Dates, Brian Elsley’s drama series currently showing as part of Channel 4’s ‘Mating Season’, seems focused on portraying unusual, difficult and even borderline taboo first dates.
In Episode 4, we meet Erica (Gemma Chan), a shyly beautiful lesbian girl from a strict Chinese background, and watch as she meets Kate (Katie McGrath), a confident woman slightly more used to getting her own way. Despite Kate’s clear suspicion from the outset about how public Erica’s sexuality is, the date gets off to a good start, with the two flirting and drinking cocktails in a trendy bar. A spot of sexy dancing and a roll around in the sheets later, the narrative starts to focus much more on Erica, and the profound effect that her family background is having on her love life. Kate’s hostile reaction and the events that ensue provide one of the more dramatic, yet poignant, episode endings of the series so far. Chan and McGrath are both excellent and playing the coy and ballsy characters respectively, although the episode did feel a little thrown together and under-developed in places.
Episode 5 saw the return of David (Will Mellor) who, still not over Mia (Oona Chaplin) heads out on a date to cheer himself up on his birthday. This time, he meets Ellie (Montanna Thompson) a young, in fact rather younger than she said she was, woman who, despite her charming naiveté, has an apparent and uncomfortable habit of getting right to the point. Needless to say, the date is not all either of them hoped it would be, although David does seem to have a good time despite himself, leading to a level of friendship, if nothing else. Ellie’s insight then in turn causes some rather unexpected consequences. Mellor is awkwardly brilliant as the man caught on a date with someone more than a decade his junior, with Thompson adorably doe-eyed as the unemployed teenager with big ideas. This felt slightly akin to a filler episode, although still well executed and enjoyable to watch.
Despite the slight mid-season slump feel to these episodes, although I hasten to point out that this only means that they are marginally less fabulous than the others, so well written are they all, we’re really starting to grow attached to the characters as an audience, particularly now that we’ve grown used to the series’ premise. This is only added to along the way by the high quality of the writing and performances. Not to mention the relief at times that we’re not stuck on some of these awkward meetings ourselves.
Dates continues this evening with the return of Erica.