The Hour cast season 2

Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a big year for Ben Whishaw.  Not only did he appear as the newest Q in the James Bond film Skyfall, a dream job and iconic role for any actor to land, Whishaw appeared as co-star in his second season of the BBC America’s The Hour offering a performance as dramatic as anything you’d find on television in 2012.  In Wednesday night’s season finale, his character Freddie Lyon took a determined, tortured soul whose new wife left him mid-season, and fulfilled a story arc begun in the backstory of The Hour, finally leaving all aspersions aside and planting a long overdue kiss on the decades-in-the-waiting eye of his affection, Romola Garai’s Bel Rowley.  In an Emmy-worthy performance he is left to single-handedly bear the burden of the underground extremes that plagued London of 1956, pummeled and left for dead by the season’s shadowy villain outside the offices of the BBC.The Hour - Vice

Vice, celebrity, corruption, murder.  It was a season that got off to a slow start, but finished like a freight train with the last two episodes leaving viewers desperate for a third season.  Early marketing tried to distance the series from its American cousin drama Mad Men, yet the glitzy, celebrity-centric early episodes seemed to scream just that But as the intrigue picked up steam with the revelation of police corruption particularly through the character of Commander Laurence Stern (played by State of Play and The Jackal’s Peter Sullivan), and the key characters’ motivations and secrets were revealed, The Hour left Mad Men in its wake.

The Hour Freddy and Bel

Take for instance the new BBC chief Randall Brown, played strikingly reserved with a surprising bundle of emotional baggage by actor Peter Capaldi (Torchwood, Doctor Who, Sea of Souls, Vicar of Dibley).  What could have been the series-within-a-series’ own villain, he became a full partner and smart architect of the 1956 BBC take on our 60 Minutes.  His secret past with the brilliant not-really-past-her-prime Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) became the real gut-renching Dramaville story thread of the season.  And where season one was driven by every woman’s heroine and manager ahead of her time in Garai’s Bel Rowley, Rowley was left to focus on her own frenetic attempts to manage chaos, juggling a new beau in the competing network’s Bill Kendall (Tom Burke), the reality of her best friend Freddy’s surprise marriage to French gal Camille (Lizzie Brocheré), a failed relationship with married anchor and series co-star Hector Madden (Dominic West), and the ongoing production of a news show despite pressure from government censors, including a surprise turn of events surrounding watchdog Angus McCain (Tomorrow Never Dies and The Saint’s Julian Rhind-Tutt).

Chaplin in The Hour

It was probably Madden’s wife Marnie (Quantum of Solace, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones’ Oona Chaplin) who had to face the most extremes over the two seasons of the series so far, moving from doting 1950s wife of a handsome celebrity anchor, to the reality of marriage to what was actually a smarmy womanizer whose exploits become the stuff of page one news, to waiting at her home quietly and patiently with a composure just ready to snap, to pulling herself up by her bootstraps to star in her own TV series with a competing network, to casting Hector away, and finally, in Wednesday’s finale, getting both the ultimate revenge on her husband while mending all that they had destroyed.  But not all credit goes to Chaplin’s amazing, nuanced performance.  West’s own performance coupled with some snappy writing made Hector stand his own ground with the brilliant Freddy over the course of the season while paying the price for his own vices.

The Hour season two players

And you can’t say enough about the sets, costumes, art design and overall production value for The Hour.  Every image, every scene was striking, and viewers are left wishing everything was trimmed in aquamarine again.

The-Hour-BBC-TWO-2012-poster

If the BBC is smart enough to sign the writers and players for a season three, Bel Rowley is now poised to step away from her Bridget Jones side and travel in Lix’s footsteps, maybe even stepping out from behind the production.  Freddy is left to end up behind the camera, physically never to appear in front of the camera again, and Hector will have a crack at–yet likely to fail at–being a decent family man.  Will Camille return to care for Freddy, foiling Bel’s and Freddy’s last-ditch effort to be together?  Will Randall Brown rekindle something of the past with Lix or split now that their sad secret has been fully played out?  And what is next for the news of Britain as seen through the lens of the BBC?  We hope we get to find out.

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