The Replacement – TV Mini-Series (2017)

Photo couresy of: BBC One

The Replacement, a contemporary three-part drama, exposes how in 2017, the modern woman sometimes needs to play dangerously, fight deviously and risk all to have it all.

This psychological thriller spotlights the themes of ownership, selfishness, loss, insecurity, trust, relationships, modern gender identities and concealed manipulation through a dark and compelling script.

Set in Glasgow, the story begins with architect Ellen Rooney (Morven Christie), landing her firm a very impressive contract and is hailed a rising star. Everything seems perfect, with her comfortable marriage, swanky job and supportive friends and co-workers. Then, Ellen finds out that she is pregnant, and even although it is all smiles on the surface, she is terrified this will take her away from what she truly loves-her career.

Still, with a baby on board, she and her colleagues look for her maternity cover. So, here walks in her co-lead, Vicky McClure, who plays the supposedly polite and docile Paula Reece, the architectural prodigy. However, when Paula starts her phased contract, Ellen can’t help but feel the newbie is slowly, but surely pushing her out of the picture. Beginning to panic, the mum to be worries that Paula is trying to outshine her and with the hidden support of her bosses, even replace her altogether.

Despite the reassurances she gets from those around her, Ellen is convinced something is fishy and becomes hell-bent on exposing Paula-just what for, she is not so sure. But with both parties being equally clever and cunning, tensions rise, suspicions fester and the game is on. As the episodes unfold, depraved secrets, escalating acts and horrific consequences build up, until neither woman can survive without destroying the other.

However, despite the gripping synopsis, the even more alluring aspect is the treasure trove of witty premises and narrative strands on offer. For example, there is a clear Hamlet theme running through the series, in the form of speculated and uncertain madness. In this, Ellen feels early on that there is a genuine but well-hidden streak of elusive nastiness to Paula. However, with no clear evidence, Ellen’s colleagues, friends and even her husband tell her it’s all in her head, or she’s misunderstood it, or even worse, that’s she’s unhinged herself. And because of this, the audience also begin to question Ellen’s sanity.

On a broader note, the heart of the drama tackles sexist views on motherhood, as the leads have totally polar views on the most resisting female conundrum-babies versus careers. Paula becomes increasingly obsessive with children and sees motherhood as the most precious and natural part of a woman’s life and believes a mother should put her child first from the moment of conception. Ellen is the middle ground woman, who likes the idea of little ones, but feels that they should fit in with their parent’s lives and finds it hard to bond with her own new child, who her postnatal emotions worry is a bundle of inconvenience rather than joy. Still, it certainly reveals that even today, after so many waves of feminism drenching us from top to toe, men and indeed women, are still debating the questions of motherhood, gender roles and female maternal responsibility. It reminds us that women are still made to feel uneasy about motherhood by those around them, wide society and even their own inner voice.

Moving on, even although this is not a new concept, it was still refreshing to have the drama’s rivalry focus on women in the workplace, rather than love triangles. And even then, it never enters into petty clichés about stereotypical female issues. The women don’t sharpen their swords by wearing the most flattering suit or flicking the greatest advert worthy hair. Yes, sly body language, sneaky tricks and a storm of wit are the deadly weapons in this female fight. And this was greatly achieved through sensational acting, with Christie and McClure proving that actions can speak louder than words.

However, one of my favourite points, is that no character is wholly likable. Ellen is a cold-hearted madam; not to mention her shamefully malicious streak and self-absorbed outlook. Paula is too sweet to swallow and a bit robotic for the first episode, but then as we know, she becomes a little less angelic as the minutes roll on. Richard (Ian Rooney), Ellen’s husband, despite his psychiatry background, seems to have no empathy, is utterly blind to what is going on and has a painfully controlling idea of how his wife and mother of his baby should feel and behave. So, in this minefield of poor role models, we’re left wondering who to support or even like.

Every aspect of the drama was exceptional. Despite being an eventful thriller; it remained tight, focused and fast paced, never losing its spark. Yes, we were teased with possibilities and layers of drama, like a sudden and unexplained death, a potential affair, broken marriages and disappearing children. But it wasn’t top-heavy, but rather each point was given just enough time, attention and detail to make it thrilling, but not exhausting.

Overall, The Replacement, is an exquisite example of a glorious television drama and not only told a heart-racing story with precision and eloquence, but also revealed and inwardly talked through a variety of essential contemporary concerns about motherhood, womanhood and relationships.

Video courtesy of: BBC

Caroline Malcolm-Boulton

Caroline Malcolm-Boulton

Writer, Journalist at reviewsphere
I graduated from Stirling University with Honours in History, Film and Media, and have extensive journalism experience. I spent two years as Arts, Film and TV Editor at Brig Newspaper.
Caroline Malcolm-Boulton
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1 Comment

  1. Wow, what a fantastic read! I hadnt planned to watch it but i will do now. What else can i read if yours?


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