Well this season premiere got off to an intense start with the main focus being on Jim’s death and a minor focus on Hugh’s ending probation. As the premiere was so intense and there’s a lot to cover, I’m going to do this review character by character.
Meryl and Hayley—Meryl and Hayley’s interactions in this episode were the most intense and interesting. Throughout the course of the episode, the circumstances of Jim’s death are slowly revealed. Meryl and Jim were having a night out in the ute under the stars and Jim had a massive heart attack, Meryl unsuccessfully tried to revive him and then had to drive his body back to the house to tell everyone. The depths of Meryl’s grief are explored in a sensitive and realistic manner. You first see her trying to keep herself together but it doesn’t take long for her grief to take hold of her.
As she keeps having flashbacks in her sleep, she refuses to sleep and drinks coffee and takes NoDoz-like pills to stay awake. As a result, as Hugh later points out when he discovers she’s been dosing herself up on the pills and coffee, she becomes irrational and snappy by coming up with the nuclear fuel rod documentary idea, makes cakes all night, eventually runs her car off the road, and culminates with her snapping at Hayley and Hugh having to sedate her when he finds out what’s been happening after he sees her playing Call of Duty.
The cinematographic choice to have close up shots of Meryl’s eyes was a perfect one, it subtly shows her grief and her pain without adding unnecessary dialogue. The writers’ choice to have her breakdown and Hugh discover what she has been doing and help her simultaneously, was superb. Another superb and subtle choice was to have Meryl make the heartbreaking admission that she doesn’t want to sleep as she is experiencing flashbacks in her dreams and she doesn’t want to sleep in the bed alone.
A highlight for me was not only Tina Bursill’s phenomenal and heart wrenching performance, but also the exploration of Hayley and Meryl’s relationship. While they have always had a solid relationship which has been fun to watch and Hayley has always been a strong woman, it’s interesting to watch their dynamic grow as Hayley is now married to Ajax and pregnant with Meryl’s (technically) great-grandchild. Due to their close relationship, Hayley is the only one to be subjected to Meryl’s irrational behaviour and to see how much the grief has taken hold of her and tries to support her. Hugh also sees it, but only (presumably) after Hayley speaks to him, not to mention you can also see Hayley’s maternal instincts come into play.
Overall Bursill’s performance was the most spectacular out of the cast, and Bayliss played her part as the concerned daughter/granddaughter-in-law and expectant mother with the right balance of strength and naivety that is true to Hayley’s character.
Matt and Ajax—As Jim has passed away, the question was who was going to inherit the farm. This question was answered last season when Jim and Meryl revealed that Hugh would inherit it as the oldest son despite his lack of desire and knowledge of farming, however they made this choice to secure Ajax’s future in particular. I found it odd that Matt was upset considering he seemed to be aware of Jim and Meryl’s decision, but I appreciated that Matt’s battle over how the farm would run wasn’t with Hugh but with Ajax. Matt has been running the farm with Jim for years and has desires to grow hops to make more money for the farm and brewery, but Ajax is against it as it wasn’t what Jim wanted.
I felt Ajax and Matt’s constant battles was well-balanced with the right amount of humour and realism. I also found it hilarious that Ajax dobbed on Matt to Hugh on the phone, while High was high as a kite.
Interweaved throughout their battles is their grief. Matt is internalising his grief by not saying much about it, to the point where Charlie expresses her concerns that he’s not dealing with it. Whereas Ajax is externalising his grief by taking it out on everyone, first by splashing water on couples at the wake, then by pulling skeet and later shooting imaginary skeet on his own, culminating in him destroying Matt’s hops. Their grief and animosity are yet to be resolved, and it will be interesting to see how it eventually (hopefully) will be later in the season.
Charlie––Charlie only played a minor role in this episode by getting Glen and Rod away from Meryl at the wake, trying to help Matt deal with his grief, asking Hugh to deal with the conflict between Matt and Ajax, and revealing to Hugh that Jim took out loans without telling her, as she runs the farm’s accounts, something that was touched upon in the previous two seasons.
Hugh and Penny (and Ken, Mia and Betty)—Hugh and Penny’s relationship, both professional and romantic, were only briefly addressed. At the wake both of them get a call informing them that the Board is reviewing Hugh’s probation a month before his year is officially up. Hugh heads off to the city to find out his fate and is welcomed back by the Board. I feel like this was always going to be the outcome, however despite it’s predictability, it was the right one. I held my breath when one of the doctors asked for a drug test and then breathed a sigh of relief out when he said he was joking (I then laughed at the writers’ practical joke with the audience). On the romantic front, Hugh and Penny finally have sex for the first time, although this now means that the sexual tension between them is now gone.
While the appearance of Ken, Mia and Betty were only brief in this episode, it didn’t go to waste. Ken and Mia not being bothered by Ajax soaking them with a bucket of water when they were kissing was hilarious, as was Ken giving Hugh a cursed stone hoping it would work to keep him in Whyhope, and it was even funnier when he asked for the stone back and threw it away. The reveal that Mia brought a flask to work (and most likely not the first time she’s done this) was also hilarious, and Betty still knowing all is a running gag that will never get old.
While Hugh’s year is up and he has been welcomed back by the Board, it was obvious that he was going to stay in Whyhope, at least for a “few more weeks”. The premise of the show revolves around him being stuck in Whyhope, so if he’s not around, there’s no show. Sticking around to deal with the farm debt and to work at the new heart clinic that Ken mentioned, are realistic reasons to do so, and gives this season endless potential with story arcs and subplots.
Overall this was Doctor Doctor‘s best season premiere to date and one of the best season premieres I’ve ever seen, with grief and loss being dealt with in an intense but realistic manner, with the right amount of humour mixed in. However I am disappointed in the major continuity problem of the end of Hugh’s probation and Hayley’s pregnancy—-in the penultimate episode of last season, it was revealed that Hugh had 88 days left in his probation (around three months) and yet Hayley is clearly in her second trimester. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to reviewing the rest of the reason.
-The episode is set less than week after Jim died.
-The show’s theme song has been re-done.
-The episode sparked an interesting debate about what behaviour is appropriate at a wake—-Ajax thought it was inappropriate that people are happy and having fun, while Meryl and Hayley were glad that everyone was having a good time.
-I’d like to know what planet Glen and Rod live on that they think it’s appropriate to flirt with a woman whose husband died less than a week ago. I’m hoping that there aren’t men out there who actually do this.
-Hayley’s worries of people bruising the baby when they touch her baby bump was adorable and shows her naivety as a first time mum-to-be.
-Ken asking for his cursed stone back from Hugh when he returns from the city, only to throw it away when he’s in the background of the shot, was hilarious.
-Dora sighting: At Jim’s funeral and wake.
Best one liners:
- “There goes my kidney!” (Hugh to the family as they are lowering Jim’s coffin into the burial plot)
- “We lie to others not each other.” (Hugh to Meryl)