Thursday, January 20

Rules of the Game Review: Maxine Peake is Ravaging a Rich and Meaty Murder Mystery | TV

HIn the immediate aftermath of her heartbreaking role as the lead in Anne, the ITV drama about the grieving mother of a Hillsborough victim who spearheaded the campaign to uncover the true causes of the catastrophe, Maxine Peake delivers another great performance in Rules of the Game (BBC One ).

This four-part work by Ruth Fowler uses the conventions of a murder mystery to examine the evolution (or not) of sexual politics in the workplace. Peake plays Sam, the hardened manager of a family-owned sportswear company, Fly Dynamics. A friend of the founder’s children (Owen and Gareth Jenkins, played by Ben Batt and Kieran Bew) all her life, Sam has worked there since she was 16 years old and is revered and feared. The brothers are about to go public with the company when Sam discovers a body, unidentified for the first episode and beyond, on the lobby floor. It has been propelled there from the second floor balcony.

What emerges, in flashbacks of different points in Sam’s career as the police interrogate her, is a portrait of a workplace that is not as welcoming as it seems, filled with conscious and unconscious predatory men, veiled and uncovered hostilities, and women bullied in various ways. , enraged, in denial and sometimes all three.

The arrival of new human resources director Maya (Rakhee Thakrar), hired to replace a man named Hugh, who left under a cloud but who, she discovers, is still inexplicably on the payroll, causes the first cracks to appear. “There is nothing happy or healthy about this place,” says an employee, Tess (Callie Cooke, filled with despair).

Through Tess, Maya discovers the story of a 16-year-old employee, Amy (Amy Leeson), who died 10 years ago after a heavy drinking and coke night out. She begins to feel the silences around her. Several threads of the plot begin to intertwine, along with a great deal of dark humor that elicits unexpected laughter. They make for a rich and heavy tapestry, but compelling (at least until very late in the series, when a hint of melodrama creeps in).

But where Rules of the Game excels is in the parts in between – the parts that provide us with a backdrop and illustrate the larger environment in which workplaces are mere concentrations of ever-present toxins that permeate our lives in a million ways. subtle.

The precarious position of women, domestic and professional, and the cruel injustice that female youth and beauty are accepted as currency, is everywhere. Vanessa (Zoe Tapper), Owen’s demanding, vampiric wife, first put on Botox as Gareth’s scruffy wife, Carys (Katherine Pearce), watches, is deeply baffled in the second episode by the news of which is perimenopausal. Later, Owen’s “jokes” tease her about how “big” her babysitter, Sam’s teenage daughter Gemma (Megan Parkinson) looks, while Gemma’s inadvertent entry into the world of sexual visibility is a catalyst for later events. Carys finds violent pornography on Gareth’s computer – must he accept it, ignore it, get over it, or is he allowed to feel revulsion?

Then there is the mystery surrounding Gemma’s biological father. Sam has never told her who he is, which seems out of place for such an outspoken person and suggests a dark story. There’s also Hugh’s shady firing and the agreed importance of hiring a woman to take his place. Most harrowing is the description of a coercive relationship that manages to evoke the specificity of women’s fear in just a handful of scenes.

If I’ve made it look like a paint job by numbers – sexual harassment, here! Battered woman, there! Dinosaur poses, left! Zeitgeisty porn stuff, right! – I apologize. What Fowler has created is a drama that, yes, takes a broad theme as its theme and is crammed with many interrelated themes. But it never fails to have a purpose and it never fails to advance the story or portray the reality of the characters, which is also the reality of women everywhere. Not all women, perhaps, but almost all. Along with a propellant plot, it asks questions about internalized misogyny, access control, the gradations between self-preservation and complicity, what the rules of the game were and are, and whether women can ever win.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *