A couple of distinctly mid-series episodes from The Paradise in the form of Episodes 4 and 5, but with a few surprises and dramatic twists, too.
Episode 4 saw a spot of background and character development for both new girls Susy (Katie Moore) and Mrytle (Lisa Millett). Susy’s alcoholic and estranged mother showed up at the store, looking to be reunited with the daughter she gave away. Susy, however, is less than thrilled about this, resulting in her letting her emotions out on young Flora Weston, an action which subequently leads to her dismissal. It is then up to new HOD Denise (Joanna Vanderham) to use her new position and skills of diplomacy to somehow get Susy re-instated. Meanwhile, a tea party is being organised in the very same ladieswear, with foul mouthed cook (this is now her official epithet as far as I'm concerned) Myrtle desperate to be a part of it, more specifically, desperate to be allowed out of the kitchen to wait on the guests.This storyline allowed us to see a more touching, accessible side of Myrtle’s character, as she so desperately wants to be like the other girls. Whilst all this is going on, Moray (Emun Elliot) learns of Tom Weston’s (Ben Daniels) plan to buy out the entire street, making The Paradise the biggest department store in the country, and begins to plot against this development with Weston’s own chief investor, using some rather shady, very personal means.
Bridging the gap between the first and latter halves of the series, Episode 5 was considerably more complicated, and considerably less rosy than its predecessor, and indeed almost any Paradise episode we've seen before. On the more innocent side of things, and in more traditional Paradise fare, the store opens a new watch department to rival Weston’s new food hall, with the ever amicable Sam (Stephen Wight) placed in charge. Moray, as an another attempt to come between Katherine Weston (Elaine Cassidy) and her husband (more on this later) persuades her to donate her father’s watch to the store as a centrepiece. However, it later transpires that the watch has hypnotic powers- naturally leading to both hilarious and alarming consequences aplenty in the form of the impressiobaly young Susy.
But back indeed to the more sinister side of the episode. The watch itself was both centrepiece to the display and indeed to the entire episode story arc, as it turned out it should have been handed to the man Katherine married, i.e Moray in the first instance, and then Tom Weston seeing as that didn’t entirely work out. (In that he left her at the alter for a younger, blonder alternative). Katherine, however, hasn’t given it to Tom, suggesting that she, shock, horror, still has a soft spot for old flame Moray. Nobody saw that one coming...This is a soft spot Moray has no choice to exploit if he is to thwart the Westons’ investment plans. Denise and Moray, meanwhile, continue to look more and more like a cuter, less murderous version of the Macbeths, sitting on a chaise lounge in the store discussing the day it will all belong to them. This happy self-satisfaction is short lived, however, as Tom Weston plays his own hand, manipulating Denise and suggesting she take an inspirational trip to explore the fashions of Paris.
Whilst Episode 4 was still rather small-town in feeling, with Episode 5 we could almost feel ourselves hurtling towards the end of the series, with next week’s preview looking nothing short of explosive in terms of the progressively more complicated relationships between the show’s two central couples. All this darkness and plotting frankly makes me rather nervous. On the one hand this is because I don’t want the comfortable illusion of the show to be shattered, thus losing its escapist genius much beloved by, I hope, not just me. On the other I'm nervous for the creatives, because if things continue in this veine then the show’s habit of wrapping each storyline up tidily by the end of the hour just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Anything could happen!
Many questions also need answering. Was Moray happier when Denise was still just his ‘little champion’? Merely an adorably enthusiastic young shop girl rather than a ‘formidable’ equal? Who on earth is Tom Weston, and how scared should we be? Which personality will Katherine be sporting next week? The caring, put upon old flame left behind with a borderline abusive husband, or manipulative, powerful woman about town hell bent on ruining any life she can? Who knows?!? All this and more, will presumably be answered tonight, at 9pm.
If I can stand to watch, that is. Perhaps I should dig out some archive episodes of Heartbeat instead.
The Paradise is next on tonight, 8pm, BBC One.