Screenplay by Charlie Covell.
Following last week’s disappointment, I concluded that Banana episodes not written by Russell T. Davies risk being noticeably so, rather than well-written in their own right. But I also concluded that giving other writers the chance to write about unconventional love was a good opportunity some diverse ideas in there. Based on that, this week’s episode makes me think that maybe this show works best with just Davies. Just as episode three, Violet and Sian, was written by Sue Perkins, with whom’s work I was unfamiliar, Helen‘s written by Charlie Covell, with an identical situation. I’m unaware of anything she’s written, but this episode still just didn’t do it for me.
One thing to say about this is that it’s at least better than last week, because there actually is something here. It wasn’t boring, it was just unmemorable. Banana generally ignores any anti-normative traits of its characters, instead it just acknowledges them. Helen is post-gender-transition, and this is only acknowledged in one scene. What works is that it never becomes a big plot thing. It’s just dropped-in and never highlighted. And there was definitely an interesting point made about how, while someone pre-transition can be scared of it for their life until embracing it, after the transition, every other fear suddenly becomes real. Their world is fixed because they’re now in a body that makes them much more comfortable, but that makes the world no longer a fantasy. All the nightmares suddenly are a reality, and this nightmare is a sex tape being uploaded online as revenge by an ex. But the sequence showing the revelation of the video being discovered is executed really annoyingly. There are notifications popping-up everywhere, with comments appearing at the bottom of the screen and a webcam showing Helen’s reaction. The intention looks to have been Brechtian; to push the audience to the point of pain. What it ended up looking like is a first-year student film, which is then completed with the cliched slow-motion walk through the public, with people noticing her. It’s all very well, but it’s been done before, and the unoriginality of it suppresses any potential that was there. And I say this as someone who attended a school that constantly screened productions by students, and after a while we began to realise how similar they all were.
What left me the most unfulfilled was the ending. It wasn’t so much an open ending as a random stop. As the drama elevates, the episodes suddenly plays end credits. What happened? The problem is that open endings often happen for a reason, either thematically or for narrative effect, but here, it’s as if time just ran out.
I don’t know who’s writing next week’s episode, but I’ll still be watching. There are only going to be eight episodes of this show, so we’re more than half way through. I may as well see this play-out till the end, since the first few episodes were so entertaining. As we approach the finale, Davies will probably write the last few and quality might be restored. Unless it isn’t. But even then, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I can’t judge this show on a whole until I’ve seen the whole of it, obviously. These two latest episodes are the only ones I haven’t liked, so the majority of it’s been pretty good.
Banana: Helen – vanilla narrative executed with cliches 4/10.