Synopsis: To join the secret paradise called Red Pill, Shadowfax will have to prove to Adrian that she is a worthy member. And despite being troubled by Calumny’s disappearance from the game, Leila does want to join so she can start to understand some of the mysteries behind her new friend Tess and the world of Red Pill.
Review: This episode focused more on real-life concerns and issues. We see more of Tess’s life and it is revealed that the other people she is close to mistreat her. April Pearson, who plays Tess’s housemate Polly, is arrogant and subtly racist and Pooky Quesnel conveys the harshness and frustration of Tess’s mother excellently. Simona Brown achieves a real vulnerability that makes you feel for Tess in the scene with Leila in Tess’s kitchen, and her muted “I’m sorry” when her mother shouts at her in the psychiatrist’s office is superbly delivered.
Also notable is the scene where Tess is made homeless. Simona Brown really makes us identify with Tess here. Tallulah Haddon shows Leila’s caring nature through her interactions with Tess and Calumny’s mother, who is wonderfully played by Lauren Ward. The virtual world is less present than the previous week but its appearances do not disappoint. I loved the shot of the planets in the sky and the beautiful scene when Leila skates on the virtual frozen lake that is subverted by the intense conversation between her and Adrian in the following scene.
Matthew Aubrey‘s Jonty continues to be somewhat irritating although I did like the part where he and Tess dance together. There is some humour when Jonty is passed out on the sofa and Leila watches him sleep. I thought the scene where Tess invites Leila to bed was very gentle and sweet. We start to see Leila come out of her shell more which is heartwarming. This outing was not without darkness as well. There was a very creepy scene which was well acted by Tallulah Haddon and Mark Straker where Leila meets an older man at her job who is implied to be Adrian through his endorsement of Leila: “You’re better than these other idiots.” The part where Leila visits Calumny’s real-life home and meets his grieving mother is very stark and real and the scene where Calumny’s mother sees his body is extremely hard-hitting.
The music continues to be excellent throughout this installment. I loved the use of the piano notes at the beginning. The virtual battle scene was disturbing not only for what happened on screen but the enthusiastic enjoyment of the other gamer, played by Francene Turner. The penultimate scene of this episode was incredible, with Leila confronting Adrian about Calumny’s death and apparently suffering the same fate. The closing moments where a virtual Leila, now a child, plays with her mother on the beach struck a great note of dissonance with her supposed death in the previous scene.
Overall, a very strong continuation that left me excited for next week.
- Incidental Music10