National Treasure, Episode 3: An accuser finally speaks

marie-karlFinally in this episode we get to hear from one of Paul Finchley’s accusers. Not through a lawyer, or a statement to police, but directly.

The scene between Rebecca Thornton, the first woman to come forward, and Finchley’s wife Marie, is easily the most powerful of the whole thing to date. There’s a refreshing lack of over-acting, hysteria and dodgy Scottish accents. Instead there’s just a woman plainly stating: “”I’m not lying. I’m really not lying.” She’s not even looking for revenge, she insists, she’d just trying to get things straight in her own head. All a stunned Marie can manage is “OK” before she dashes from the ladies’ loo.

This episode is largely free from the tricksy camera angles, beams of light and woozy shots that characterised the first two, although distracting lighting choices in a couple of scenes make bleached blond hair look green, then blue.

Last week’s ended with Dee crashing her car into the home of her former babysitter, the one accusing her dad of sexual assault. Implausibly, this action has apparently gone down well in terms of swaying public opinion in Finchley’s favour.

For reasons that really aren’t clear, he refuses to visit Dee in hospital, instead waiting until she’s back in her halfway house to pop round or a chat about his childhood of being repeatedly assaulted by his sadistic dad. He won’t tell the court any of this, of course because everyone subscribes to the theory of the abused becoming the abusers, and Paul has spent his “entire life trying not to be that man”.

Perhaps he hasn’t tried hard enough though. In a flashback him we see him sitting idly by as a colleague sexually assaults Rebecca Thornton right in the middle of a restaurant (and in front of Marie, too). This, along with a scene from the set on which the rape is alleged to have occurred, tells the viewer plenty about the culture in which they were all operating, but the rest of the episode steers us away from that and back to Finchley family drama.

The episode ends up as a bit of a hotchpotch, with too much time is wasted on relationships that aren’t actually relevant to the central premise of the drama. Why should we care that Karl is in love with Marie (or thinks he is)? Of what relevance is it that Dee’s son has had enough of her letting him down? The show’s relentless focus on the Finchley-Dee relationship is misjudged, suggesting as it seems to that the strain of dealing with her troubles might have pushed him to behave in ways that were morally if not legally questionable.

It remains to be seen whether Finchley’s tactic of claiming he had consensual sex with Rebecca will pay off. When he said he couldn’t remember what had happened he sounded convincing (and if he was going to lie to Marie he could have just maintained Rebecca was making the whole thing up) so it’s hard to see things being tied up in any sort of satisfying bow next week.

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