Lennie James and his iconic yellow jacket return for an uncompromising and still excellent second series of Save Me, this time with added Lesley Manville
“Thought I was cleverer than I am, I went in there, bloody swinging my dick. I offered him out and he sat me on my arse”
After a scorching first series, series 2 of Save Me, wittily named Save Me Too, picks up some 17 months later. South East London charmer Nelly had his world tipped upside down when his long-estranged daughter Jody was abducted and all signs pointed to someone he knew being deeply involved. And a tense finale saw him following the trail only to find a different kidnapped girl – Grace.
The slight time-jump of this second series is an effective tool as it allows James to explore the weight of tragedy with a little distance added in. Two years or so down the line, life has had to continue but the shadow of a child abuse ring naturally lingers heavily and we how see James’ Nelly, and to a lesser degree Suranne Jones’ Claire – Jody’s mum – have accommodated as best they can the vacuum in their world.
The introduction of Grace as a key character is superbly done too, Olive Gray sensational as the traumatised 14 year old with no support system apart from Nelly. And though Nelly has grown immeasurably into the paternal role he so easily cast off previously, he’s also still something of a fuck-up, unable to see – or admit – that good intentions alone just aren’t enough.
Once again the writing sees James take the lion’s share of the load with Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith contributing an episode again and Emer Kenny adding one too. Between them, they recapture both the inimitable poetic swerve of Nelly’s syntax and the ferociously tight-knit sense of community that is the bedrock of the estate that lies at the heart of so much of the story.
The addition of the class disparities in how the British justice system works also packs a real punch, as we see the advantages Jody’s (a brilliant Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) middle-class background garners her even whilst missing, compared to Grace’s treatment in court. It’s all very intense but never at the expense of the victims here, it is their trauma that is centred, the complexities of their experience never sanitised.
And that’s without mentioning the stirling efforts of the ensemble around the leads. Stephen Graham’s Melon and Alice Feetham’s Bernie dealing with the ramifications of starting a family when one of you is a convicted sex offender. Camilla Beeput’s Zita, dealing with the messiness of being Nelly’s other half when his focus is so split, Susan Lynch’s long-suffering Stace, Nadine Marshall’s under-utilised Shola and of course Lesley Manville in a small but crucial role. Some seriously impressive drama all round.