“You two are obviously in the middle of something.” Doctor Foster episodes 4-5

BBC One and Drama Republic’s excellent new drama Doctor Foster comes to an exciting conclusion! Watch along with Graham Eveleigh

Episode 4

(still available on BBC iPlayer at time of writing)

00:00 Hello, I’m back to live-blogging through Mike Bartlett’s popular drama, commenting on the action as and when the thoughts occur. You can find similar reviews of episodes 1-3 elsewhere on this site. Do keep up!

02:16 The complaints are mounting up….! I love the fact that Bartlett brought in Gemma’s professional life to parallel the crumbling of her personal life. I suppose you couldn’t justify the title otherwise.

02:54 I wonder if it’s going to turn out that Dr Foster has gone all “unreliable narrator” on us, and she actually imagined or at least embellished the events around the affair, and killed her stepmother? That would be very interesting, although we would probably have more clues by this point if that was the case… Still, the fact that the show keeps us continually guessing about her actions and sanity is one of its strengths.

04:51 Woah woah woah. No one – no one – slanders Suranne Jones’s personal hygiene. (It’s just one of the many complaints the GP has received.) Attacking her using the “Dr Foster” nursery rhyme is a nice touch as well.

06:12 Apparently the Fosters met in a not very nice pub. I don’t believe the Fosters have ever set foot in a not very nice pub in their lives. They have a BUTTER DISH, that’s how middle class they are. Their whole origin backstory feels completely divorced from who they are… unless Dr Foster has only developed that Received Pronunciation since moving to Parminster? I just can’t imagine them in a flat-roof in Croydon.

11:07 I really don’t like Ros, and I don’t rate the actress much either I’m afraid. The character is constantly doing huge, terrible things to upset Dr Foster, who just accepts them as mild irritations! Warning texts to the cheating husband, keeping the secret from her, mouthing off at her here, and now implicating her to the police in the stepmother’s death! That’s a big deal, but Dr Foster just takes it? What an awful friend – she could get her arrested!

17:17 “You really need to stop offering me money,” Carly says. Top writing – I was wondering if this would be addressed – and a great performance from Clare-Hope Ashitey, as this great friendship sours. Also, although it basically goes without saying, Suranne Jones is non-stop flawless as Doctor Foster. May the BAFTAs rain down on her!

21:32 The moment when Simon receives a text, mid-hug with Gemma, and tenses, is brilliant. Such immersive detail.

29:32 “Mum! Why are you such a mad bitch?!” It is quite horrible to see a woman’s child say that to her. Great writing though, the child cutting to the heart of the series.

33:50 I don’t really care much for the subplot with Robert Pugh, but I like the fact Dr Foster has gone on the run! It is what the series needed – to breathe – but there is a huge part of you thinking, all right let’s get back to Parminster, back to the story!

40:17 This dialogue, the pissing contest over who has had the most tragic life, works well. People are often like that, sadly, in conversation.

44:20 Dr Foster is having her Reggie Perrin moment. All this stuff with her going for a little swim is thoroughly dramatic…

47:19 …and Gemma is shown to have really lost the plot now as she steps out of the sea – setting up a thrilling climax…

The final episode looks set to be the dinner party from Hell, where everything comes out, the set-up for which was mastered very skilfully. What is she going to do next???

Episode 5
(available on BBC iPlayer)

00:00 It’s the finale!!! It feels like the whole nation (and all of Twitter) have turned out for this… Straight after an amazing Great British Bake Off Finale (congratulations to the winner!), so we are all already hyped up!

03:09 Three minutes in and Suranne has already smashed something in the adulterer’s house. Classic. It can only get worse from here…

03:19 I’m convinced that Whitestone is Neil Stuke’s character, the father of the mistress. All of my family have rejected this idea…

08:42 This protracted Come Dine With Me scene is wonderful, and feels very play-like, which reflects Mike Bartlett’s roots. Dr Foster is giving us a handy summary of the events of the series, for any new viewers. How helpful.

10:10 Gorgeous direction from Bruce Goodison… as Dr Foster drops the bombshell about the affair, the camera pans behind Mr Foster’s back to reveal Katie The Other Woman. The sweeping camerawork gives the episode real creeping menace. Both directors have injected a lot of darkness and tension into the unassuming suburban settings – that is one of the huge successes of this series.

10:47 “Sometimes she says these things for a reaction.” The portrayal of Simon Foster is so unfavourable! Not that I’m complaining – it’s far more important that the portrayal of Gemma is considered – but his confidence is startling.

11:11 “You two are obviously in the middle of something” – massive understatement! PS. I was right about Whitestone. So there.

12:31 It seems breaking Doctor/Patient Confidentiality is a main theme here. That has been a particularly interesting strand of the show, away from the more familiar ground of the scorned woman narrative.

13:12 Suranne Jones’s sexy slow-motion walk-out, away from the dinner party, head held high, is fabulous. This episode is the most flawless performance of her career!

14:23 There are tons of contenders, but the best line of the show is definitely Gemma’s description of her own love trist: “I wouldn’t sell tickets for it but we had a good time.” Thank God there are some witty lines here to lighten the mood.

20:47 The description of Dr Foster’s character is devastating, but spot-on. “You have no idea how you come across. What people say about you when you leave the room… Because I don’t know if you mean to, but you make them feel inadequate. And although you say you like them, it’s clear you think you’re veeeeery slightly better.” A top performance from Victoria Hamilton. (Again, shame about the wig.) One of the things I love about this drama, which is really paying off in this unpredictable finale, is how easily unlikable Dr Foster could be. Bartlett has not tried to make us like her, like Hollywood tells you writers should. He has trusted us to follow her story regardless and make our own minds up along the way.

26:30 Tom Foster calling his dad’s mistress a slut! Funny, well acted and well written. There is simply too much to praise in this episode! Tom Taylor is a promising young actor.

33:27 GET OFF MY SCREEN ROS!!!!! She is such an awful friend! I’m really glad she gets a small sense of comeuppance in the end, but I would have been happier if Suranne had gone mental and slapped her down, frankly.

40:34 Is Dr Foster literally running away to Gloucester? Now that would be fitting.

42:32 No, they’ve stopped in a field… and Gemma has a knife! Her son is kicking off! This is the tensest scene I’ve seen on BBC One since… well, since they announced who won Bake Off an hour ago. But tense for different reasons! She is a woman scorned, she has nothing left, will she do it? What will she do? I love the way the show is toying with us!

46:58 No, it was all a ruse to scare Simon! So many twists!

48:56 The action comes to a head with more blood spilled in suburbia. The moment you think Gemma has died is horrible… but I’m glad Simon attacked her, because it pushes the power back in Gemma’s favour. This wronged woman took so many liberties, the world stopped sympathising with her. She has been wronged spectacularly now (there’s an ambulance coming!) so her son is back on her side, and so is the audience. How sad though, that that is what it took to redress the balance.

51:26 For one horrible moment, I thought the epilogue was a “woke up and it was all a dream” moment! No, it’s months later, and Gemma Foster’s life is refreshed…

53:26 After all those coincidences I moaned about in earlier episodes, it is only right that Gemma bumps into someone else, one last time. Unfortunately that person is Katie, smug and heavily pregnant. The silly girl has stuck by Simon despite the fact he threw Suranne against a glass door. No one throws Suranne against a glass door! But never mind that, quick – there’s an emergency – and Dr Foster is back to doing what she does best…

After Image

What an incredible drama, with a near-perfect conclusion. The only slight criticism I can think of is, with some many strands to tie up (Carly, wig woman, complaints, mother-in-law’s suicide), some of the secondary characters fell by the wayside. But if that was the sacrifice we had to make to see Gemma’s story told in full, so be it.

This was the story of how an ordinary – better than ordinary – a functioning, confident woman can be turned into a shell by the rampant perceived privilege of her husband. It is great to see a drama that engages with all of our preconceptions and prejudices about women, and married women and married men, in a mostly nuanced way. A triumph for Suranne Jones, Mike Bartlett, Drama Republic and BBC One, which reminded us old stories can still get us excited anew.


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