Monday, December 31, 2012


Melodramatic Mondays

Hannah attends the launch party for Belle's book disguised as a waitress, but it's Ben who finds himself confused for the author. Meanwhile, Stephanie has a few choice words for Belle in regards to how she has been depicted within the confines of her semi-biographical narrative.

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Previous: Series 02 Overview

In leading a double life, Hannah/Belle (Billie Piper) has gotten used to hiding in plain sight, and she has found a number of ways to skirt questions from friends and family about her life. While it seems that this would have trained her well to deal with the scrutiny of all of London, instead it's a different animal entirely, forced to hide from strangers in order to keep the secrets of her secrets.

Disguised as a waitress, Hannah notes that she's being treated far less favorably than she's used to as Belle, not even getting a thank you from those who take a drink from her tray and questioning the very nature of the identity she's made for herself. An actress (Sophie Lovell Anderson) is hired to read an excerpt from Belle's book at the launch party, but her superficial looks and mild stupidity are insulting to Hannah/Belle, as she worries that in allowing her publishers to perpetuate this stereotype that this is how people will perceive her. Later still is when Hannah/Belle takes notice that Duncan (James D'Arcy), her publisher, is using her for her sexualized stories and intimate secrets, hoping that to work a second book out of her, in effect making Hannah feel more naked than Belle does with her clients. It's an interesting commentary about perception and desire, and it drives the series to an organic place that has yet to be explored with these characters.

Ben (Iddo Goldberg) starts hitting on women at Belle's launch party, only to be mistaken for the author of the book. Camilla (Nadia Cameron-Blakey), a great admirer of Belle's writing, assumes that Ben has written the book under a pseudonym but is, in fact, "the London Call Girl," taking him back to her apartment to partake in one of the fantasies that he's created in his writing. Instead Ben only manages to disappoint her in bed, and soon she realizes that he's not at all who she thought he was, and it's refreshing to see that not everyone in this series is a master lover.

It seems like something of an oversight for Hannah/Belle to have invited Ben to the launch party at all, as he could very easily be linked back to Hannah, thus destroying any anonymity she hopes to keep. Granted, it is Ben that contacted Duncan originally to get Hannah/Belle the book deal, but he then went around the party telling strangers that he is close friends with the author, and it might be best had he been made to stay home for the night instead.

Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) seems to inherently know that Hannah/Belle is the author of the book, despite the fact that only Ben and Bambi have been told directly. Either Belle was far too obvious in her writing, which may mean a reprisal from one of her clients who could recognize his or her own story, or Stephanie is so incredibly self-absorbed that she would find an analogue for herself even were the book written by someone she had never met. Stephanie's reaction is perfectly understandable, given the information that the audience has, but it would have served the story well to show her recognizing something she had said to Belle, or something that she had done, that would solidify for her, and the viewer, that Belle is the author.

Piper has great chemistry with Matt Rippy, playing Jesse, one of Belle's "favorite clients," and the two of them really sell the idea that they've been in contact long enough to make his buying her silly gifts believable. As for Belle's second client, Pip Torrens conveys his awkwardness well enough, but seems almost entirely uninterested in the sex that his character is having, and it just confuses the scene more than it needs to.

Director Owen Harris does a great job with this episode, starting with Belle walking through a swanky hotel after seeing a client, ducking gracefully into a staff elevator, and leaving said elevator not as a call girl, but as a waitress, slipping directly into her own book launch without being seen. Belle has always fancied herself to have a similar skill set to a secret agent, and the opening to this story really sells why she might feel that way. Equally good is the splicing back and forth between Ben's affair with Camilla and Belle's meeting with Jesse, having Ben awkwardly narrate what he plans to do, and doing all of it wrong, while Jesse does exactly what Ben's describing except doing it pleasurably.

Chloe Moss proves very adept at writing her characters to react appropriately to the events surrounding them, having Hannah/Belle slip into a writing mind-set when she should instead be focusing on her client, and having her colleagues each scouring her book for any signs themselves in her text. While Belle should be entirely focused on the needs of her client, she instead is dwelling too much on how dull he is, offering suggestions that might make his chapter more interesting only to instead have him begin listing all of his phobias, making her worry that her next book deal will sink should she be unable to spice things up. While Stephanie is furious regarding her portrayal in the book, Bambi is instead sad not to find herself in the story, having read the book cover to cover three times in an effort to see where she features, not realizing that her favorite character, Leticia, is, in fact, herself.

Hannah had had difficulties balancing the logistics of her life with Belle's, and here she admits that adding the role of author into the equation is certainly not the easiest thing to deal with in the past few months. The arrival of Hannah's sister Jackie (Joanna Bobin), in need of somewhere to stay, only adds another layer of complication to the life of the London Call Girl.

Next: Episode 3.2


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