Believe it or not, I am ready to start writing some new posts. I have several in mind, and I had said in response to a comment by Dale that one would be a return to the subject of happiness, and I will take up that subject, but first I want to write about what I see as an overarching theme so far in S8: the consistent evidence that everyone regularly keeps information from each other. So far every episode has contained examples of characters evading the revelation of important matters from family members and other significant people in their lives. Interestingly during E1 Ruth tells Bert that she considers the twin principles of trust and honesty to be essential to any relationship. Surely keeping secrets and/or lying undercuts those key principles.
E1 centers around Joe Penhale marrying Janice. Within that simple circumstance, which most of us would consider utterly misguided, Janice has been harboring doubts about marrying for a third time and Joe has been struggling with kidney stones that he attempts to keep hidden from Janice. They apparently have never discussed how they see their future together and disagree on most of the basics, including having children. In connection with their marriage, we have the new Curate who shades the truth about having ever officiated at a wedding and even for why she has come to Portwenn. Later, during the ceremony, the Curate is seen surreptitiously taking anti-anxiety meds while Joe tries to pass a kidney stone without being noticed. Naturally all of this cannot be kept secret, and we may even be expected to find it all funny, despite seeing Janice finally tell Joe that she has changed her mind about taking marriage vows and ostensibly breaking his heart. In addition, we are thrown back into the middle of the business troubles of Al’s B and B as well as Bert’s whiskey distilling. Al conceals his lack of guests while Bert, ever the loser in the business of earning a living, is back to covering up for his inability to attract buyers. If we are really frank, Bert should be called a scam artist and conniver. (Throughout the 7+ series the humor behind Bert’s character is how he spends his life drifting from one scheme to another, never managing to sustain any vocation for very long. Thus, Bert is identified by his shaping of the truth, and yet there have been times when he stands out as the one person who articulates the essence of a particular situation, e.g. keeping the new GP in town; knowing how to tell Al he’s always been his father; finding a way to romance Jennifer from leaving; and being philosophical about his own life and seeing the bright side even when things are going wrong.)
Then there is the continuing marital tension between Martin and Louisa Ellingham. Whereas we thought the final scene of S7 had settled the matter of her being obsessed with everyone, especially Martin, being normal and now she accepts that he (and she) is “unusual,” we begin this series, only at most a couple of months later, with these two still appearing stiff and strained around each other. We wouldn’t expect them to be all hearts and flowers, as they say, but Louisa appears especially on edge and her interactions with Martin include continuing to be preoccupied about James becoming like Martin. These concerns are mostly kept from Martin, however. Indeed, the notion that they may have different ideas of what normal is raises its head again.
E1 ends with many of those hidden sentiments being brought out into the open; however, E2 brings us back to the efforts of many of the characters to keep things secret and/or to cover up what is actually going on. If there is a unifying theme to E2, I haven’t found it. Even its title is misleading. Sons and Lovers could refer to the famous D. H. Lawrence novel of the same title, but this episode reflects very little of that storyline. The most important father-son relationship in this episode is of John Rahmanzai and his father. Although John and his father are depicted as having had a troubled past, it’s nothing close to Paul Morel in Lawrence’s book. And Al and Bert are still at each other, but that is such a commonplace now that we find it unremarkable.
Instead it is Ruth who is revealed to have been John’s father’s lover (for the lover side of the title), but her secret rings so hollow as to be truly hard to swallow! Here we have to believe that despite never having heard of a time when Ruth visited the farm during Martin’s childhood appearances there, he actually remembers seeing her with Izzy Rahmanzai several times. (We also have heard Ruth say Joan had always wanted to get her to move to the farm without any sign that she had some sort of deeper connection to the farm. Even more to the point, we have heard Ruth tell Louisa at Joan’s funeral service that she has had only quasi-sexual experiences and she can be prone to oversharing. Somehow she has overlooked the serious affair she had with Izzy while making that comment and her oversharing has never included any mention of that affair.) Moreover, this revelation puts Ruth in the same category as her siblings insofar as having extramarital affairs. I find that demeaning to Ruth’s character and damaging to a storyline that Ruth has kept the affair a secret; then decided to continue that deception; and ultimately been discovered through Martin’s inability to recognize nonverbal cues. Everything is resolved by Ruth admitting the affair to John and then lying again to him that his father had been the one to end their liaison. Oh Ruth, we thought we knew you well!
The other major action in E2 has to do with Astrid and Louisa. Apparently after Astrid has been diagnosed with strep and given medication for it, she has secretly spat it out only to have a rare side-effect of strep strike her. Although the most likely rare outcome from a strep infection is tics or OCD, in Astrid we see increased anxiety about going to school and interacting with others. And somehow Louisa’s concern and gentle nudging are enough to quickly bring Astrid out of her troubling mindset. Additionally, Louisa’s success with Astrid starts her thinking about changing professions.
Once again we have the usual circumstance of Bert lying to Al, this time about his whiskey sales, and Bert has neglected to tell Al about a guest booking.
Another mystery in this episode is the appearance of Ken, the owner of the Crab and Lobster who is new to us as of S8 E2, although they act as though he’s been around for ages. Being totally honest is the obverse of lying and on two occasions honesty comes up while Martin is talking to Ken. Then there is Clive whose excessive honesty about Al’s B and B makes Al squirm.
When we get to E3, the theme of keeping secrets or lying really becomes prominent. We learn that Bert has been staying at the B and B without Ruth knowing about it and that he has an overdraft that he neglected to tell Ruth about also. Then Bert decides to quit the whiskey business and doesn’t tell Ruth. Furthermore, when discovered, Bert is always ready with a quick excuse that evades the truth. Amy is hiding her bald spots and then uses hair regrowth treatments without telling the doc. Louisa hides her fear of sailing from Amy and the class, pretending that she knows how to handle a boat. She also has not told Martin that she has applied for a series of lessons in child therapy. For his part, Martin doesn’t mention being late for James nor having arranged to pay Mel extra for bringing him home at the end of the day. To top it all off, and put some emphasis on it, Sally hides her grief about Clive’s sudden death and Ruth becomes alarmed that she might have another mental breakdown.
We also have another reminder about honesty when Al tells Ruth it’s important to be honest with her.
I wish I could say that I have a theory about why they have decided to highlight how much secrecy and lying go on in this town. We could say that most people shade the truth from time to time, and often the reason is perfectly harmless or even to protect the person from whom they are keeping the truth. It remains to be seen whether this theme turns out to be something of significance for this series.