The Virtues Recap: Shane Meadows Explores A Tortured Past In New Miniseries

May 15, 2019
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps
4

Summary

Brilliantly naturalistic and often deeply uncomfortable, Shane Meadows’ new miniseries is a masterful display of trauma and self-destruction.

4

Summary

Brilliantly naturalistic and often deeply uncomfortable, Shane Meadows’ new miniseries is a masterful display of trauma and self-destruction.

This The Virtues Episode 1 recap contains spoilers.


Created by Shane Meadows and inspired by a traumatic event from his own childhood, Channel 4’s new miniseries The Virtues is minimalistic, naturalistic, and deeply uncomfortable television. In it, Stephen Graham (fresh from Line of Duty) plays Joseph, a recovering alcoholic with a horrific past whose ex takes his nine-year-old son to live in Australia.

And speaking of Stephen Graham, this might be his very best work to date — an impressive accolade considering he’s pretty much always good. From the jump, he comes across as a deeply tortured man and things get even more complex from there; his innate ability to evoke sympathy despite always seeming on the brink of rage and violence (self-destructive or otherwise) is in full effect through The Virtues Episode 1, striking awfully moving and relatable notes in the earliest scenes shared between him and his young son.

The overall effect is almost of a documentary; everything is spare and economical, relying almost entirely on raw old-fashioned acting and sparse, believably banal dialogue. But the weight of unspoken feelings and awful history looms over everything, a tangible presence in what would otherwise be relatively mundane scenes. The whole show is like that, as if you’ve been deposited without warning in someone else’s life. More TV could probably stand to feel that way.

But there’s a beauty in all the heaviness, or at least a poetry, and as a result, there’s something essential about The Virtues, even if it’s often horribly uncomfortable and sad. Primetime evening TV might often be about escapism, about slipping into shoes that would never ordinarily fit, but here Meadows has created an alternate reality that somehow feels truer to life than non-fiction might. After just one episode, The Virtues is indescribably absorbing, horribly squirm-inducing, and might just be a low-key masterpiece. We’ll keep an eye on it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.