I feel a little guilty. At around the fifteen-minute mark of Lip Service series two, episode two I paused and let rip a monologue about how much I hated Cat as a character and where I thought things would go next. I predicted a long, drawn-out affair with Frankie that would eventually culminate in her leaving Sam only to be abandoned by Frankie again. I thought I knew where it was going. Then BANG. Quite literally. Cat steps out into the road without looking and gets hit by a car in one of the most shocking scenes I can recall watching on television. I'd managed to avoid spoilers and had absolutely no idea what was about to happen. It was one of those moments when I just stared at the television, unable to believe what had just occurred on the screen. In fact, I felt pretty much like all the characters did on learning of her death.
Afterwards, I composed myself and read Harriet Braun's blog on the episode that I'd deliberately avoided beforehand. It helped me to understand why she'd chosen to end Cat's story so abruptly: actress Laura Fraser had commitments elsewhere and, leaving series two aside, probably wouldn't be able to appear in any future episodes. With that in mind, I can fully understand why she chose the death option. After all, it was completely unexpected (every reaction I've heard about involves a jaw hanging open) and it gives some sort of finality to the storyline which wouldn't have been possible had Cat just, say, got a job somewhere else and moved. If she had done that, we'd have lost another main character as well with either Frankie or Sam going with her long-term. In that situation, it would've been a betrayal of the fans to have anything else but a happy ending and a goodbye. But would it be plausible - given all we've learned about Cat - that she'd do anything so conclusive as make a decision like that? She'd be tortured about leaving, not only leaving her friends and family but the place she lives and the job she's worked hard at. Maybe that would be a betrayal of the character. So what do you do? You kill her.
My concerns now seem to be shared by a lot of Lip Service fans across the web. For starters, Cat was integral to the show. She was involved in relationships with both Sam and Frankie, she was good friends with Tess, she worked with Jay and Ed was her brother. Her death risks fragmenting that group completely. Equally, her death has to be dealt with. She left a hell of a lot unresolved so how much of series two is going to be spent dwelling on that? If the most important character in your show remains a corpse then you're in trouble. I don't think the new characters already introduced (notably Lexy who wants to jump into bed with Cat's bereaved partner) have made much of an impression and, though there are two more to come in the next episode, it feels very much like starting over again and getting to know a host of new people without any warning.
You see that I'm a bit conflicted. I freely admit to disliking Cat's indecisive and ultimately selfish nature but I can't deny she was the show linchpin. I don't know what happens next and perhaps that's a good thing but generally I like some idea of direction.
Just a couple of notes on the episode itself. I think everybody involved acted their socks off. I've seen various comments praising Phyllis Logan (of Downton Abbey fame) and her performance as Cat's mother and I have to agree with them. Equally, although there's been some debate about Tess and Ed's reaction at the news, I think the shock of the characters was all too evident. Ed cried when he spoke at the funeral and I think that was true to the character and the situation - it only began to sink in then. Heather Peace was outstanding throughout but the episode arc did feel rushed in places. One notable omission was Jay learning of Cat's death and I would've given a lot to see his reaction.
I will be watching for the rest of the series but I'll echo the words a few people mentioned over on Harriet Braun's blog: I really hope that this grief-stricken series doesn't affect the chances of a series three renewal. I want me some more Tess. And more and more...