A few weeks ago I blogged about Lip Service and the almighty shock it had just served up in the second episode of series two. I said then that killing off Cat (Laura Fraser) would leave a gap in the form of a group linchpin and the rest of the series seemed to prove that really.
Jay (Emun Elliott), not my favourite character I admit, disappeared after dropping a line at Cat's funeral saying that he was thinking about moving to London because he couldn't stand work without her. Very admirable, yes, but I would've liked to have seen more of his grief. It was a golden opportunity to see another side of a character we'd grown used to but it was wasted in order to get him off the scene quickly. Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas), who provided much of the action (in all senses of the word) in series one disappeared soon after Cat's death. Understandable, yes, given her flight tendencies but it meant we lost three characters who had been at the heart of series one in the space of two episodes. It's very tricky to come back from that. When I think about series one of Lip Service the storylines that immediate spring to mind are Cat and Frankie's love affair and Frankie's struggle to discover her parentage - both of these obviously featured Cat and Frankie heavily but Jay was also involved. Characters who made up the bulk of the first series were suddenly gone and I personally struggled with that.
What about the ones we had left? Well, I was very happy we managed to keep Ed (James Anthony Pearson), despite the death of his sister. Ed's friendship with Tess (Fiona Button) was about the one continuing aspect from series one and it was good to see that back on an even keel after his ill-advised declaration of love. It was also great to see him growing in confidence after selling his book, even if his choice of girlfriend in Nora (Sinead Keenan) was even more ill-advised than his crush on Tess. However, the scene where he broke up with Nora showed a stronger Ed than I was previously used to, and I think that all kicked off at Cat's funeral when he realised he was going to have to do without his big sister in his life.
And what about Tess herself? I still love her. Her rehearsal scenes with Nora and Hugh (Stuart McQuarrie) were gold most of the time. The perfect touch of comedy in a series that was inevitably bogged down with other things. I was a little disgruntled by the fact that her love affair at the end of series one with Fin (Lorraine Burroughs) was cut off so abruptly, though the reasoning behind their break-up was perhaps sound. However, it felt a little contrived, simply so that Tess could fall for new flatmate Lexy (Anna Skellern) and get her heart broken all over again. I doubt I'm alone in just wanting Tess to be happy. She's by far my favourite character because she's so human and, honestly, just let her find a good woman she loves please.
Sadie (Natasha O'Keeffe) was a surprise returnee from series one. I thought we'd seen the last of her when she split up with Frankie but she slotted nicely into the new flat-share with Tess and Lexy. She took over from Frankie by indulging in some antics that rivalled those of Frankie in series one - there's one scene involving the kitchen counter I can't erase from my mind however hard I try. Her position as the other woman in her relationship with Lauren (Neve McIntosh) worked better than I expected and it was good to see her barriers come down once again - although she was hurt again! Sadie certainly added something to the series and it was good to see evolving friendships between her and flatmates Tess and Lexy.
And now we come to Lexy... It's difficult to say why she failed to make the impression on me I suspect she was designed to. Her 'stalker' storyline was far too tame and much more could've been made from it. I don't think her original attraction to bereaved Sam (Heather Peace) helped me warm to her. Her discussions with Declan (Adam Sinclair), essentially 'the gay Jay', about Sam didn't make the situation any easier. In addition to which, I didn't get a spark between Lexy and Sam at all. Turning them into the couple the viewer was supposed to root for didn't work as far as I'm concerned - it just came across as way of pulling Sam back into a love affair when she was still deeply traumatised by Cat's death and the issues surrounding it. Lip Service always seems to be about sex more than anything else but the best portrayals of sex came when something deeper was involved - think Cat and Sam/Cat and Frankie in series one. What was missing from much of this series, until Sadie began to fall for Lauren, was meaningful sex.
As you can probably tell, I had mixed feelings about this series. I got the sense that it was fragmented; there were no real group scenes to draw everyone together because the group (in the form of Cat, Frankie and Jay) was no longer there. A lot was left unresolved from series one and I feel rather irritated that we spent an entire series riding Frankie's emotional rollercoaster only for her to disappear so abruptly. Equally, while the writers obviously made an effort to show Sam's grief at Cat's death (and I have no issues whatsoever with Heather Peace's excellent portrayal), the scenes at the police station also seemed to be slotted in as and when. For example, the drug deal in the final episode that the police burst in on that goes badly wrong would've been more traumatic if we'd followed the information-gathering for a few weeks and got a sense of the stakes rising. While we knew about Sam's anxiety attacks, the actual breakdown at that point could've been better planned. As with Lexy's hospital scenes, Sam's work life seemed to be a conscious effort to recapture the success of Cat's partnership with Jay and couldn't work simply because the group was so fragmented. It all comes back to that for me. It ceased to be a show about a group of friends and just became a collection of a few pairs.
All that said, I don't want to see it go. I believe that it can be steered away from this blip as Cat's death becomes more and more distant. But I will say one thing: if it is renewed then can the writers trust the characters we've come to know and love? Don't push them into square relationships when they're a circular kind of gal. Mix the indulgent sex with the other kind and don't introduce too many new characters at one point while decimating half the cast. I hope BBC3 renews it, though, and I will be watching if it does. For Tess.