Hour: Season 2
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Hour, The: Season Two (2012/BBC/DVD)
Critical favorite The Hour returns for more drama and intrigue on DVD January 8! Season two rejoins The Hour team in 1957 where we are introduced to new characters played by Peter Capaldi (The Thick Of It, The Nativity) Hannah Tointon (The Inbetweeners) and Tom Burke (State of Play). They strive to broadcast the stories they believe in at the same time they grapple with the looming specter of the Cold War and changing social mores. With the advent of space race and the threat of nuclear annihilation forever looming, Britain grapples with an era of unprecedented scientific advancement, economic opportunity and cultural change in the face of new immigration from the Commonwealth. At the same time, the members of The Hour team live in a world of cover-ups, sexual intrigues and lurking fascism.]]>
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This year The Hour has returned with season two, and I have to say it has only stepped up it's game (which was a TALL order to accomplish in my book seeing as how I adored season one). In my foray through the world of tv I have found time and again that it is a rare show indeed that only gets better with season two, and this show is one of those rare gems. There is a reason it has received critical acclaim.
The writing is done brilliantly by Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady). It never fails to grip me and draw me into the characters and the conflicts which they face. What impresses me the most is both the dynamic writing for all of the characters and the fact that the historical setting (this year being the Cold War) is never romanticized, but examined through the eyes of these characters for it's unflattering qualities as it interweaves with the story line.
In addition, the cast is made up of some of the most talented actors of our time, headed by Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Skyfall), Romola Garai (Emma, Atonement), and Dominic West (The Wire). These characters (and all the characters) are beautifully sculpted. Through both the performances of the actors and the writing given to them, we are made to care deeply about these flawed, realistic individuals working tirelessly to bring the truth to the people in the world of journalism where honesty isn't always regarded as the best policy.
Freddie Lyon brings all the heart to the show, as Bel brings the know how and strength to steer the ship that is 'The Hour'. I have been floored by the cast performances this year (particularly by Ben Whishaw (Freddie Lyon), Peter Capaldi (Randall Brown), and Anna Chancellor (Lix Storm) in the earth shattering finale we are left with at the end of season two. There should be many award nominations for that episode alone.)
In short, 'The Hour' deserves praise on top of praise. I've lauded this show time and again to my friends and I hope desperately that it will get a season three so we can be reunited with Freddie, Bel, and Hector at least one more time. I highly recommend 'The Hour' if you love well drawn characters, brilliant writing and acting, or if you simply love EXCELLENT TELEVISION. Just as I did last year, I've once again excitedly pre-ordered my copy and will be watching these DVDs repeatedly.
Although I found series two, which explores the politics of fear in the international race for the bomb, absorbing, I didn't think that the scenario was as tightly constructed as that of series one--perhaps too many subplots suggested, but because of the constraints of a six-part series, left unexplored.
As with the first series, the characters are well developed. The acting, in fact, is is flawless, particularly Peter Capaldi, the director of programming who replaced Anton Lesser (whose character is presumably being detained at Her Majesty's pleasure) and Anna Chancellor, who plays the cynical Lix, and this series reveals one of the reasons behind her chain-smoking cynicism.
The second series explores the troubled relationship between news anchor Hector and his unhappy wife. Dominic West manages to temper Hector's overweening ego with the vulnerability of a little boy lost, eventually rediscovering his long-buried generosity of spirit. Vincent Riotta displays a subtle menace as the owner of a trendy Soho night club (the elegance of which cannot quite hide its seediness), and we discover that there is more to Westminster spin doctor (to apply a term unknown in the 50s) Angus McCain--Julian Rhind-Tutt--than he would prefer the public to know. Hannah Tointon is convincing and moving in her role as a showgirl whose aspirations to climb the social ladder seem likely to be doomed, and the ensemble cast of the 'Hour Team' gives us an impression that we are 'backstage' at a working BBC production.
Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw continue their persuasive portrayals of the brilliant-but-lonely career-driven television journalists, Bel and Freddy, but I am less convinced of the chemistry that supposedly draws them together as a couple, but perhaps that is the point. They are drawn together by their mutual devotion to pursuing the story hell-or-high water and perhaps each represents the only one who could possibly fulfil the emotional needs of the other (I also thought that the charming actress playing Freddy's wife was wasted in a thankless role, since that subplot seemed undeveloped and became quickly buried under the main issue).
Nevertheless, series two still had me wanting to know what was going to happen next, and I fervently hope that there will be a series three.