Glue (Episode Two Review)

There’s a savage beauty to Glue. You can see it in the rough of the bark on the trees and the wild growth in the fields. It’s in the unruliness of the animals and the fragile beauty of the adolescents. Everything feels exposed, which may be why everyone is trying so desperately hard to hide things.

In this episode the group are trying to cover their tracks and hide their drug taking from the police. Ruth, knowing better, is trying to catch out their lies. Five minutes into the police force and she’s already neglecting her family to work on a make or break case. When talking to her former friends she has a smug, superior expression on her face, one that knows more than it’s letting on, exuding confidence in her own ability. Too bad it’s so transparent that she’s been practicing it in the mirror.

Ruth still might be the most interesting character. You can never take your eyes off the ones you think are heading to a crash. She’s fallen in love with the clichés of being a copper and wants to appear like the hard-boiled detective. But it’s when the other characters have turned away and we can see her doubts creeping on to her face that her vulnerability lets us in.

James gets more of an arc in this episode. It’s his birthday. Rob throws him a kind of Facebook party; filled with loads of friends, if only he knew any of their names. He realises just how invisible he really is, even to those he feels closest. He spends most of his time desperately trying to find something that his dead friend has hidden. In the end, he chooses the nuclear option, furthering his decent into isolation.

I was concerned that writer Jack Thorne, while excellent at writing the kinds of character portrayals and nuanced relationships as described above, wasn’t going to be as good at constructing a thrilling crime story. Those doubts appear to be thoroughly unfounded. The twists of this episode hit you when you are most suseptable. They prove to be genuinely shocking and quite clever. They cash in the connection you feel towards these characters and the direction is excellent at visually raising the stakes. Even if the activity is humdrum the production team know how to trick you into thinking something more is going on, even if it just ends in a punchline.

I was content to like this based on the writers history of touching, accurate portrayals of teenagers, but now, I’ve got a really good thriller to look forward to.