“People are saying you only made silk because you’re a woman and from Bolton”
The joys of Netflix allowed me to quickly move onto Series 2 of Silk in perfect time before the third, and final, series hit BBC1, and it remains an excellent piece of television, a quality legal drama blessed with some cracking writing, a stellar leading cast, and a revolving ensemble which continues to draw in the cream of British acting talent to give their supporting roles and cameos. The series kicks off with Maxine Peake’s Martha having ascended to the ranks of QC whilst Rupert Penry-Jones’ Clive languishes in her slipstream, and the dynamics of their relationship form a major driver of the narrative.
Her adjustments to her new role and responsibilities are fascinatingly drawn, especially as she negotiates the ethics of working with a notorious crime family and their shady legal representation. And his pursuit of that exalted status of QC as he stretches himself professionally to take in prosecutions, as well as Indira Varma’s attractive solicitor, is challenged when he overreaches himself in a particularly pressing case. As ever, individual cases fit into each episode as well, but these wider storylines are where the real interest comes.
The choice to employ the ever-brilliant Frances Barber as an opposing QC who might be interested in joining the chambers is inspired, her highly ambitious Caroline Warwick a constantly vibrant presence. And I loved the increased role for Alex Jennings as the senior lawyer rising to become a judge. Notable guest performances for me included Jamie Parker’s flirtatious man in uniform, Malcolm Sinclair’s hideously supercilious defence lawyer, Morgan Watkins’ psychologically damaged defendant and James Musgrave, James Northcote and Jack Farthing as a Posh-like set of violent toffs.
Moffat’s writing explores British law in a modern UK most elegantly, taking in trips to military courts, looking at the strangeness of our control of the law in former colonies, the role of a less than scrupulous police force, and British-Asian family politics amongst other things. It’s almost enough to forgive the late diversion into the personal for Neil Stuke’s senior clerk which doesn’t feel entirely necessary, Silk is always strongest as a purely legal drama. And I said it about it Series 1 and it remains true here, this is Maxine Peake at her best.