As expected, the question of whether people can change is essential in the final episode of series 6. Louisa’s decision to once again take off in order to have space to think has put Martin into a tailspin. He must know that his behavior at Sports Day upset Louisa, and the car hitting her while she’s intent on chasing Martin down as he rushes away from the event sort of crystallizes their relationship woes. It takes Louisa being hit by a car to shake Martin out of his focus on himself and his troubles, but by then he’s been so distant and so self-absorbed, she’s started to doubt that he wants to be in the marriage after all. As a result, Louisa makes plans to visit her mother in Spain and Martin does very little to stop her. All we see him do is tell her his medical concerns about her embolism. Apparently, based on what Louisa says to Martin when he calls her in the car to stop her from leaving because of his new discovery of her AVM, they have done a little talking because she says “we’ve been through all this.” But what they said is a mystery.
At any rate, Martin is sufficiently distraught about Louisa’s departure that belatedly he offers to drive her to the airport, but the taxi is already there. Then he can’t concentrate and runs to talk to Ruth. When he reaches Ruth, there’s no denying that he’s rattled and we next see them sitting in the grass talking about his circumstances. Ruth listens to him recite his medical test results and finally tells him: “For God’s sake Martin, this isn’t a medical issue, you must know that.” Well, does he? Not really. As with many doctors, his first instinct is to look for a medical source and even hope for one. It’s much easier to treat something physical than to work on something psychologically deep-seated. Plus, Martin’s ability to be introspective is very limited. We can’t forget that he has many Asperger’s traits, and we hear him dismiss Ruth’s suspicions that his hemaphobia stems from a childhood incident or trauma. He’s either repressed the experiences he had as a child or is incapable of admitting them into his consciousness. What Ruth candidly tells him, now that he’s asked for her help, is that both his inability to continue as a surgeon, even though he loved being one, and his inability to sustain a relationship with the woman he loves are due to the same cause — the coldness of his father and the remoteness of his mother. As a child, he shut down by the age of 6, which means he developed defenses that kept him from being vulnerable and sensitive. Now, as an adult, Ruth believes he has shut down over and over with Louisa until he pushed her away. (It’s no coincidence that Ruth repeats the term “shut down” in both cases. Jack Lothian purposely reiterates that term.) Naturally, Martin first takes this literally as a reference to Louisa leaving for Spain, and tells Ruth he couldn’t have stopped Louisa, but Ruth is talking about shutting Louisa out of his inner world. (Ruth is no fool and she’s heard Louisa say that both of them are having trouble sleeping. Louisa can’t sleep because of her worries about Mrs. Tishell returning, but she thinks Martin’s sleeplessness is for other reasons that she can’t explain. Also, Martin has told Ruth about the return of his hemaphobia and now she knows he’s been running all sorts of tests on himself.)
Ruth’s next assessment hits hard. She tells Martin he couldn’t stop Louisa because he doesn’t believe he deserves to be loved by Louisa, that he questions how she could love someone like him. He has no response to that comment, a sign that Ruth’s analysis has struck him as deeply meaningful. Then Ruth makes the most important statement: if he really wants to be with Louisa he must change. Much like Martin told Mike, she tells him it’s his decision and anybody can change. He may need to work harder than most to achieve change, but in Ruth’s estimation, that is the only way he can have a good marriage to Louisa, and Martin wants that. As I’ve said before, Ruth must believe in the ability of people to change because she is a psychiatrist who facilitates changes in behavior. In fact, she must be especially convinced that people can change since she works with the criminally insane. She has also confirmed to Caroline while on the radio in episode 3 that she believes psychiatry works or she wouldn’t have devoted her whole life to it.
Martin’s next act is to run back to the surgery and confront his mother. We can only imagine that Ruth’s description of his childhood has broken through his defenses and made him realize that his mother is still the remote mother she’s always been. She is also very much a part of the disruption in his marriage since his symptoms grew worse once she arrived. He’s already had one difficult encounter with her and told her his family consists of his wife, his son and Ruth. Now he doubts everything she tells him and sends her packing. He finally says he never wants to see her again. (I can’t help mentioning that Margaret gets Louisa’s name wrong again, that she’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey and that is both amusing and oddly appropriate for its allusion to sado-masochism, and that she vindictively tells Martin that he was always an awkward, strange little boy and that she’s not surprised his wife walked out on him.) When she tells him he better get used to being on his own, he tells her to be gone by the time he gets back and leaves.
It is right after this altercation that Martin begins doing things differently, including apologizing to a patient and reconsidering his decision to not go with Louisa and starting to make a reservation to join her in Spain as quickly as possible. Although his race to prevent her from leaving is mostly in response to seeing her AVM on her brain scan, it’s also significant that he takes action. When Louisa was getting ready to depart in the morning, Martin was still in a mode of immobility and it’s tough for us to watch him be so restrained. Now he literally leaps into action.
Meanwhile, Louisa arrives at the airport only to find Margaret in the waiting area. (I can’t figure out how Margaret got there first since she left at least 45 minutes to an hour after Louisa, and I consider this an unnecessary continuity problem. I can’t come up with a logical explanation why Margaret couldn’t have walked into the waiting area after Louisa was already there.) Of course Louisa is surprised to see Margaret and even more surprised to see Margaret with Martin’s clock. But, most importantly for the topic of change, Margaret tells Louisa that she thinks Louisa is doing the right thing by leaving because Martin is not going to change. But my money is on Ruth knowing Martin better than his mother and Martin recognizing that Ruth has his best interests at heart when she counsels him to work on changing.
Basically, we have Louisa trying hard to break through Martin’s all but impenetrable fortress that’s been protecting his emotional fragility most of his life while Margaret’s presence and comments undermine those efforts. Once Ruth brings Martin to an awareness of how his mother has damaged him, Martin is smart enough to know that he must listen to Ruth and he springs into action. Ruth thinks he can change, he believes he can change, and we know Louisa must change too. Change requires the will to do it, the determination to follow through, and the insight to believe that one’s well-being will be positively affected as a consequence.
Originally posted 2016-05-22 14:44:40.