We’re getting very close to the end of the series now, and boy can you tell. There isn’t a single storyline in The Paradise which hasn’t been ramped up like prices after a mid-season sale over the past two episodes.
Relationships left right and centre were falling apart in Episode 6. As her snarling, sneering husband Tom Weston (Ben Daniels) stepped up a gear or six on the sort of treatment we commonly refer to these days as gaslighting, his wife Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) became, to nobody’s surprise, increasingly unhappy with her marriage. In her hour of fear and need, due in part to the amount of time they’d spent together lately as part of the plot to drive a wedge between the business partnership of the Westons, she turns to none other than Moray (Emun Elliott). Naturally, the sympathy she’s met with, in the form of a hug (wild!), is witnessed by, you guessed it, her husband. His further abuse serves only to push her back towards Moray, who eventually rejects her, loving Denise (Joanna Vanderham) as he does.
Meanwhile, Weston agrees to sell The Paradise, and Denise and her team meet Lucille Ballentine (Liz White) a newlywed former nurse who, having married Campbell Ballentine (John Duttine), an older and, crucially, much richer man, feels insecure about her role in society, and confides in the girls. Said husband, inspired by Denise, proposes a game changing investment in the store, providing Denise with a much needed solution to give to Moray. Unfortunately, a combination of his pride and troubled state of mind prevent him from seeing it as the boon it clearly is. After Edmund Lovett (Peter Wight) suffers a near fatal heart attack, Moray’s distinct absence from both Denise and her uncle’s side drives the two even further apart.
Episode 7 saw Tom Weston take a turn for the even nastier, resolving that Katherine should take a long and non-consensual holiday to the Alps, keeping her housebound whenever possible and generally undermining her at every turn. Weston then employs a successful photographer, Christian Cartwright (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) to take photographs of The Paradise staff. Attempting to distract herself from the distress of her personal life, Denise works with him to concoct a clever postcard scheme, whereby customers can purchase souvenir photographs of themselves visiting The Paradise. The photographer, however, has eyes only for Clara (Sonya Cassidy). Weston resolves not to sell the store after all, instead taunting the already tortured Moray with his worst fear – the idea that Denise will run the store one day instead of him. Desperate to win back Denise after Katherine’s meddling makes everything much worse, Moray enlists her to help him turn The Paradise into a haunted house, again using the allure of photography to draw customers in. This works temporarily, but Moray’s obvious feelings of possession towards Denise soon undo all his good work.
These were an interesting set of episodes. Katherine continues to prove a formidable figure over all she surveys, so her treatment by her husband, and the woman it is turning her into, proves especially effective. The maze in the Weston’s grounds served as a classy and appropriate backdrop to all the emotional twists and turns of the plot, and we’re left wondering, with some unease, just how far Tom Weston will go to get his own way, particularly as his advances on Clara heat up. We wonder, too, what will become of Moray and Denise? Every inch the golden couple towards the beginning of the series, they’re now little more than fraught work colleagues.
Their relationship seems dependent on the store itself, the fate of which is still unknown as we hurtle towards the close of the series.