August 11, 2018
Benedict Cumberbatch is outstanding.
I cannot praise this series enough. Not only was it well written and well acted, but it really tapped into the human mind and it hooks you in from the first scene. The miniseries, based on the novels by Edward St. Aubyn and directed by Edward Berger, follows the life of Patrick Melrose from the 1980s till the early 2000s. An Englishman, a drug addict, and a man who has lost his way. With an abusive father and a never-present mother, Patrick falls into major substance abuse all while dealing with the trauma of his childhood and the demons that still haunt him.
As I watched the series, I made notes and wrote small reviews for each episode. These do contain spoilers, so be mindful and if you fancy, watch this series because it is truly amazing.
Episode One: Bad News
A manic beginning.
Going into the first episode I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that Patrick’s struggle with drugs was going to be everpresent in the series and it really does start right off with that. From beginning to end, this first episode is pure acting gold from Cumberbatch. Every emotion you can think of is displayed in only an hour. Patrick’s relationship with his father wasn’t easy and the first episode only scratches the surface of it. I am not quite sure where it’s going to go, but Hugo Weaving is already outstanding in his role as David Melrose. While the series starts off with quite the amount of humor, it is in the jokes and frenzied scenes that the severity of Patrick’s addiction comes through. There are elements of Patrick’s life that are shown through both flashbacks and drug-induced manic moments that not only captivated me but chilled me as well. So many questions are asked and only the next four episodes may hold some answers.
“In my experience of love, you get excited when someone tries to mend your broken heart and disappointed when you realise they can’t.” – Patrick Melrose
Episode Two: Never Mind
A trip to the past.
And so the questions get answered. At least the biggest one does: Why is Patrick so damaged as an adult? The answer? His father. I figured that to be the main reason after the first episode, but now after the second episode, it all becomes completely clear. In Never Mind, Patrick is going through withdrawal and we are transported back to his childhood at his family home in Southern France. It is here that we see just how traumatic his childhood became in just one frightening afternoon. His father abusing him, his drunken mother too afraid of her husband, and a depressed and terrified young Patrick all equal the addict we met in the premiere episode.
Yet, in those dark times, a light shines through. Anne Moore, played by Indira Varma, is one of the only people who sees what is happening in the Melrose family. She feels for Patrick and wants Eleanor, Patrick’s mother, to do something about it. Varma stole the episode for me along with Weaving who was unsettling and destructive. The bits of Cumberbatch thrown in as he struggles with his withdrawal surely contrast to his childhood. A single shot of him shivering and shaking in the back of a car clearly say, “Look at what you did to me, Father. Are you proud?” And that is what is most heartbreaking of all. An important episode and one that should unnerve you and make you understand the main character even more so.
Episode Three: Some Hope
Patrick. Bridget. Johnny. Princess Margaret. Former Drug Dealer.
Episode three was an episode of revelations. Not only do we see the bond of Patrick and Johnny grow, but also we catch up with Bridget from the previous episode. She has climbed her way in society, but nothing is as it seems of course when it comes to the life of someone in high society. As Patrick struggles with his sobriety, he is reminded of his childhood trauma while at Bridget’s party, but these minute mental setbacks lead him to confide in his best friend about what his father had done to him as a child.
Character development is the highlight of this episode and I enjoyed seeing how Patrick’s mind had changed after he had given up drugs. Now I do not think that will last. In fact, I am betting on a relapse soon, but we can have hope, right? There are also a lot of parallels between Bridget’s daughter Melinda and a young Patrick. Just as David dismisses Patrick, we see the same when Princess Margaret dismisses even the idea of Bridget presenting her daughter to her. Of course, the biggest difference is that Bridget takes Melinda away from the harrowing environment whereas Eleanor just left Patrick to his own devices.
Patrick taking that leap to join the world even it is only at a garish party is either a step forward or one back. I haven’t quite figured out which one yet. And then to meet his former dealer once again after all those years and see how he had turned his life around, it was refreshing and I think it was something Patrick really needed at that moment. However, as I said before, I have a feeling a relapse may be on the horizon for Mr. Melrose. We can clearly see the temptation around him and the small moments of despair as he thinks of his father. While he claims that he is “so tired of hating him”, I don’t think this is the last time we will see the ghost of David Melrose haunting his son.
Oh and we finally found out what the bloody lizard meant and it’s even more heartbreaking than I imagined.
“What do I loathe, then? I loathe the poison dripping down from generation to generation. And I’d rather die than inflict the same thing on our children.”- Patrick Melrose
Episode Four: Mother’s Milk
I’d say that is the main theme for the fourth episode of the series. All starting with the presentation of one document in the South of France. We meet up with Patrick in 2003. He is married and has two sons and is having a vacation at his family home in France. The one we see in episode two. It is during this vacation that Patrick learns that Eleanor means to disinherit him and give away the estate to a drum circle leader…or something of the sorts.
And just like most moments concerning his parents, it affects Patrick greatly and he falls straight off the wagon. I called it ladies and gents, a relapse. Now he wasn’t shooting up heroin or snorting cocaine in the bathroom, but the alcohol was flowing and who is the one that notices it the most? His firstborn son, Robert. Kids miss nothing when it comes to their parents and Robert sees right through his father’s attempts at trying to hide the fact he is relapsing by way of alcohol. As someone who is perfectly aware of how one’s father’s overzealous alcohol consumption can affect a family, this hit a bit of a sore spot for me.
Time and time again Patrick reaches for the bottle and when that doesn’t seem to be enough, he goes for comfort elsewhere than his wife. Enter Julia, a character from his past that I cannot stand. She is an accelerant to his relapse and he definitely knows this and yet, he can’t seem to stay away.
There is a big contrast between his addictive tendencies now to how he was back in the 80s. Now he has to worry about losing much more than his own mind, but his family as well. Mary, Patrick’s wife, clearly sees what is wrong and in the end tells him he needs to figure it out or leave. I am surmising that is going to lead into the final episode where Patrick may actually get some proper help. Although, we can only hope.
Since the previous episode, Patrick has gained so much. Then in a matter of days, it all comes crashing down due to his mother and the fragility that occurs when either of his parents is involved. His family is a blessing and a curse. He wants them to be loved and wants them to be proud of him, but he worries he will turn into his father and bestow the Melrose curse upon them. Seeing this side to him really got me. This was someone who was this carefree and unhinged man at the start of series and now he believes himself to be cursed. In my opinion, this makes him even more fragile and vulnerable not only to his family but to himself.
Onto the final episode! I only hope that this ends well.
Episode Five: At Last
At last indeed.
Can I just this: WOW. That is my current mood after finishing Patrick Melrose on Showtime. The fifth and final episode was everything I wanted and more. Eleanor has died and it is with her death that things start to come full circle. Not only does the weight of his parents lift from his shoulders, but Patrick also starts to realize that he can move on whilst not forgetting them entirely.
During this episode, Patrick flashes back to the time he spent at a mental health institute and how he managed his addiction there. During these flashbacks, there are moments of temptation that he starts to follow but then redirects himself and these are the choices that just pushed along his character development. And he is better for it. There is a period in which Mary has left him and he is lost. With no family to surround him he hits rock bottom, but slowly, he starts to have small revelations that ultimately lead him back to sobriety.
The ever-haunting presence of his father still surrounds him, but there is this small resilience that comes out during his mother’s funeral, at least after his breakdown minutes before. A moment I really enjoyed was when Patrick explicitly says that if anyone were to harm his children he would fight and not brush it aside as his mother did. From being compared to his father for a large amount of time, this emotion-filled moment completely severs that tie. Especially when we learn that Patrick was not David’s only victim and that Eleanor might have had some inkling as to what was happening.
As for Nicholas Pratt, I am happy to say the bastard finally bit it. And during Eleanor’s funeral no less. There were remarks that came out of Pratt’s mouth that I was sure Patrick was going to punch him for. He didn’t, but I would have. The passing of Pratt finished off his parent’s inner circle and thus ending the horrendous legacy Patrick had to deal with as a child.
And finally, the moment that I was holding my breath for: when he chose right. Patrick was clean, not cured and in no way completely okay, but he was going home to his family and he had finally stopped running.
“I was thinking how life is just the history of things we pay attention to. The rest is just packaging.” – Patrick Melrose
This is only a glimpse into everything that went on in the series, but if you are looking for an emotional and brilliantly written series to sink your teeth in, this one may not be a bad one to try. I absolutely loved it and I want more and more people to watch it. Benedict Cumberbatch broke my heart and Hugo Weaving disturbed me, but it all ended the way I wanted it to. Within only five hours of television, Patrick Melrose proved to be an emotional experience that I would watch over and over again.
Have you seen this mini-series? Thoughts?