Cucumber: Episode 2 — review

Screenplay by Russell T. Davies.

Following last week’s launch episode, Davies develops the drama that is Henry Best’s life to a position that puts the audience in a moral dilemma: Best is punished based on allegations that are untrue. It’s a dilemma because he’s still a predator living amongst younger boys who openly admits to his boyfriend that he’s a whore. So, even though there’s that element involved, does he deserve to be punished for something else? Is it important what he’s being punished for, or does the fact that he’s being punished make it okay, even if it doesn’t actually stop the things he’s doing? No, he didn’t make racist, heterophobic remarks, but he’s still praying on younger men, who are of a legal age, but still feel threatened just by his presence.

Of course, all of this is made even more complicated by the possibility that he did do those things as well, and that we just didn’t see them. Perhaps Banana will reveal things Cucumber didn’t. But what matters it that this episode, regardless of what was shown, still makes no attempt to hide the fact that Best is bad. He fantasises about Freddie Baxter (and honestly, no really, honestly, who wouldn’t?) and is waiting for the moment to seduce him with wine and a shoulder massage, in a similar manner to his threesome from the previous episode, and the drama never denies that it’s wrong of him to do that. But at the same time, we’re being asked to empathise with him based on a situation that maybe didn’t even transpire. That’s the kind of moralistic problems that come-up in Davies’ dramas, and he doesn’t shy-away from it. He embraces the complications of morality, by making us find ourselves supporting a person for being in the right in one situation, when they’re in the complete wrong in another, more important situation. Cucumber‘s kinda like a gay Breaking Bad.

And yet, even in that far more serious situation, you still really like him for it. Or at least, I did anyway. You find his fantasies and desires to give it good to Baxter satisfying yourself, especially if you would gladly drop whatever you’re playing with to do the same. The episode reveals that he’s a virgin, and feels frustrated by his own sexual inexperience, and that frustration can be appeal if you connect with it. Davies makes you like a man you know you should hate for thinking things he shouldn’t be, despite them being your own thoughts. You want to champion him for at least trying, because it’s fiction. You want to him to succeed, so you can achieve the same through him. You want him to do the things you know you shouldn’t because it’s a safe way. But it never once stops trying to remind you of how sick you really are.

Cucumber: Episode 2 – complex moral ideas, socially engaging. 8/10

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