Series one of Doctor Foster was a traditional thriller: on discovering a blonde hair on her husband’s lapel, Gemma Foster had her suspicions raised, but it took us a while to decipher whether she was lying, lied to or lunatic. Series two has not bothered with such fripperies, instead going full pedal to the metal bonkers. There is little discovery to be made, no genuine mystery afoot and only one real cliffhanger moment – we are dealing with revenge and revenge alone now.
And it’s been glorious. Arguably the best moment of the last series was Gemma being accused of behaving badly (at what was already the world’s worst dinner party) and responding, with a smack of the lips, that, yes, “I am a wolf tonight.” This series has taken that spirit and run with it, creating one of the most ludicrous but hilariously enjoyable TV spectacles of recent years.
For every one of us who has ever had a break-up, only to spend the next fortnight running through what we should have said in the heat of the moment, drafting vile but exquisitely worded Emails of Vengeance that we’ll never send, or plotting Revenge Manifestos we’ll never act on, Gemma Foster is our collective catharsis.
Despite Gemma seeming like a very modern heroine, she’s actually more like those of Greek myths or iconic operas. Calypso in a Lexus, Salome with a Samsung or the Queen of the Night in LK Bennett heels
Doctor Foster has zero chill. Doctor Foster got the house, the kid and the whole damn town. But instead of moving on – physically or emotionally – Doctor Foster spent two years seething until her ex, Simon, and his new family moved back to Parminster and the whole daft spectacle could start all over again. People can apparently be very possessive about small market towns, particularly ones that host enormous super-clubs, glamorous multi-storey office complexes and myriad cute fairylight-bedecked cocktail bars.
Much of the series has seen Simon and Gemma squabbling over who gets custody of their teenage son, Tom, but what they really seem to care about is who gets to live in the mysterious yet magnetic Parminster. Simon wants to stay there because he’s lived there all of his life. It’s where all of his friends are, he repeatedly reminds us – but he doesn’t seem to realise that he only had one friend and he lost him in the second episode when he stitched him up. And Gemma wants to live in Parminster because – hang on, why does Gemma want to live there? It’s not as if being a GP isn’t a transferrable skill, Tom might not benefit from a change of scene or she has a great group of supportive mates. She seems to have a grand total of two friends and both are useless.
Gemma wants to live in Parminster because Simon does. There is no real excuse for any of her actions in this series, yet we all still delight in her behaviour anyway. Perhaps it is just because it’s so thrilling to see a fortysomething woman being so unapologetically lustful, perhaps it’s because she behaves on a rainy Tuesday like none of us would dare in our darkest fantasies or perhaps it’s because she has abs of steel despite chilled picpoul being her main source of nutrition. Whichever it may be, the way she treats Simon is the way we wish we could have treated all of our Simons. The couple are both so morally objectionable that neither could really be called the bad guy, but Gemma is who we root for nonetheless.
It is notable that one of creator Mike Barlett’s projects shortly before Doctor Foster was an adaptation of Medea, the ancient Greek play which sees the scorned protagonist kill both her husband’s new wife and her own children. Because, despite Gemma seeming like a very modern heroine, she’s actually more like those of Greek myths or iconic operas. Calypso in a Lexus, Salome with a Samsung or the Queen of the Night in LK Bennett heels, she is scorned vengeance in the most old-fashioned mould. However, at the end of Euripides’ play, Medea escapes Corinth for Athens. Come on, Gemma, leave Parminster; set yourself free for all our sakes.