TV Viewpoint: Two Weeks to Live and The South Westerlies

The South Westerlies doth help this blow-in on her mission in new Irish drama

GIRL walks into a roadside café doesn’t quite have the ring of guy walks in to a bar, but what follows makes up for the pedestrian set-up. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams is Kim, a young woman who appears to know the value of everything but the price of nothing, when she pulls out a wad of cash and is perfectly willing to hand over note after note at the astonished and greedy request of the proprietor.

The owner’s downtrodden wife fills her in on the dishonesty while they both freshen up in the café’s dingy restroom, and when she exits the loo shortly after Kim does, is greeted with the sight of her husband beaten unconscious and with the words ‘oink oink’ scribbled on his forehead with lipstick.

Thus begins Two Weeks to Leave, a quirky comedy that began on Sky One last Wednesday. Williams gives a strong performance in the lead role of the daughter of a doomsday survivalist who runs away to seek her way in the world.

She’s at once naive and capable, trusting but with her guard up, and when she’s taken in by a prank by the brother of a new friend, who insinuates that the world is truly about to end in two weeks’ time, a steelier, more homicidal side emerges and her mission begins.

It’s not a bad half hour’s entertainment, Kim’s foibles in understanding the real world being the source of much of the humour. It moves along briskly, and the first episode did its job in introducing the characters and the main narrative. Twists and turns aplenty are to be expected as the story continues.

The South Westerlies, a new RTE production started last Sunday on RTE One, starring Orla Brady as Kate Ryan an employee of a Norwegian wind farm company. She’s been assigned, and reluctantly agrees, to go undercover in West Cork to surreptitiously convince the seaside community of Carrigeen to get on board with a new development.

Kate invariably runs in to old flames and disgruntled friends from her time spent there on holidays in her youth, as well as indignant crowds with fierce objections to the proposed windfarm. Her job is to get influential locals on side, but her own reservations over the deal being offered to them is no doubt going to get in the way of the job in hand.

There are no surprises at all in the hour-long prime time show; to paraphrase her 18-year-old son, what could possibly go wrong with her subterfuge, when there are angry locals and faces from her past to contend with?

A hostile old friend played by Eileen Walsh won’t forgive Kate for the past misdeed of falling out of contact with her. Surf instructor Baz (Steve Wall, of The Stunning fame), recently returned from Hawaii, is at once earmarked as a possible father of Kate’s son, from their very first interaction.

Hollywood stalwart Patrick Bergin is the bombastic local councillor and landlord of the busy pub, his son is a controversial radio presenter in fervent favour of the wind farm. Any viewer familiar with standard tropes in an ensemble drama will be able to predict what’s going to happen next, but good performances hold it up, despite the sometimes uneven pacing, and the relatively slow start.

Lovely panning shots over the coast, and of the impressive cityscape of Oslo also kept both my eyes on the screen rather than one on another device. If anyone is still to be convinced that a staycation is a great idea might want to tune in, although heading in to autumn the bright sunny skies of the south may be becoming less and less visible between the showers.

Despite ending on a cliff hanger of the tamest type, The South Westerlies has set up a lot for the next five episodes. Will Kate’s browbeaten and bullied colleague Morten be set upon once and for all by the baying mob? Will Kate’s secrets be uncovered and old grievances turned to new? Will the development go ahead anyway, but with a new deal to suit even the most impassioned objectors?

You could do worse with your next few Sunday evenings than to tune in and find out.

First published in The Tuam Herald on 09 09 20

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