The final episode of BBC Two's 'revenge thriller,' Paula, left me reeling, and not necessarily in a good way. Paula had trouble captivating me from episode one, but I trudged on, hoping for a light at the end of this messy tunnel. Alas, there was no light, only claustrophobia and creepy little girls.
Mac and Paula try to recover from the attack, and James is arrested. With James behind bars, Paula tries to carry on with her life, without much success. Mac, while on suspension from work, begins to dig even deeper into James's past.
Paula struggled in many ways, but the most prominent for me was its unfocused narrative. The show switched between plot lines and character narratives so often I almost got whiplash. The show felt clunky and cluttered because it lacked a precise POV to follow throughout the story. Instead, we were flipping and flopping from Paula's story to Mac's story to James's story. The show would have flowed much easier if it strictly followed one character (Paula, perhaps... She is the titular character after all). There was too many stories, too many paths, too many random strands to the plot. The script could have used an extensive edit to remove the excessive filler to make three tangled, unfocused episodes into two concise, sharp episodes.
The show continued to add fuel to the already burning mess of an episode by adding an even more bizarre epilogue revealing Paula's pregnancy and then jump cutting to James in his underground hell and her looking like a deranged mess. The episode continued to drag on and on. The show could have satisfyingly ended with her walking up the stairs leaving James to ponder his fate. But it just wouldn't end, and it made me dislike it even more.
The script also struggled to nail down Paula's character. Good characters, like humans, are complicated and complex. I understand that, but Paula was on too many spectrums to even be considered 'complicated.' Paula's character is impossible to pinpoint because she goes from one extreme to the next. Is she simply a psychopath fulfilling her erotic fantasies? Is she a woman desperate to protect herself? Was she just pushed too far and snapped? I will say, I don't think desperate woman pushed to the edge makes the conscious decision to plan, prepare, and execute flawlessly the burial of her stalker underneath her basement floor, providing him with life support and a drainage of his waste.
The most redeeming quality this show had was the stellar performance from its main star. Denise Gough completely captivated the screen with her stunning performance. Gough proved to be the heart and soul of Paula, and her performance here guarantees her a successful future in television. Tom Hughes also had a stellar moment when revealing the traumas of James's past. He completely transformed into the young boy he was remembering.
Episode 1 Review
Episode 2 Review