'Patrick Melrose' episode 3 review: A troubled past, but 'Some Hope' for the future
The second episode of Showtime's 'Patrick Melrose took viewers back in time to visit the protagonist's dysfunctional childhood.
In 'Never Mind, we get a glimpse into how an alcoholic, absentee mother, an abusive and conflicted father, and family friends, namely godfather Nicholas Pratt (Pip Torrens), actively ignored the young Patrick's quiet pleas for help and are each accountable, in their own way, to the self-destructing, masochistic path he treads in later life.
The episode is punctuated by a brilliant performance from Hugo Weaving as the father, David Melrose, as he uses nothing more than a few raised eyebrows, some sneering stares, and the odd perfectly directed scowl to inflict unspeakable terror on those around him.
Something about his methodical drawl, accentuated with the stiff, upper-class English dialect, similarly evokes the sense of foreboding in the viewer that Patrick probably felt every time he heard his name called out.
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Eleanor Melrose, Sebastian Maltz as the young Patrick Melrose, Indira Varma as Anne Moore, and Holliday Grainger as Bridget Watson Scott similarly put in impeccable performances to give life to their characters and added much-needed depth to an episode that gave a back-story to Patrick's drug-crazed, implosive current-day lifestyle and built up empathy for his constant state of inner-conflict.
This past Saturday saw the premiere of the third episode, 'Some Hope,' where Patrick attempts to tackle his vices and stay clean for good in the hope that he can build a better life for himself.
Littered throughout the episode are throwbacks to the past, and constant reminders of his tortured childhood that serve as a thread which connects the past to the present. He repeatedly imagines the lizard on the wall that he referenced as an escape in 'Never Mind,' likening his current withdrawal struggles to the darkest moment in his life and hammering home the point that his recovery will be anything but a straightforward process.
'Some Hope' also plays on the changing tunes of the usually soft background score to depict Patrick's miserable, sober mood, with one screaming, cacophonous score, in particular, standing out in laying bare his irresistible desire and craving to inject that one more hit of smack.
The episode also does a brilliant job of portraying the depth of his addiction, with the fight against his basest urges playing out even when he attempts the most mundane tasks — while preparing tea, Patrick ends up drawing lines of sugar, not too dissimilar to how he did so when he snorted coke.
While there is a passing reference to his mother — who stays true to her character of helping everyone but herself or Patrick and is apparently busy distributing syringes in Poland — the true hero of episode 3 is Patrick's best friend, Johnny (Prasanna Puwanarajah), who we previously saw as his partner-in-crime, but will now be the friend Patrick needs as he struggles to eventual recovery.
It does genuinely seem as though Patrick wants to make a change for the better this time around. An invitation to a high-society party by godfather Nicholas, exactly the kind attended by the prissy, snooty, sanctimonious crowd that he had grown to detest — embodied flawlessly via a stellar performance from Harriet Walter as Princess Margaret — tests his resolve to no end.
Walter is perfectly complimented by Nicholas, who channeled his inner David Melrose to deliver his own sharp retorts and scything commentaries. Patrick, however, still successfully navigates the free-flowing alcohol and drugs, and instead, reaches out and grasps for salvation.
'Some Hope' also successfully uses the party as a backdrop in pivoting to and unspooling other storylines. The audience gets to see Bridget — who we see in 'Never Mind' as the rebellious, silver-tongued reprobate — having given up her partying days in exchange for climbing the societal ladder.
But all's not well despite this newfound stature — her husband's infidelity just one facet of her increasing disillusionment — and Grainger manages to bring out her character's distaste in the politics, snobbiness, and covert sexism of the upper-class by the force of emotion alone. A special mention to aforementioned husband Sonny Gravesend, whose description as the man having an 'air of palpable stupidity' is brought to life by Tim McMullan.
The episode plays on Patrick's struggle to comprehend his past, his want for a happier, calmer future, and the haunting memories of his father. While the party and the guests serve as a constant reminder of a life he wants to leave behind, it's the intermittent flashbacks that compound his misery.
Despite claims that he 'rarely thinks of him these days,' Patrick can't help but recall the sexual abuse, as well as the bits and pieces of the philosophies drilled into him.
There's also his run-in with Chilly Willy, the former heroin supplier/co-indulger who reformed and recovered to take up a career as an aspiring musician. Willy's transformation, as well as a conversation with Bridget's daughter, Belinda Gravesend — within whom Patrick sees himself — and old family friend George (John Standing), who insists that Patrick not waste his time, are all various points where he steels his resolve further to see through his rehabilitation.
Of course, that rehabilitation can never be complete unless Patrick confronts his past, and so, he does. In what was undoubtedly the most cathartic experience of his life, he reveals to Johnny, through sobs and tears, that he had been sexually abused by his father as a child.
Cumberbatch, brilliant as ever, manages to sell the soft moment despite Patrick's previous portrayal as the emotionless, hedonistic playboy, and the fireworks that go off in the background underscores the significance of the scene. As Patrick so succinctly puts it, it was the end of the party, but also, the end of an era.
Patrick is earlier acquainted with Bridget's cousin, Mary, and as the episode closes out, he asks her out for breakfast, giving the audience a peek of a settled future. But as it always is with Patrick, nothing is ever straightforward, nor simple. As 'Some Hope' closes out, a distressing scene from his childhood once again plays out in his head, indicating that nor could he forget the past, nor would it ever leave him in its entirety.
All in all, director Edward Berger and writer David Nicholls continue to hit it out of the park in adapting Edward St Aubyn's rich semi-autobiographical pentalogy into 60-minute chunks, with 'Some Hope' arguably the best episode yet.
Preview for episode 4: 'Mother's Milk'
'Mother's Milk' will see Patrick back at his childhood retreat in the south of France, but this time, of his own volition and possibly as an attempt to banish past demons. But the plan does not work out as intended and Patrick once again finds himself forgoing his hard-earned soberness to drown himself in the warm embrace of alcohol.
'Mother's Milk' premieres on Showtime on Saturday, June 2.