After a promising if not exactly gripping beginning, high on believable emotional scenes but low on suspense, the second part of A Mother’s Son does nothing to develop the potential of its opening episode and meanders to a dissatisfactory conclusion.
At first, things continue in much the same vein as part one. Having confided in her ex-husband David (Paul McGann) that their son might have killed one of his schoolmates, Rosie (Hermione Norris) unwillingly confronts Jamie (Alexander Arnold) after school; and this is where the carefully-constructed realism and poignancy – built up in the first instalment and reinforced in a very moving scene featuring Annabelle Apsion as the mother of murdered girl, in which she speaks of the roots and wings that parents give their children – comes crashing down.
Apparently outraged at his mum’s suspicion of him, Jamie gives her a shove and says, ‘Fuck you, mother.’ It’s a candidate for the most unlikely and unconvincing line in a drama this year and the programme never really recovers. With evidence mounting up against Jamie, Rosie and her second husband Ben (Martin Clunes) confront the boy several times; but on each occasion, he lies his way out of it.
Alexander Arnold is superb in these scenes, and the awkwardness of conversations about drugs and sex between parents and teenagers is so palpable it’s difficult not to feel toe-curling personal memories escaping to mingle with the discomfort seeping from the screen. Yet the memory of that appalling son-to-mother putdown at the school gates lingers.
Meanwhile, Rosie is won over her son’s persistent fibs, and even when Ben finds the victim’s phone hidden behind Jamie’s bookshelves and has the blood on his trainers tested by a pal at the university (it turns out to be human, not that of a dead fox, as Jamie claimed), she can’t bring herself to admit her earlier suspicion was correct. This stoic refusal to believe the truth worked well in the early scenes of Episode 1, but now it just feels unconvincing.
It’s only when Ben moves his children out of the house – when the constantly impressive Martin Clunes says, ‘I’ll call you,’ his voice breaking with emotion, it’s as if the gruff Doc Martin never existed – that she finally admits the truth. Rosie meets her murderous son on a jetty down at the beach and has another awkward chat with him – only this time, it’s embarrassing because it’s not realistic.
‘How could you have done such a terrible thing?’ she asks. ‘I think I’m just a bad person,’ Jamie mumbles wanly, and after handing over the murder weapon, lets his mum cart him off to the cop shop. Such a resolutely downbeat conclusion is admirable – and fitting, given the air of melancholy that has permeated A Mother’s Son from the beginning – but the poor dialogue renders it wholly unsatisfying. Given the quality of the cast and the promise of the first episode, such a frustrating ending is a disappointment.
Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 4th September 2012 on ITV1.
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