thu 20/06/2019

Keeping Faith, BBC One, series finale review - we need to talk about Evan | reviews, news & interviews

Keeping Faith, BBC One, series finale review - we need to talk about Evan

Keeping Faith, BBC One, series finale review - we need to talk about Evan

Triumphant Welsh drama starring Eve Myles ends on a question. Contains spoilers

Keep llareggubing on: Eve Myles as Faith Howells

It’s been a long haul for Keeping Faith. The drama was shot in Welsh and English simultaneously, and premiered in the former with subtitles on S4C at the back end of 2017. It switched to the latter language on BBC One Wales earlier this year. Word spread like a benign bubonic plague of its tendency to grab you by the throat and not let go. In the summer lull, it has been a valiant schedule filler on BBC One. There will still be fans who haven’t lapped up the eighth and last episode, who should look away now to avoid spoilers, because we need to talk about Evan.

I should report that some acquaintances in Wales were not quite sure what all the fuss was about. Great start, went the consensus: solicitor vanishes one morning in south-west Wales, abandoning wife, children and business. But there were mutterings that it didn’t quite know how to finish, that it left you with a slight feeling of anticlimax. This felt unfair.

For seven episodes the plot shimmied this way and that, hurling trials and punishments in the path of Faith Howells (Eve Myles). The final episode sprinted towards the finish with a surge of confidence. Faith got her children back, bested the corrupt officers of Swansea CID, whom in a wonderful comeuppance she left cuffed together in the middle of nowhere, and emerged from the hellish snakepit of the previous seven days with money in the bank and a love affair with ex-con Steve Baldini (Mark Lewis Jones) to look forward to. The only cloud on the horizon was informing her daughters that their father was not coming back.Keeping FaithThis was a reasonable assumption. Evan Howells (Bradley Freegard) has been MIA for much of the series, spottable only in flashbacks and vignettes, often wearing that wig and looking soulful in close-ups which indicated the blue-eyed pain of a corrupted innocent. Faith had come to terms with his fall. She even quietly planned to hang on the balance of Evan’s ill-gotten stash in order to reboot the firm, only for her colleague Cerys (Hannah Daniel, pictured below) to sniff the chance of righteous vengeance and ping off that report to the Met.

This would have been a wonderful place to lower the curtain, with the prospect of a fantasy merger between Keeping Faith and Line of Duty, a bit like a crime drama version of Avengers Assemble. But then Evan walked round the corner with a beam on his face that had no right to be there, hugging his exultant children. Where had he been hiding all this time? Clearly not at the bottom of a reservoir or in a stripclub. Nor was there any sign of him on those fantastic beaches which, without special permission, we punters probably can’t drive our SUVs along. So that inexplicable final image let some air out of the show’s tyres. A second series, currently in development, will attempt answers.

Until then, Keeping Faith had been a superbly taut thriller which also found time to be a portrait of several marriages: Faith's house-of-cards life with Evan; the soap opera secrets undermining Faith’s parents-in-law Tom and Marion (Aneirin Hughes and Rhian Morgan); the chasm opening up between dipso-kleptomaniac Bethan and the dogged, huggable constable Terry (Mali Harries and Matthew Gravelle). It was also a cinematic homage to the many splendours of that dramatic corner of Wales where sea, sky and coastal curves sound crashing chords of harmony and dissonance. Dylan Thomas is going to have to budge up from now on and let visits to Laugharne be inspired by Keeping Faith.Keeping FaithThe other great pleasure of the series has been the way it has privileged female agency. Keeping Faith had a male creator in Matthew Hall, a female lead director in Pip Broughton (who shot six episodes), and two episodes were written by women: Anwen Huws and Sian Naiomi. From Faith’s night out with her divorcing pal Lisa (Catherine Ayers) onwards, men were mainly peripheral spear carriers or neutered observers. The female characters made for quite a gallery: mean-spirited, asymmetrically coiffed DI Williams (Eiry Thomas), the dodgy dentist Alpay (Pinar Ögün), the batshit-bonkers crime princess Erin Glynn (Lowri Palfrey), howling bent copper DS Morgan (Shelley Rees), peroxide powderkeg Cerys whose lesbian private life wasn’t a big thing, the mournful Irish drug chateleine Gael (Angeline Ball), even the slightly drippy office dogsbody Delyth (Suzanne Packer, who appeared only in the English-language version). The two daughters Alys and Megan (Demi Letherby and Lacey Jones) were so believably played that you never felt in the presence of mere child actors. A fist bump also to all those nearly identical babies who switched in and out as little Rhodri. And to Arthur (Alex Harries), who located his spine just in time.  

But in the end (and in the beginning and the middle) this latest showcase of Wales-based talent behind and in front of the camera was a fabulous vehicle for Eve Myles to show what she can do, which is just about everything. All those shots of her tugging her hair or cleansing in the shower, or low-angle close-ups of her heels, put the viewer in the world of her mind, her body. And the camera never tired of the emotions that played across her face like changeable Welsh weather - radiant sun and foul squalls and cold hard gloom. What a performance, culminating in her volcanic courtroom aria about motherhood. May BAFTA and everyone else shower her with nominations. And she did the whole thing twice, once in a tough, nuggetty language she had to learn in order to play the role. She has more than repaid S4C’s faith.

@JasperRees

The camera never tired of the emotions that played across Eve Myles's face like changeable Welsh weather

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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