Silk, released on the BBC in 2011, has had noted success for its first two series. With a new take on a criminal drama from the perspective of the barristers, the series reveals new insights into criminal law and order. The main star Maxine Peake is flawless in her ability to find the intricate links, subtle inaccuracies and subconscious holes in the evidence presented. Her dedication is clear the way the northern bulldog explores every avenue possible with an intimate emotional connection she has to each case. In each episode more of her personal life is exposed to the audience as she connects personally with each character and therefore the viewer concurrently.
The first series (2011) saw the introduction of the chambers and the fearless approach employed by Maxine’s character, Martha. Her refreshing approach to delivering a just verdict was fully revealed and the characters’ personal lives were interwoven with the plot, which added entertainment and emotional value to the programme. The second series (2012) was a step up from the foundation established by the first, with high profile cases including murder. The series has a similar entertainment level to other intriguing series such as Sherlock, and gives added insights into courtroom drama which is becoming ever more popular. The verdicts are dynamic and often consequences leave a cliffhanger for the audience to explore the following week.
The episodes become more and more well acted, and although the front runner continues to support the plot, the politics within the chambers take an important role. The set and characters became a high functioning unit, a complex machine which delivers true entertainment. The second series sees the protagonist gaining ‘silk’ by which the series is named, an esteemed award for the work delivered by a barrister. This promotion gives Martha a new level of power, and the audience sees her grow and succeed.
Series 3 of Silk has been much anticipated after the success of the first two series and a 2 year awaited return (2014). The first episode starts off strong with a personal ‘con’ involving the head of chamber’s son, and also touched on the idea of mental health. This takes many turns but doesn’t deliver the same high level of quality the previous series’ have supplied. The promotion of Clive Reader (Rupert Penry Jones, star of British Drama, Spooks) is under celebrated as his role takes a backseat for this series. The second episode is as disappointing, due to the attempt to engage with a wider audience based on a football brawl trail. The quality of acting is still high, but the writing no longer supports the actress’ versatility and quality. Perhaps the break of 2 years has resulted in a disconnection with the previous familiarity of the characters, because the first series was so closely followed by the second.
However, all this is forgotten as we welcome the third episode. This episode marks the halfway point and sees a huge pivotal change in the quality of the plot. The episode confronts euthanasia, a recent issue popular in the media and on the tip of the British law agenda. It also faultlessly highlights the facets and intricacies of family. This episode starts slowly, but doesn’t fail to leave the audience in unbearable emotional tension and to deliver a gut wrenching finish. Weekly actors do not disappoint, with Outnumbered star Claire Skinner making an appearance as ever the dutiful mother. The episode sees several important events, from an unexpected slap to the continued rivalry between the two lead characters escalating. Most prominently Billy finally admits his position within chambers with a poignant sentiment. Although off to a slow start the third series sees Martha maintaining her commitment to ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mind set. She retains her ‘Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and A Rottweiler’ character throughout. The moral dilemma highlighted in this episode reiterates the position of the audience each week in deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty, and the success or failure of the justice system.
The first two series are available on DVD and Netflix summarises it as ‘exciting and cerebral’ and indeed it is a series which exercises intrigue, curiosity and delivers a plot which allows you to engage with the cast while rushing to piece together each case in time. I am continually gripped by the quality and it is without a doubt due to continue as a Classic British Drama.
Next week sees whether good old Billy has been corrupted and new challenges for both Martha and Clive Reader in the complexities of politics and justice in Shoe Lane Chambers.
The series continues Mondays at 9pm on BBC1.
Must see episodes:
Silk Series 1 Episode 1,2,5
Silk Series 2 Episode 3,5,6
Silk Series 3 Episode 3