The Escape Artist: Part II.

Previously on The Escape Artist: Part I.

The second episode of The Escape Artist is a masterpiece of thriller writing, acting, and lawyering.

Barristers defending murder suspects is never easy, it can’t be; not unless they’re absolutely certain that their clients are innocent. But this, this parallelism between Will and Maggie, it marks the line that’s crossed when you move from the anonymity of the victims’ families to someone you know. That’s where a lot of this second part gets its meat: the rivalry between Will and Maggie has gained a new dimension.

When it’s personal, priorities shift, convictions become immaterial. Will wasn’t comfortable with defending Foyle the first time, but he argued the same way Maggie does: it’s the job. Maggie is doing the same thing Will did, she’s representing her client and defending his plea. Yet, audience reactions may vary — Will’s reaction certainly varies. They’re both excellent lawyers, and this is what they do. What this drama shows us is that taking on murder trials is a very, very grey area, filled with moral compunctions, public vitriol, and anger. Guilt has to be proven and cases have to stand up in court. Showing us only the prosecutor’s cross-examination, not a single statement by defence counsel, drives that point home, just as much as it heightens the despair and drama. (It would also be interesting to get a look at audience reactions in the fandom — is Maggie demonised whilst Will’s same behaviour is rationalised?)

After Single Father (2010), this is another role as widower for David Tennant. His interactions with Gus Barry, who plays Burton’s son Jamie, are like the calm at the eye of the storm. The two are openly grieving and, except for Jamie’s guilt over not having been able to fend Foyle off and save his mother, not hiding a thing — neither from each other, nor from the camera.

The added sub-plot of backstabbing at the chambers, I personally could have done without. Such as it is, there are four roles with speaking lines in this for women, amongst a cast overwhelmingly staffed with men, and although they’re at least transcending the angel/bitch binary, they’re still highly stylised. I hope that Tara will not conform to type and won’t snitch on Danny, Harris, and Will because she wants to get ahead and is, apparently, a brown nosing tart while, of course, none of the men do that — either because they’re already QC or because they’re above such tactics. Bah, humbug.

As it stands, my prediction from last week didn’t quite hit the mark: Foyle did get out on bail, and as such, I was right when I said, ‘it’s not about whether Foyle gets off, it’s about what’s going to happen when he does.’ What I wasn’t expecting was for the trial to carry and drive so much of the narrative; I thought he might be acquitted again and that then we’d see Will trying to keep his son save and get him behind bars after all. I enjoy this just as much, though.

With The Escape Artist, David Wolstencroft has crafted an exciting, dramatic, and emotionally gripping tale of a man so insidious, so good at inserting himself into other people’s lives, so utterly creepy — this is Liam Foyle’s story as much as it is Will Burton’s. We’re spending some proper time with Liam, he’s not just this established threat lurking at the sidelines of the plot, he’s right in there.

I can’t wait for the finale.

Next: Part III.

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