The BBC drama returns for a second season, with new crimes and secret pacts – but it's thin gruel to get through
The Pact (BBC One) is back. In the first series four women accidentally did away with their boss and spent the rest of the six-part series twisting and wriggling to avoid justice. For the reboot it’s the same concept, same length, same setting – South Wales – but with a new crime, new pact, new people. Except the people aren’t absolutely new.
Last time round Rakie Ayola was a detective trying to crack open the case. You can start practising your double take because, a bit like when Sarah Lancashire played two wholly separate characters in Corrie, now she’s operating on the other side of the fence. Ayola’s new character Christine Rees is a tiger matriarch grappling with empty-nest syndrome and an overflowing in-tray of family problems. Her oldest son, Will, has machismo management issues, her youngest, Jamie, is a nice drip with crippling anxiety, while her daughter, Megan (Mali Ann Rees), is, like Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap, the lukewarm water between these two polarities.
It’s the other son, Liam, who’s the problem. He’s no longer with us, having already died from a drug overdose, but his doppelgänger, Conor (Jordan Wilks), turns up in episode one claiming to be a long-lost sibling. Cue muddle, murk and, three long hours in, mishap.
I’m all for seeing more Reeses on the box. We are an under-represented surname (Moggs, before anyone says anything, are not of our tribe). The problem with this Rees family is it’s perfectly impossible to care about any of their painted-on problems. “I want answers, Christine,” screams Conor at the end of episode one. “And I will find them. I will find them!” The dialogue’s on that sort of level.
If you don’t want to listen to what everyone’s saying, there’s always the soundtrack which omnipresently pumps out dull doomy chords in the background, a bit like musical cloud cover. Talking of clouds, the shoot in picturesque spots such as Penarth and Margam Abbey seems to have happened under Glamorgan’s very greyest skies. The interiors are all quite murkily rendered too, to go with the dark Scandi-esque secrets that Christine, who is quite the lying, controlling villainess, uses to blackmail all and sundry.
I’ve trudged through to the end of episode five (all six are available as a box set) and, stepped in so far, I suppose I need to see the far-fetched plot do its thing. But six hours is too generous a portion of thin gruel.