tue 25/02/2020

The Split, Series 2, BBC One review - where the law and family fortunes collide | reviews, news & interviews

The Split, Series 2, BBC One review - where the law and family fortunes collide

The Split, Series 2, BBC One review - where the law and family fortunes collide

Does Abi Morgan's legal drama really want to be a soap?

Lawyers in love: Stephen Mangan, Nicola Walker and Barry Atsma

The return of screenwriter Abi Morgan’s series about a largely-female London law firm is no doubt in tune with our gender and equality-conscious times, but that doesn’t mean it’s great television. Its legal storylines are counterpointed against episodes of sentimentality and self-congratulation, as if it wanted to be The Good Wife but ended up as Doctors. It’s the kind of show where a character might notice an old photo on the mantelpiece and drift off in a sentimental reverie, encouraged by insipid singer-songwriter balladry.

The best news is Nicola Walker, who clothes herself in the discreetly stylish attire of clear-thinking, empathetic family lawyer Hannah Stern during office hours, but leads a panicky double life at home thanks to her ongoing affair with her colleague Christie. She’s having trouble getting over the past infidelity of her husband Nathan (Stephen Mangan), not helped by his grovelling neediness and pitiable attempts at humour.

The Split, Series 2, BBC OneTheir law firm Noble Hale Defoe, based in fashionable offices in Clerkenwell and now merged with an American partner in Chicago, is a sisterhood in the fullest sense of the word, since Hannah’s sisters Nina and Rose are also part of the team. Hysterical scenes of joy, accompanied by twee happy-clappy guitar music, rocked the workplace when Rose (Fiona Button) announced her pregnancy. However, in fine soap-crisis style, Rose’s joy soon turned to horror when a visit to the loo revealed that she was bleeding copiously.

The legal cases – as well as the disruptive arrival of management consultant Tyler (Damien Molony), threatening to slash, prune and rationalise – are welcome relief from the family stuff, which in this episode included back-story references like the scattering of the ashes of feckless patriarch Oscar (once played by Anthony Head) on Hampstead Heath. Juiciest of the lawsuits is the potential divorce of stage and TV star Fi Hansen (played by real-life sleb Donna Air, pictured above) from her controlling, manipulative husband Richie (Ben Bailey Smith). Not content with seducing the family nanny, he has fiendishly tied Fi up in an unconscionably punitive prenup agreement. Plenty of billable hours in prospect there.

More tenuous was the story of Bishop Tony (Louis Mahoney), an elderly cleric who proposed to go swanning around the world pursuing bucket-list adventures and to divorce his unsuspecting wife of 45 years simply “because I can”. As it happened, his plans were drastically curtailed by the unforeseen hand of fate, but the episode at least allowed Hannah to demonstrate to her sister Nina that being a lawyer needn’t necessarily mean being a cold-blooded automaton.

Juiciest of the lawsuits is the potential divorce of stage and TV star Fi Hansen


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Rose is not involved in the law firm, but the mother is. I agree that the second series is disappointing.

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