Review: Ackley Bridge (Series 1, Episode 2)

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Refreshing

After a choppy start, Ackley Bridge is beginning to show promise with its second episode.

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Episode 2 of Channel 4’s new school drama Ackley Bridge aired last Wednesday, and with a slight improvement on last week’s pilot episode, there is still hope amongst the mixed reviews.

The drama seems to have smoothed after its turbulent start and has begun to delve deeper into each character and their respective storylines. This week saw Jordan Wilson (Samuel Bottomley) panic at the prospect of fatherhood and stuff his poor baby into a bag before taking it to class. It couldn’t have been more absurd, especially considering that the baby’s mother had just abandoned the pushchair in front of Jordan before storming off onto a bus. Although a little bonkers, it began to have audiences positively intrigued.

After last week’s fracas between student Jordan and his teacher Steve Bell (Paul Nicholls), Jordan’s managed to get his own back by enlisting Mr Bell to help him look after the baby. Could there have been a better way to blackmail a teacher who tried throttle you the day before? Of course, the violent exchange and both characters happily bunking off school to look after the baby went completely unnoticed by head teacher – and Mr Bell’s wife – Mandy Carter (Jo Joyner). It all seemed a little far-fetched, and failed to answer the question of what type of programme Ackley Bridge is trying to be. While this storyline managed to draw vital attention to the seriousness of poverty and marital woes, this silliness robbed the drama of its more serious undertones.

This week also revealed a deeper twist behind the tensions between sassy student Missy Booth (Poppy Lee Friar) and her best friend Naz Paracha (Amy-Leigh Hickman). After distancing herself for the majority of the episode, Naz revealed that her so-called identity crisis was actually the result of her new found sexuality. Missy, ever the playful school-girl, immediately took the chance to probe Naz on her new female crush – her lesbian Science teacher. After Missy questions her friend with ‘Do you fancy me?’, the scene takes a humorous turn when she seems to take offence from Naz’s firm ‘No’. The storyline was a surprisingly welcome twist to the typical school-girl fallout we have seen elsewhere so many times before.

The award for the most frustrating storyline of all time undoubtedly goes to the love triangle between Mandy, Steve, and the school sponsor, Sadiq Nawaz (Adil Ray). From the series’ outset, the underlying connections between Mandy and Sadiq have never really been clear. Are they igniting a previous flame? Or is this a new and blossoming forbidden romance? After escorting Mandy to the Governor’s meeting, the two shared a passionate embrace. With the lack of build-up and the uncertain background from which this relationship has developed, it all seemed a bit predictable and anti-climatic. Hopefully, if (or when) this somewhat sordid affair comes to light, the fallout between Mandy and her husband Steve will truly kick off the grittier tone that audiences are still hoping for. Aside from the predictability of this week’s love-triangle revelations, the storyline holds an interesting presence. Will it affect the future of the school? And will Mrs Carter slowly begin to lose the control she is trying so hard to establish?

The episode provided much welcomed developments from last week’s pilot, and with time to settle, it has the potential to become an engaging drama that highlights many topical issues of modern British society. Although still a little fast and choppy, it is beginning to establish a comfortable pace in which these storylines are really beginning to blossom. Faith is certainly being restored!

Ackley Bridge is back in session next Wednesday at 8pm on Channel 4. Fancy doing some revision before the next episode? Check out the video below. 

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