Still failing to take wing(opens in new tab)
Writer: Ashley Pharoah
Director: Adrian Shergold
The one where: Gist and the team take on a father’s custody battle over an adopted child, with Gist’s former flame Hannah representing the boy’s estranged mother.
Verdict: Well, if Eternal Law ’s first episode was fluffy in an odd couple-ish sort of way, the second episode was bleak, heavy-handed and, disappointingly, a bit dull. From the new opening credits (complete with a ridiculously po-faced voiceover by Orla Brady which seems, optimistically, to be aimed at people who missed the first episode but tuned in for the second – definitely wishful thinking) to the final scenes of our protagonist angels watching a feel-good firework display, cigars in hand, this was a dull ITV1 legal drama with a few wings for good measure – a sub-par Law And Order: Celestial York , if you will. It’s even more of a shame, because it comes from the team who made their name from merging the fantastic and the real in a way that was believable and engaging.
The central story this week saw Gist and the team fighting to stop the break-up of a family with an adopted child – and, despite Mr Mountjoy apparently taking a dim view on interventions that subvert humanity’s free will, for the second week in a row Gist got the outcome he was after by touching someone on the shoulder and filling them with an ethereal glow. The central case was rather uninteresting and the way it was wrapped up – a heartwarming letter read out to the courtroom causing the couple to take tentative steps to reconcile – made little sense. Worse than that, it was actually difficult to really care about the characters mired in this legal fight, or feel that they were anything other than a reason to get Gist in the room with his long-lost love, who has been turned to the legal dark side.
The problem, and disappointment, with Eternal Law is that there is the germ of an interesting story here somewhere in between the one-dimensional cases and wobbly sexual tension. Mr Mountjoy sent the angelic lawyers a doomsday clock, while Zak tells Tom that he believes if another angel falls there’s a danger humanity will be abandoned, left to succumb to “pestilence, war, famine and death”. All of which is intriguing and worth exploring – although it begs the question that if things really are that dire, why are Gist and co (and indeed Richard Pembroke who, thanks to Tobias Menzies steals every scene he’s in and is one of the best things in the show) faffing around trying to affect the lives of one tiny York-based family? It makes rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic feel like a sensible pursuit.
The first episode worked as fluffy and enjoyable, if undemanding, viewing because it centred on the idea of the old hand Zak showing new-to-earth Tom how humanity works. Pulling Tom back and focusing on the romantic angst of Zak (who can’t ever be with Hannah because the world might end) is difficult because Hannah has so little personality it’s hard to see what would inspire Zak to even consider giving his wings for her. That paired with a lack of chemistry between them made the episode stall, and even at points made Zak seem quite unlikeable.
At the moment Eternal Law feels like it’s stuck between two sets of expectations – it doesn’t feel like a realistic legal show, but it doesn’t feel like solid fantasy fayre either. It’s mostly a beautifully shot love letter to York. Let’s see if next week’s episode, which seemingly has Tom take centre stage again, gets it on a firmer footing.
Celestial innuendo: “I’m going to kick your bottom, Mr Gist.” (Hannah) “That’s one of those horny dilemmas, isn’t it?” (Tom)
Falling Angels: Forget pushing the beggar into the river, if you want proof that he’s evil you need look no further than Richard smoking inside the legal chambers. He’s an evil lawyer who breaks the law, don’t you know?
Best dialogue: “It’s a contested hearing, not an episode of Bonanza .”