sat 22/09/2018

Silk, Series Two, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Silk, Series Two, BBC One

Silk, Series Two, BBC One

Cynicism and mixed motives in return visit to Shoe Lane Chambers

Maxine Peake with Rupert Penry-Jones (right) and Neil Stuke

How delightful to welcome the return of Peter Moffat's skilful legal series. Yes alright, sceptics may contend that the law firm drama has already been road-tested to destruction via the likes of Rumpole of the Bailey, Kavanagh QC and many more - indeed, Kavanagh veteran Nicholas Jones popped up in tonight's opener as Judge Goodbrand - but Silk boasts a superb cast and a thoughtfully-drawn set of characters, whose already fraught personal relationships are being given some cunning new twists.

Series one focused on the rivalry between barristers Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) as they chased the yearned-for status of Queen's Counsel. The opening credits on series two, episode one had barely stopped rolling before the verdict was in, as we saw Martha's new nameplate going up at Shoe Lane Chambers burnished with a QC appendage. Therefore it seems reasonable to expect the new season to be lit up by lightning-flashes of jealousy and schadenfreude. Chief clerk Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke) is busily buttering up both of them to try to keep them sweet and earning ever larger fees for the practice. "She got the prize, he didn't," Billy reflected briskly. "We need to celebrate the triumph and handle the disaster."

However, Billy, who's never too far away from sitting in the dock himself, is sailing precariously close to the wind as the financial climate puts the squeeze on Shoe Lane's earnings. Joe Public isn't going to give a toss if the goverment slashes legal aid, he tells his underlings, so it's crucial that they drum up new business wherever they can find it. This lust for lucre has propelled Billy into the unsavoury arms of solicitor Micky Joy (Phil Davis, giving it maximum sneeriness, pictured above), who represents (among others) the despicable London crime family, the Farrs.

This murky bunch of drug smuggling, protection-racketeering hoodlums supplied the grist for episode one's mill, as Ms Costello's first job as a fully togged-up QC was to defend one of their underlings, Brendan Kay. This lumbering simpleton was played by Paul Kynman, an actor seemingly assembled from spare parts left over from John Goodman and Brendan Gleeson. Costello swiftly discerned that Kay had a barely measurable IQ and was merely the fall guy for the sinister Jody Farr. This might have made him pitiable, were it not for the nightmarish nature of his crime. He had popped out the eyeballs of Derek Storey, a car-wash employee who'd had the effrontery to ask Mr Farr to move his Humvee off the pavement where it was blocking his other customers.

The courtroom denouement was not just about whether Costello could persuade the jury that Kay only did what he did out of fear - his enlightened employers  had, after all, torn out his toenails as punishment for previous disobedience - but also about how much damage she'd do to Billy's devil's bargain with Micky Joy if that was her line of defence. Martha's high-minded commitment to doing the right thing by both the law and her clients is of course commendable, but hardly commensurate with the cynical fee-chasing philosophy which (Moffat's script suggested) drives the majority of Chancery Lane's blood-sniffing piranhas. He was more or less saying that the Shoe Lane hierarchy would be happy to see innocent defendants jailed if there was enough profit in it.

On a lighter note, there were some new characters to sprinkle on additional human foibles. In comes Frances Barber as Caroline Warwick QC, a seasoned courtroom bruiser nicknamed Lady Macbeth, who's already casting a more than sisterly eye over Costello (she sometimes "swims in the ladies' pool", as she puts it). And Clive Reader has struck up a speedy liaison with solicitor George Duggan (who's female, and played by Indira Varmer, pictured left) who didn't seem to mind being asked if she'd like to "go for a quick fuck". It may yet be some time before Shoe Lane Chambers comes into contact with the age of enlightenment.

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Caroline Warwick QC, a courtroom bruiser nicknamed Lady Macbeth, is casting a more than sisterly eye over Martha Costello

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