This penultimate episode of Curfew sees more racing action within its pre-credits sequence than some entire episodes have in their whole duration. It feels as though this is actually overcompensating for the focus for much of this instalment being on flashbacks yet again, taking us back to a point shortly prior to the outbreak of the deadly November 13th virus. We begin the countdown at 69 days out. Nice.
A press conference about an experiment carried out on a monkey is always going to bode ill for sciencey types. Has no-one seen Outbreak? Or Planet Of The Apes? Anyway, you can tell we’ve gone back in time, as Kaye Newman (Phoebe Fox) is still able to emote. It must be a relief not to have to spend all your time looking as if you’re tying to pass a pine cone, as she has for much of the series to date. Mind you, any happiness was always going to be short lived, as things start going south in a big way, and we get to see things start to gain momentum and build towards the chain of events which have led us to the titular curfew.
While having this backstory is definitely necessary, it just feels as though we could have done with seeing it sooner. It’s quite a bold move when you have two episodes remaining to devote one of them to filling in a lot of the blanks which we shouldn’t have had so late in the run. Structure and pacing has been one of the biggest issues with Curfew, and the disappointing thing is that after several episodes of outright zaniness and finding its rhythm and tone, we get an hour of straight drama. Now, in most shows that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but for Curfew it feels like a retrograde step to suddenly play things all sensible and conventional.
Another downside to all this is we get to see the relationship which is blossoming between Kaye and future on-off boyfriend Michael Garwick (Malachi Kirby). The two have consistently been bereft of any form of discernible chemistry, which is a pretty fatal error when it’s ended up forming a central plank of the show. ‘Plank’ is rather an ironic turn of phrase when the two of them have both been so wooden together. The writing is doing a lot of heavy lifting in place of the performances, which really is a shame, as this could have added an extra depth to Curfew. However, I’ve actually been much happier lately when it’s been superficial, as at least it’s been watchable, and we haven’t had to focus solely on the turgidness of Michael and Kaye’s on-off-on coupling.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything of merit to be found here, as resident bad guy from Brooke Heath, Grieves (Robert Glenister), gets to have a taste of his own medicine (or virus); Dr Helen Newman (Harriet Walter), who was responsible for the outbreak and had became infected herself, ends up literally putting the bite on Grieves when he gets too close. He’d better hope they somehow find that cure they’ve been looking for, as we only have next week left to go, so he’s very much on borrowed time.
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Seeing as how the villains of the piece had managed to avoid consequences up to last week, it’s good to see things finally getting rebalanced. In fact, it proves particularly rewarding here, as we get to see Grieves’ rather spectacular act of cowardice in the flashback when – after being the last man standing after the outbreak – he runs out on Kaye when she returns to Kiloran after she left with Michael a few days earlier. It takes a special type of gutlessness to steal someone’s car and leave them in harm’s way, so a reckoning would have been in order if we hadn’t already seen it. Robert Glenister’s great in everything he does, particularly the much-missed Hustle, so it’s always good to have more of him on our screens, especially playing a total and utter bastard.
There’s also an attempt to flesh out Kaye as a character, by not only emphasising her connection to the cause of the virus outbreak (through her mother, which we saw earlier in the series), but also in the new information that she’s responsible for it being spread – it turns out that she had let one of the creatures escape into the Highlands rather than shooting it on sight, when she recognised it as someone from Kiloran, and just couldn’t pull the trigger. Evidently, it isn’t a problem that she faces anymore, given the manner in which she recently offed her sister. The revelation also explains why Kaye’s been so detached and broken – it can’t be easy, knowing you could’ve stopped the death of one-tenth of the world’s population.
Given how important the episode should have been in the overall scheme of the series, it just feels like not an awful lot actually happens here – the flashbacks feel rather drawn out at times, probably because it brings the show’s momentum to a screeching halt. When we manage to get back to the action, we hit somewhat of an odd cliffhanger, which feels tacked on for the sake of having a surprise ending, rather than rolling it over instead to make a perfectly acceptable pre-credits scene next week. There’s a lot of odd choices in this latest part, with few of them seeming to sit particularly well.
We’re into the home strait next week, so let’s just hope Curfew makes it across the finish line in glory, rather than ignominy.