Okay, so who had Sean Bean buying the farm before the end of the third episode? Please collect your winnings.
Look, that might sound like it’s a massive spoiler, but when you stop to think about it, it was always on the cards that he was going to be dead meat: it was merely a question of when. That’s his raison d’être, it seems. It’s just disappointing the writers of Curfew bottled it, and weren’t brave or bold enough to buck the trend, and keep Bean alive until the end. Either that, or he really needs to get a new agent.
After last week’s false start to the big race, you could only hope that things would get underway properly. However, most of the ‘action’ this week relates to the entrants trying to get past the giant wall which is built around London. Apparently, Curfew is set in a world where Donald Trump is our PM. Yes, I done a satire, which is more than the writers of Curfew have managed to do in the last three weeks. Seriously, all this opportunity for social commentary or satirical digs at our current world, and yet they’ve consistently blown it.
For a race to the highlands of Scotland, by the end of episode three we’ve only got as far as the outskirts of London. I can only assume the makers have a roughly thirty-seven series arc planned, because looking at the present pace, that’s just about the amount of screen time needed to get them anywhere near; by the eighth episode, we may get past Northampton, if we’re lucky. The rate of progress so far is about as fast as Captain Blackadder’s asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping. So they’ve eschewed literal forward momentum, but strangely this episode wasn’t completely irredeemable in spite of that.
READ MORE: Curfew 1×02 – Review
Honestly, I can’t tell whether Curfew is actually starting to improve, or it’s just wearing me down. Overall, this motley crew of characters is as uninspiring as ever, for the most part. And the use of flashbacks is still present, but this time they’ve actually tried to use them to far greater effect than we’ve seen to date, and brought an unexpected member of the ensemble to the fore: Faith Palladino (Rose Williams), the girlfriend of Sean Bean’s Errol ‘The General’ Chambers. So far, she’s pretty much been used as a warm prop, and her only characteristics we’ve seen before new seemed to be she was a heavily pregnant, bling wearing, chavvy gangster’s moll, as well as being the Jiminy Cricket on Chambers’ shoulder, in an attempt to try and control his anger management issues and insecurity.
This week’s is very much her and (to a lesser extent) Chambers’ episode, as we finally get some vague attempt at doing any characterisation beyond the basics. And, I have to say, it surprisingly worked. Via the usually interminable flashbacks, we see that four years ago Faith was a fresh-faced, relatively innocent young woman (with a penchant for Kung-Fu movies – an unexpected trait, but I’ll take it all the same), who was babysitting for a nice upper middle class family on a night where the zombie outbreak hit suburban London for the first time, having spread from Scotland (presumably where Brooke Heath, the institution which is apparently responsible for the outbreak, was based.)
Things naturally take a turn for the worse, as one of the children she’s looking after gets bitten by one of the creatures while he’s in the back garden, looking for his pet dog. Knowing what we do now, it’s only a matter of time before things go south in a big way, and there’s a genuinely shocking moment where, after calling the Police, Faith returns to the cellar where she’s been hiding with the kids, to find that it’s locked from the inside – and there’s the sound of screaming. You don’t see what unfolds – it’s all done off-camera, via the power of suggestion, but you’re left in no doubt as to what’s happened, and just the thought of one of the children turning and going on a killing spree is chilling stuff.
However, the hits keep on coming, as we then see the heavily pregnant mother of the family return home from her night out to find herself confronted by the sight of armed Police, ambulances, and corpses being brought out in bodybags. There’s a moment where she locks eyes with Faith, realises what’s happened, then grabs the gun of one of the armed response team and shoots herself in the head. It’s about as dramatic and impactful as Curfew has been so far, but then the father comes into shot moments later – and we see that it’s Sean Bean’s Chambers. Finally, we see how these two characters crossed paths, and hints at a much bigger backstory to be told, covering the four-year gap.
It absolutely adds another dimension to proceedings, and shows why Chambers is so fiercely protective of the baby Faith’s carrying, as he’s already lost one family. It’s a pity that Bean’s not given more to play with in terms of hinting at what had happened previously, as there’s no trace in either the writing or performance that these tragic events had taken place, and influenced him in such a way that he was transformed from respectable family man to a violent, thuggish, brutal gangster. It would have certainly added some much-needed pathos, but this trace element of depth in the writing via the device of the flashbacks sadly seems like it’s just an aberration or anomaly.
A large chunk of the storyline is centred around their attempt to get past the wall by doing a Trojan Horse – Faith and the car will hide in the back of an HGV’s trailer, while Chambers poses as a lorry driver, in order to get through the wall’s checkpoint. A big problem with this plan, however, is that the trailer is filled with containers packed with creatures, which seems to trigger some PTSD reaction in Faith, and we learn exactly why via the flashbacks. Adding to the tension here is her fear that the baby might be dead, as she hasn’t felt it kick for a while. All this ramps up the tension to boiling point, so things are set up to go very much awry.
READ MORE: Curfew 1×01 – Review
Chambers’ thin skin gets the better of him, and he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by gunning down a guard at the wall checkpoint who recognised him but was about to let him through anyway (as a fellow northerner who admired him), just because Chambers took an innocent remark out of context and flipped. Cue all kinds of mayhem as an alarm is triggered – but that mayhem comes from a totally unexpected source: Faith. Having relived the horror of that formative experience with the babysitting horror, and feeling the baby kick again, this pushes her sense of self-preservation into overdrive, and gives us a gloriously daft sequence as she takes matters into her own hands.
The visual we get of a heavily pregnant – and heavily armed – chav taking out the whole checkpoint in a pitched gun battle isn’t quickly forgotten, and actually gives us perhaps the first truly memorable and worthwhile moment of the whole series so far. It’s deliriously camp and ridiculous to watch, yet oddly compelling, and gives us a trace of the level of sorely-needed campery and bizarreness which would lift Curfew significantly if they’d only been smart enough to pitch it along these lines from the start. It’s overblown, it’s silly, but it really grabs your attention in a way that just hasn’t happened so far.
Plus, it also contributes to one of the most memorable deaths of Sean Bean seen on our screens, as Faith realises Chambers is too erratic to be trusted to get her and the baby to the finishing line safely, so she just shoots him point blank through the forehead and takes his car. It’s not only a wonderfully unexpected moment, but it’s also dramatically valid, given what we’ve just seen of her background throughout the course of the episode. It’s strange just how Curfew has taken one of the tertiary characters, and in the space of some 45 minutes, turned them into one of the most compelling and sympathetic. In fact, Faith is actually far more rounded than most of the other competitors we’ve seen.
This episode gives us far more female-led action, as not only do we have Faith going all ‘Mama Bear’, but there’s also the sight of Ruby (Aimée-Ffion Edwards) taking out one of the creatures with a high powered assault rifle without so much as batting an eyelid, and Jenny Donahue (Andi Osho) protecting her family with a shotgun from an attack, only to end up getting bitten in the process and having to stay behind, in order to avoid being a threat to them once she turns into one of the zombies. It’s all very empowering to see, and appears to bode well for forthcoming episodes if the writers can continue the progression – no matter how minimal – that we’ve seen on display here.
Now, if they can just get on with doing the bloody race, that’d be great.
Curfew airs weekly on Sky One.