The Replacement is another British miniseries; it sounds like a grown-up version of Single White Female but again: British so extra awesome. Rolling S1:E1 after the break!
We open with the Gilles Warnock Architects celebrating a new project: the Brathness Library. This is Ellen's (Morven Christie) 12.2 million dollar baby and everyone at work is super proud and happy for her.
She weaves home drunk to tell her hunky partner Ian (Richard Rankin) that she's been made senior associate, woot! Then the kissing, following in the morning by the vomiting. We all know what that means!
It's so adorable when she tells her fella at work
Sliiightly less so when she tells her bosses that are welcoming her to her new senior associate-ship. Well her male boss David (Dougray Scott - another Scottish fella, this must be from that side of the UK) thinks it's magic! But Kay (Neve McIntosh) can't conceal her dismay. Not for nothing, Ellen, you don't have to notify work the instant you pee on a stick, although I did exactly the same thing.
Oh see, this explains the Scottish bit
I have two favourite Scottish writers, one is Alexander McCall Smith, who you must read and the other is Ed McCardie, whose show Spotless you must watch. I was very sad to hear they weren't making a second season; it was a show that I really connected with and I think was one of the better ones of the year. He also does a mean cover of The Smiths.
The client just found out that Ellen will be off site for a year or so; they waited until the concrete was pouring, hahaha. But not to worry, Ellen and David (he's very attractive, isn't he?) have already starting interviewing her replacement, it will be seamless!
Cut to a shot of Paula (Vicky McClure) walking down the street, oh, sorry: Paula's ARSE walking down the street, I'm gonna call a flag on the play. When you introduce an actor solely by their body parts, not only is it cheesy AF it robs from their performance. You've just told us that the most important thing about this woman is her sexuality and WHY IS IT ALWAYS WOMEN? Get your shite together, TV
In interview, Paula is all self-deprecation and downplaying her work and accomplishments, Ellen studies her carefully. She discusses it later with a young colleague, she likes that Paula is different from her.
Ellen and Paula have lunch after she's hired; she's excited and ready to go! She wants to come in the office (unpaid) a day a week to start and even whips out a set of blueprints for the library. Ellen can't believe she's A) got the confidential documents and B) is showing them around in a public place like this. She gets quiet again when Paula slags her new boss Kay for not understanding because she doesn't have kids, er. That's not the best foot forward, izzit?
Ellen's sister comes over with her nieces and a bunch of hand me downs for the baby; everyone is so sure Ellen is never coming back to work. I will tell you this: if I was a senior associate in an architecture firm with an exciting project just starting hells yeah I'd be back at work. Woman can not live by the Cat in the Hat alone. She's not finding out gender, it'll be all neutral colours in the nursery!
Ellen's expecting to see Paula come to pick up prints at the office, instead it's Paula's husband Kieran (Navin Chowdhury - whom I know as the sexy sexy Anwar from Doctor Foster!) explaining that Paula's been held up taking photos at the job site. Where she met the client on her own a week previously, without Ellen introducing her.
You can see Ellen mentally processing every step Paula takes over the line, adjusting her own reaction every time. But for how long?
Ellen asks Kieran how he's enjoying being at home; it's clear that Paula lied and Kieran is caught off guard by the question. Paula busts in then and there is alllll this marital tension in the room. Paula sends Kieran outside to deal with their daughter, who's acting up and Ellen sees that Paula has made a bunch of markups on the drawings of the library.
A couple of quick questions about the baby, then there's a brief standoff and out of nowhere Paula lunges at Ellen's belly.
Paula goes out to her waiting car, where Kieran is fighting with their daughter, then they're ALL fighting. Ellen goes back to her office to review Paula's profile and those of the other candidates, then checking in with her boss to find that everyone loves Paula's design modification and they're going to have her start a month early. Yaaaaay says Ellen's face.
She comes up with a new skylight design, perhaps spurred on by the budding competition with Paula, but because of Paula's addition to the work, David doesn't want to pitch anything new at the client just yet. When you do too much design change AFTER the work has commenced, it makes everyone uneasy maybe.
Ellen gets upset, she doesn't like being coddled as David is doing or being sidelined as Kay is implying a baby will do to her and her career. David compares her to Paula; she doesn't even "L...!" Paula. She pulls back just in time from saying she doesn't like Paula but we all know how that sentence was going to end and David takes note.
Ellen's wandering around the job site in the dark when Paula scares her; is she even insured to be here on site after hours? Paula says of course, of course, she wouldn't make that mistake so now I think for sure she isn't insured. Some awkward conversation later, with Paula repeating back David's word about design and then they take their leave as Paula gets a text from Kay: they'll be having Sunday lunch,
As will Ellen and Ian, but Ellen didn't get it because Paula sent it to her personal text account. Just reinforcing that Ellen will be off soon, I gather. Ellen is NOT happy that Paula is texting her partner.
We're getting all kinds of shots of Paula sitting alone in front of windows; she always looks very grave but also drawn.
Now we're at Sunday lunch with everyone; Paula about leaps across the table when Ellen moves to take some brie: no soft cheeses! It kills the table talk. Paula insists on hugging an unwilling Ellen at the door, she feels a kick and shouts for everyone to hear AND grab Ellen's belly. She's very disappointed that this is not the first kick and that her new best friend Ellen has been holding out on her.
Ian picks at Ellen a bit after; why is Paula that much more excited about this baby than she is? They fight, but it ends in a kiss that was sort of voluntary? Kinda?
It's very different with the client this time; Ellen's in visiting and Vernon (Gilly Gilchrist) is distanced and reserved. He chastises her for offering him an expensive bottle of wine and somehow she ends up taking credit for Paula's design revision of the sight lines AND claiming to be Paula's boss. Oh Ellen. Haven't we all been there? About to eat our liver over someone preferring another's work and snatching that bit of credit that is so not ours? That was what they call a Bad Choice; especially when Ellen is obviously clueless about the upcoming big presentation to the client. Go, Ellen, just go!!
She complains to Kay, who is becoming confused by Ellen's insecurity over being left out of everything and blames it on pregnancy hormones. Ellen vows to talk to Paula about it directly and then returns to her office to watch Kay tell her secretary something that has to do with her.
Ellen planned the meeting with Paula for 8 am, which is perfect because nobody else is there. Their talk is a combination of verbal jousting and Sanctimomming; Ellen tires of having her future mommy-splained to her and reiterates: do not leave her out of anything from here on, conversations, presentations, the works. It gets into a shouting match as Paula leaves; right after she suggests that Ellen is treating the most magical time of her life as an inconvenience. Kay's secretary gets an earlful from Paula as she's leaving and consoles her, staring hard at Paula.
You know, we've got enough fellas out there assuming that women are just for breeding, we don't need women piling on with this shite, do we? Enjoy having kids, enjoy not having kids, but don't assume you know what's best for another person or what they need when it comes to "looking out" for them.
Ellen goes from that into a fight with her sister, who brings up Ellen acting weird during her pregnancy; Ellen says she was sick and she must mean mental illness because apparently Ian was her psychiatrist before he became her boyfriend and baby-daddy.
Hold on, I was mistaken earlier, I thought they worked in the same office and assumed he was another architect. That is TOTALLY weird that Paula would have dug up his phone number then.
So many bombs in that sentence: her boyfriend was her psychiatrist? Is that legal in Scotland? And she was "sick" for a year with mental illness? Does she still suffer from whatever ailed her for a year? Have pre-baby hormones been possibly exacerbating the effects?
Ellen and her former therapist chat at home; he suggests that she normalize the situation, accept that Paula has taken over and de-escalate. In return, Ellen gives him 3 nano-seconds of time talking about the baby then she's back plotting Paula's demise. Disguy is so excited about the baby!
It's Presentation Day! Ellen asks Paula to take the lead; Paula is shocked but excited. The one who has been staring hard at Ellen all week comes in with all the information that's been going back and forth; sorry she's late. Oh, no, Ellen doesn't want her to think she was having a go at her.
The presentation goes very well, Paula knocks it out of the park with her personalised and polished delivery and I know that's the point but
PEDANT TANGENT: Would you really be selling the concept of a library at least a year after award of the contract, design completion and months after breaking ground? You would not. You would be discussing completion milestones and projected schedules. PEDANT OWT!
Paula asks Ellen after if she wants her to resign; Ellen's desire for her to do so is palpable. She doesn't want Paula there, but she doesn't want to be responsible for sending her off, so she's settling for hoping she'll fail. Oh Ellen. You know I'm with you, you're my protagonist, but you gotta take a step back and look at your behaviour.
They're back into a shouting match about Paula's parenting "advice" for Ellen when the client and the bosses walk back in; Paula sees first and covers it as work-related. Kay is visibly disturbed by the antagonist vibe in the room; Vernon advises Paula to "not take any shit" and tells Ellen "it's her baby too" which makes us all start until we realise he's talking about the library.
Because Paula IS acting like Ellen's baby is her own; she's past the point of helpful advice (big tires and big basket on strollers!) and is now insisting that Ellen will not be back after her maternity leave.
Kay asks to speak to Ellen alone, hoo boy. It goes right off the rails, I'm glad we found out that Kay and Ellen were friends previously or I would be seriously worried for Ellen's job. Because your boss shouting YOU'RE THE REASON I'M SO GLAD I NEVER HAD KIDS! and then you implying that her husband maybe doesn't feel the same would be out of place in an ordinary workplace. They are moving up Ellen's maternity leave to starting right effing now. David comes in and they all hug, which Paula watches with disfavour from the outside.
Ellen overhears Ian discussing what he thinks is The Problem With Ellen; he's calling it ante-natal depression, which I didn't even know existed. "The trick is persuading her" had my ears ALL the way up, who is he talking to? Ah, I think it's Kay and she's wondering the same thing I mentioned: is Ellen's dealing with lingering effects from her previous bout of depression? IAN SHARES THIS MEDICAL INFORMATION WITH KAY; Ellen was on anti-depressants after her mother died and that's when Ellen's had enough. She walks in. Ohhh, even worse, that was Ian's mother, also a psychiatrist but I gather there is no love lost between Ellen and her mother-in-law.
What triggered all this? Paula called today.
The next morning Ellen gives Lucy (Kim Allan) flowers with an apology; that's who she was fighting with about the copying and I hadn't caught her name. Lucy will be organizing Ellen's going-away party, no matter how much Ellen protests! It feels like a wake.
She makes up with Ian by getting an ultrasound without him to find out the gender: it's going to be a girl! Mazel!
There's a design problem at the job site; Ellen insists on going with Paula to check out the different tile options. Ellen takes her shoes and socks off to really feel them when she looks up and notices...her skylight! That was a surprise planned for her going-away party, David made the change from what she sent him. It's all going great until Ellen falls and lands hard on her shoulder.
Oh and Ellen isn't supposed to be out here; if Paula reports this, which she's required to do by law, Ellen will be suspended. That makes Paula's decision really easy: is Ellen being suspended a bad thing? Really?
Ellen packs up her office with David's help; Kay's not even speaking to her she's so angry. Ian confronts David outside and oooooh, I didn't have a great opinion of him before but I sure do now. Ian leaves with "she's too nice to blame you. I'm not."
Ellen's confined to working from home; so she talks to the baby-to-be while watching videos of site visits and cruising by the office late at night in her car. She's having a snack after a driveby when Kay calls; can she come to the site right away? Things are shitty and she finally understands what's been going on. Ellen is elated
But I have a bad feeling. Ellen makes it to the job site, but her code won't let her in anymore. She calls Kay and gets the new access code texted to her
JFC THEN KAY FLIES THROUGH THE SKYLIGHT
What.the.hell was Paula up to that she KILLED Kay to cover it up??? I'm still shaking!
Now Ellen is in labour and the police are checking files and removing Kay's body. Ellen goes under the knife while Paula stands by a window and the camera pans in creepily and we're out.
Whew! What a ride of a first show! I'm still coming down from the shot of Kay flying through that skylight; it reminded me of when Martin Sheen was tossed off a building in The Departed.
The REALLY interesting part of the show is the ramping up of the Mommy Wars; Mrs. I Stayed Home For Ten Years Because I'm THE BEST MOMMY EVER versus Ms. Career Over Here. Taking that idea to the nth degree like this is gorgeous, they've layered and nuanced everything so it's not cheesy and doesn't seem odd when everything steadily starts to slip south. You never really know if Paula is as wrong as Ellen thinks she is, until the whole murdery bit at the end, that is. But WHY? Until next time!