“It’s not what any of you want”
And so it ends. A little unexpectedly, it was announced by creator Peter Moffat that this third series of Silk would be the last and whilst I would love to say that it was a fitting finale to the joys that were Series 1 and 2, I have to say I was quite disappointed in it. After showcasing Maxine Peake marvellously as the driven QC Martha Costello, here the character was barely recognisable; after securing the fabulous Frances Barber as a striking opposing counsel as Caroline Warwick, her incorporation into Shoe Lane Chambers neutered almost all the interest that had made her so fascinating; and with Neil Stuke’s Billy suffering health issues all the way through, the focus was too often drawn away from the courtroom.
When it did sit inside the Old Bailey, it did what the series has previously done so well, refracting topical issues through the eyes of the law – the kettling of protestors, Premiership footballers believing themselves beyond justice, assisted suicide, the effects of counter-terrorism on minority communities. And it continued to bring a pleasingly high level of guest cast – Claire Skinner was scorchingly effective as a mother accused of a mercy killing, Eleanor Matsuura’s sharp US lawyer reminding me how much I like this actress who deserves a breakthrough, and it always nice to see one of my favourites Kirsty Bushell on the tellybox, even if she melted a little too predictably into Rupert Penry-Jones’ arms.
But for the leads, it was hard not to feel dissatisfied at the main story strands. Martha’s character change seemed to come out of the blue, robbing her of the vitality that had been so painstakingly put together by Peake, contrastingly Penry-Jones was given much to work with as Clive grew considerably in maturity only to be given a doozy of a final episode which flew too much in the face of the established character, no matter how alluring Miranda Raison is. And the return to intra-chambers politicking dominated a little too much for my liking, the battle between Raison’s Harriet and the ailing Billy never really compelling enough to grip, especially not for the last moments of the show.
I suppose some might say the finale was brave, it was certainly unexpected in its downbeat nature and its deconstruction of so much of the mythos of Silk as we know it, and thus it is hard to see where it could have gone on from there. That final case stretched credulity a little too much though, the stakes were raised but not in a way that felt true for Martha or for Silk as a whole. Much as it pains me to say it, I think you’d be better off stopping at the end of Series 2.