Quick Review: The Split, BBC One

Quick: The Split is clearly set in some sort of alternate reality where London is always sunny, divorce lawyers are allowed to talk in private to the party they aren’t representing, and literally everyone is unhappy with their partner. It’s the same kind of heightened realism we’ve seen in Collateral, Clique, The Replacement, Apple Tree Yard… There’s definitely a signature style at play here.

That being said, it’s an incredibly watchable programme, with plenty of family drama and plot twists to keep you entertained. Nicola Walker plays the protagonist, Hannah, who has left her mother’s prestigious family law firm for a rival. Abi Morgan has produced a rather flighty script, skipping from story to story in a way that certainly keeps boredom at bay – but can feel a little ungrounded as a result.

Morgan initially launches her audience into Hannah’s drama with her two sisters, one of whom works for her mother (an excellently purse-lipped Deborah Findlay), then into the dramatic divorce of millionaires Meera Syal and Stephen Tompkinson, wades into the child custody battle involving Matthew Baynton‘s stressed comedian, and still has time for a quick glimpse of Hannah’s estranged father (Anthony Head). Naturally, as in all recent BBC dramas, The Split shows us how literally no one is truly happy in their relationship. Despite being married to the apparently perfect Nathan (Stephen Mangan), Hannah is still seen mysteriously texting her hot co-worker in the middle of the night. Poor old Nathan.

The Split is a fun, stylish watch, with family tension by the bucketload and a fab, female-driven cast to boot. If Morgan can allow her characters some space just to live and avoid the constant creation of drama (see Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale for tips), the next five episodes might start to feel less like a reheat, and more like the fresh and exciting show they could be.

Quicker: BBC One’s The Split is an immensely watchable programme which feels rather too flighty at the moment, but has the potential to settle down in future episodes.

Quickest: ***

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