Siobhan Finneran's been on my mind lately, with the BAFTAs (booooooo she didn't win but SARAH LANCASHIRE DID!!!!!) and also all the recent kerfuffle about Rita, Sue and Bob Too, I can't believe how much she's changed! Let's roll onto the conclusion of The Moorside, where we've just had some unexpected and exciting news.
They found Shannon Matthews!! And even though her mom Karen (Gemma Whelan from Game of Thrones - I hate her on that show) is acting WEIRD, we're having a party in Dewsbury, everyone celebrating Shannon's return and enjoying some fireworks. Everyone but Natalie Brown (Sian Brooke) who challenges rally leader Julie Bushby (Sheridan Smith): where was Shannon found then?
Julie beelines over to PC Steve "Kinchie" Kinchan (Dean Andrews! From Last Tango in Halifax!) to ask just that; he coughs up the information laughably quickly. Now you can see Julie's mind working overtime: did Karen or anyone else know where Shannon was? Is this uncle a pedophile? Why did nobody mention this uncle previously?
Natalie's husband Scouse (Peter Dagleish) is put off by her bad attitude and waiting to see if there is anything to actually celebrate, he's got a block party and a case of beer to enjoy! Bollocks to Natalie!
Back at the police station, Karen Mathews is still grimly sitting by herself; at least DC Christine Freeman (Siobhan Finneran) is excited that Shannon's been found! Karen hasn't asked about Shannon, hasn't asked where she was found, how she is, she's just sipping her coffee sullenly and waiting to be able to leave. She swears she doesn't know Mick Donovan.
There is chaos back at the house, Karen and her boyfriend Craig (Tom Hanson) have to walk through a scrum of reporters and well-wishers outside her tiny house. Inside is EVERYBODY, including Julie, Natalie and all of Craig's family. They immediately call her out for saying she didn't know Mick Donovan; she was sitting on his knee at Craig's dad's funeral!
We're watching Mick Donovan's (Sam Chapman) interview along with DC Freeman and DC Alex Grummit (Steve Oram); he flat out says that Karen told him to hide Shannon for her, threatened him AND offered him money to do so. So. There we have it.
Julie is finding everything out just as quickly as the police, maybe faster even. She's picking out a tree to commemorate Shannon's being found but the specific information about how the wee girl was found is not sitting well with her.
Scouse has half the lawn dug up for Shannon's tiny tree when Julie gets there; detectives Christine and Alex are taking Craig and Karen down to the station. Julie assumes it's to see Shannon but I'm trying to image a world in which I wouldn't be sleeping at the police station at that point. There is no judgement there, just a complete disconnect.
Alex talks to Craig while Karen and Christine go for coffee. Alex hits Craig harder than Christine is on Karen, but they still don't get anything.
Back at the house, Christine takes a tiny run at Natalie, who she can tell doesn't believe what she's seeing. It's one thing for mates to chin at each other, it's quite another to rat to the police, so Natalie is clearly torn. She also wants to find out what really happened to Shannon.
Once again: it's Julie who backs everyone down off of Karen inside her house and leads the tree ceremony in the front yard. That is a total Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, hahahahaha, but everyone is there to watch it be placed in the middle of a massive hole in the middle of the yard! Fanks, Julie, Karen doesn't know what she'd do without ya.
They release balloons because as Petra (Faye McKeever) notes: it's Julie's trademark!
Julie's kiddos aren't appreciating all the help she's been giving the Matthews family; they're berating her for her lack of attention to them when the police drive by with Craig in the back. Now what's happened?? She runs off after as her children look at each other: this is what they meant!
Craig's been arrested for porn on his computer and we all know the only type of pornography you can be arrested for, don't we? Yeah. I called that as soon as he said "I'm not the only one who uses that computer" back last episode. Alex is there with Karen, but he can't explain properly as it's an ongoing investigation. Unfortunately, this is also the first day Karen gets to see Shannon, and she's right wigged.
Natalie and Julie agree to watch Karen's other kids and take them to the park. They talk about Craig's arrest and discuss whether he's a pedophile. He is to Natalie, even looking at it is enough for her. She and Julie were both abused as children; how very differently they turned out. Natalie has her pain on her sleeve but Julie has it buried as part of her armour; she charged her dad who abused her when he remarried and she was worried about the new kids around him. She's a tough lady, and she got there the hard way. She'd do anything to protect children.
Natalie's response to the situation makes much more sense in that context; for her to immediately suspect her mate Karen seemed jarring. But once you know that she sees kids as especially vulnerable and questions parents not keeping them the forefront, you can understand her reaction.
Also: Julie, you should have brought your kiddos to the park too, they're starving for you.
Instead, she gets a call to come to where Karen is meeting with Shannon, ohh no. They're asking Karen to voluntarily give up the rest of her children until Craig's court case is over. She cries and Julie helps her but I don't understand!! KAREN wasn't arrested for possessing child porn, CRAIG was! And he's presumed innocent, right? And won't he be in jail until the court case? No way that guy has bail money. This makes me so angry because no way would they try this shit on a family that had wealth or influence. I get that on the surface they're protecting the kids, but is Craig realistically even going to be there??
Later, with Christine and Alex looking for a place for Karen to stay, Christine questions Julie: does she still believe that Karen had nothing to do with Shannon's disappearance? Julie affirms but we can see her thinking.
She stares at her first grandson later, yes we do too, don't we?? Yes we do! Small and perfect.
Christine picks up Natalie the next day for a lift while Julie rewatches the press conference appeal Karen did for Shannon's return. The halting speech, the crying with no tears, she stares at all of it.
Christine wants Natalie to get the confession she and the rest of the police force haven't been able to prise out of glum Karen; do it as a mate! This is the biggest case these police have had since the Ripper and really?? Natalie knows she and Karen aren't the best mates they were, she asks too many uncomfortable questions.
Julie's starting to ask those same uncomfortable questions of Karen too; probing as to whether Karen REALLY misses her kids or not? Because Karen's out waving at strangers staring at her saying "yeah, it's me!" as though she's a star. Julie has a go at her for not acting like a grownup but rather a "daft celebrity" and somehow Karen ends up with Julie's bracelet.
I won't cast too many aspersions on Julie's character as I know there is a real person attached, I'm just going to mention that sort of situation wherein a rational person can get addicted to being told they are the only one who can help; they'd be lost without them! It's an easy trap to fall into and eventually that sort of person might even go looking to help people (maybe ignoring their own family in the process), just to get that helper rush. It's super unhealthy but ubiquitous.
Julie gets a text from Natalie, she wants to talk. They both know Karen's been lying to them, but about what? They need to have a serious talk with her, but Karen's not speaking to Natalie and she's not allowed on the estate anyway.
A meeting is set up offsite, Kinchie bringing Julie and Natalie and Christine bringing Karen. Karen is very worried about Natalie battering her, but Christine reassures her.
They get it out of her, anyway, Natalie and Julie.
Here's the story she tells: Karen had been trying to leave Craig, she had her bags packed but she couldn't leave because Craig stayed at home and didn't go to work. She'd asked Mick Donovan to pick up Shannon from school but there she was, trapped at home with Craig and the other children because he didn't leave.
I suppose that makes some sort of sense, except for the part where she was hoping and telling Mick there would be money in it for him. And the part where Shannon was kept drugged and tied to a bed, that doesn't really fit.
Karen cries and cries as Natalie storms out and Julie sits and thinks whether she's still friends with this wretched creature crying for herself in the front seat.
The tide has definitely turned against Karen now, as community members wait behind barricades to curl invective at Karen being driven by, their venom is redirected at Julie, who Natalie accuses of enjoying the attention of the investigation. She's driven off as they shout at her back.
She goes straight to Karen's house with a shovel, meaning to dig up the tree she planted in the yard. A couple of gawkers with cameras take pictures; she yells at them until they go away. This is it, see, they've been reduced back to trash, suitable only for laughing at, shaking your head and taking pictures to illustrate their lack of humanity.
Julie struggles with the disconnect; she's still trying to help the community deal with what happened to Shannon and to help Shannon herself. She tells Reverend Kathy (Rebecca Manley) that she's tried to organize counseling at the school to deal with the fact that Shannon isn't coming back, but there aren't the resources. The only thing she can do is have Shannon driven through town in the back of a police car so folks can see that she's alive. She cries as the Reverend reassures her: everyone did their best and it will be okay. Eventually.
Julie wishes she had the reverend's faith, she lost hers when one of her children died at 6 months from SIDS.
Christine's popped round to see Julie; who's furious about the news coverage on the case, can't they tamp any of that down? They talk openly about the case, which is surprising, yes? Karen is now denying everything she said in the car, which Christine believed at the time. Neither Julie or her feel that Karen or Mick are smart enough to put this together, so is there someone else involved? Christine won't speculate as to who, but the police do have some ideas. Personally I understand that Karen might not have the intellectual wherewithal to stage a major play, but she's certainly cunning. Do not underestimate.
Julie goes to get the story straight from the horse herself; Karen lies and cries and lies and cries and then tries to pass off her bracelet as the one Julie gave her. Karen can't even tell the truth about that one thing and I think the sound we heard was the last of the scales falling from Julie's eyes.
In court, Karen sticks to the same game plan; lie and cry but nobody is buying it. The prosecutor suggests that her tears are those of self-pity and everyone in the gallery agrees. Natalie is up on the stand after, testifying as to what Karen told them in the car the day she confessed, how could she lie to everyone for so long?? The gallery goes wild.
It's time for Julie to give her account of Karen's personality; for whatever reason they've got loads of professional assessments for Mick Donovan but nowt for Karen. I call plot device.
She calls Karen out for her lies and subterfuge first, but then she gives what conservatives call Excuses and I call Context. Karen's a damaged human being and while it doesn't excuse her heinous crime, her life of abuse makes her actions slightly easier to understand. Julie is still Karen's friend; Karen cries when she hears that.
I think there's a real disconnect between Karen and how people feel and react; a psychiatrist would call that "does not respond to immediate stimulus." That's learned behaviour, when you learn to protect yourself before you show anything outwardly and it makes people think you're insincere and maybe fake. Not everyone had the luxury of learning to express their feelings honestly as children. You know what can really put stress on a family, regardless of size? Poverty. And until you're had the experience of having that fear live in your throat daily, you don't know a thing about it.
Karen is found guilty on all counts.
Some time later, Julie sees Natalie with a moving truck in front of her house. Natalie and Scouse have broken up and she's moving off the estates. She was impressed with Julie's bravery at the trial, everyone was out for blood but Julie held her ground and thought for herself and that meant a lot to Natalie.
Julie gives Natalie props for pushing Karen the way she did; if she hadn't nobody would know any different and everything would have stayed as it was. They both take a second to think about what that might have looked like, regret and a sense of distance flit across their faces.
Julie heads home, where wee Peter is trying to teach their geese to fly while Kinchie watches. Julie shoos him away to school, his suspension has been lifted, woot! What's next for Julie then? "A ciggie, a brew, a bacon butty and then we'll see."
The captions of truth take us out: Karen and Mick got 8 years each, Karen was released in 2012, Julie visiting her the whole time. I did some looking and Craig got off with time served, because he DID spend that entire time in jail. One presumes he's on some type of list. Shannon was placed with a different family and her name was changed; I wonder about the rest of Karen's children.
I did some research after and found that this case was meant to show the difference between classes in modern society; allegations were made that poor Shannon Mathews wasn't near searched for as much as darling Madeline McCann from a wealthy family of influence.
From a production standpoint, I thought they did a great job, from casting, to reenactments, to setting the tone and mood as to what it was really like then. Siobhan Finneran was lovely as a detective carefully but insistently looking for the truth and looked absolutely beautiful besides. Sheridan Smith as Julie Bushby stole the show, but it's Gemma Whelan's Karen Mathews that sticks with me. Sian Brooke as Natalie did a massive part well, it's perhaps the first time I've seen an actor be less attractive than the actual real-life person and that's a testament to how gritty they wanted the show to appear.
Now, back on my stump: It's common thought that people of lower socio-economic standing are not as good people or parents as those in the upper echelons but I would venture that there are good and bad people of all stripes. Not a unique thought, I know, but people in general are super comfortable judging those particular lives by their appearances, without any attempt at gaining any understanding of the conditions that grow those differences. Poverty is a real and oppressive force and until you've lived there: you know nowt about it. None of thus excuses Karen's actions; I can't imagine any of it myself and I don't even think I'm a great parent (too shouty), but again: context.
Until next time, everyone, thanks for reading along and I for one am just glad I watched a show on child abduction where the child ended alive! ALIVE! Yay! Cheers, you lot