlfriend experience with Matt. "Ninety minutes of chat and cuddles," Belle starts, "it doesn't make sense but this is the kind of girlfriend [she] can be," understanding exactly what her role in the relationship is and knowing that their time together is limited to the balance of his bank account. Worried about complicating what she might have with Alex, it's instead her arrangement with Matt that becomes more involved as his wife tries to understand exactly what's happening. Though Helen acknowledges the fact that Belle is likely to know very little about Matt's life, especially his marital status, considering he hadn't even given her his real name, she continues on stating that Belle's neighbors should know that she ruins marriages, completely ignoring the fact that Belle had no idea he was married at all. Hannah/Belle revealing to Helen that she's a prostitute is something of a test run to see how she might react and, in turn, how Alex might react, and when her first response is to start vomiting, Hannah realizes that Alex's reaction might be largely the same. Helen being unable to look at Matt, refusing to let him hold their infant twins, is exactly the relationship that Hannah fears having with Alex, and it's this experience that drives her to refuse to pursue a romantic life.

Julie Gearey's script has an intense focus on Hannah's struggle with whether or not to begin a romance with Alex, opening with their date at the movies. Hannah states that she's unsure of how to be a real girlfriend, and doesn't imagine that a life filled with Saturday afternoons at the theater will much appeal to her, trying to pay for her ticket only to have Alex refuse, and continuing to insist he take her money until she eventually spills coins all over the floor. The playful chemistry between Hannah and Alex is evident as he calls her up at random asking if she'll kill him when he's too old to get to the bathroom by himself, telling her that there's no future together if she won't, and it's very clear that Hannah likes him, that she wants to be with him, but it's incredibly confusing to her because she knows that Belle can't be with him, and she can't be without Belle. Despite the setbacks imposed by Hannah, including her ending calls abruptly with "thanks for calling," followed by her hanging up before a response, Alex continues trying to connect with her, saying that he's not asking her to divulge her secrets. It's the moment that he tells her that she doesn't need to tell him everything, that he's not interested in her past just her future, that she's convinced to ignore her instincts and give things a try.

Alex comes off as slightly possessive by the end of this story, and while I feel that this was being set up to have Hannah break his heart, it seems there might also be a possibility of him hurting her in the future, potentially ending any chance she might have at a romance. Likelier still is a confrontation between Alex and Ben (Iddo Goldberg,) as it's only a matter of time before the boyfriend meets the best friend.

The review for "Three's a Crowd" can be read here.


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