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The Secret Daughter–Season 2, Episode 5 + Season 2 Finale (20 Good Reasons + Hearts on Fire)

So the Seven Network decided once again to air two episodes of The Secret Daughter at once, and this week we have the penultimate episode and season finale aired together.

These episodes dealt with Gus’ life threatening heart surgery, Marc’s app launch, and Marc and Billie’s developing relationship.

At the start of the double episode, Billie holds off dealing with her career because of her concerns over Gus’ surgery. Overall I felt that the Gus subplot alternated between being full of cliches and turning these cliches on their head. For example, Gus suffering a complication that could have killed him is a cliche but he lived albeit with the uncertainty of whether he suffered brain damage. The biggest example of this is Gus waking up not knowing who Billie is only to reveal he was joking to lighten the mood. Throughout this subplot, I wasn’t sure whether Gus was going to live, I thought it would be an obvious outcome, however it would have been a cliche if he died. Overall I’m glad he wasn’t killed off.

I found the Eclipse subplot to be more interesting. In the penultimate episode we are finally told what Eclipse was—-a business deal involving a Walperinga mine, which lead to Jack buying the hotel via insider trading. The irony of Gus knowing about the mine and having briefly known Jack was a nice touch.

I felt the kids’ choice to ultimately posthumously turn Jack in was an obvious outcome and I enjoyed how it lead to a downfall of sorts for Susan. The question of how much of a gold digger Susan is, if she is one, was raised again and more so in this episode than any other. While Billie points out Susan did love Jack and have a daughter with him, she is also very quick to marry Andrew to take over the hotel and hold on to the Norton riches. Nick’s betrayal after Susan laughs off his marriage proposal was a nice and necessary touch to her downfall. In regards to her downfall, I felt Gordon played it incredibly well, especially as I thought a few times throughout the episode that Susan would commit suicide.

I felt that Susan accidentally setting the fire in the cellar and Billie saving her was predictable but also well done. I thought that the whole hotel would burn down which would get everyone out of hot water but also leave them with nothing. One letdown of this subplot, as well as the episode ending, was the lack of clarity of the consequences of Jack’s actions, but I’ll come back to the ending.

The Marc and Billie subplot provided some great comedic moments, however it wasn’t interesting overall due to the predictability of the outcome. They were going to get together, it was only a matter of time and circumstance, in this case Marc’s app launch and Gus’ surgery. Fields and Sweeny had great comedic chemistry, with Gus seeing right through Marc and providing him with a suggestion to calm his nerves, and calling each other by other names when Gus recovers.

In regards to the finale, season and possible series ending, I didn’t see it coming at all. Chris and Vivienne purchasing the Walperinga pub instead of a house was a nice twist, and conveniently provides a home for the Nortons after the fire. I felt that the ending as a whole was a good full circle, with the series as a whole ending where it started—-Billie singing at the Walperinga pub with her band, however with the slight difference that she now has a family around her and that they have changed each other’s lives for the better. Although Susan tells Gus she’s bored as Billie is singing away, even she has a small smile on her face.

Overall these two episodes were well done and the season as a whole was an improvement on last year’s, especially with Billie’s confirmation as a Norton, however it did feel rushed. Although I felt this way due to the Network’s choice to air the season over three weeks, rather than anything to do with the writing itself.

I’m hoping this isn’t the last season, however if it is, The Secret Daughter has certainly gone out on a high note.

 

Stray Observations:

-Aunty’s brief descriptions of the Nortons and Layla based on what Billie has told her about them sums them up perfectly—–charmer (Jamie), workaholic (Chris), spirited sister (Harriet) and best friend (Layla).

-Gus has given Susan the nickname of “Susie”.

-Matt’s declaration of love to Layla was the funniest one I have ever seen on TV.

 

 

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The Secret Daughter–Season 2, Episode 3 + 4 (Rear View Mirror + Just Another Love Song)

So this episode was a double episode apparently.

This episode took the characters and the focus back to Walperinga as Layla has organised for the old band, Cardiac Arrest, to play at the pub with Billie. While they’re all there, they also run into Gus in the most hilarious way, but I’ll get to that.

I liked the writers’ choice to break the season up with the change of scenery, especially as it enabled Billie to run into Gus and for the truth about his failing health to finally come out. While I was expecting a cancer diagnosis, I was actually pleasantly surprised for the reveal to be a genetic health condition as a cancer diagnosis would be a bit of a cliche. Billie’s efforts and pleas to get him to have surgery were heartbreaking and well played.

Another interesting aspect of the episode was Chris and Billie reading and trying to figure out her contract with the record company. While Chris and Billie have had brief scenes together, this is the first time that we see them having in-depth conversations and interactions. Despite his tough exterior and initial distrust of her last season, Chris clearly loves Billie and cares deeply about her professional well-being by warning her of the contract risks, going with her to Walperinga to help her understand it within the time limit, and trying to re-negotiate it altogether. I enjoyed the scenes in the car between Chris, Matt and Billie, as Chris reveals the contract risks to Billie, showing how much their relationship as siblings has progressed.

His relationship with Billie is not the only character development we see in Chris, in fact this episode was almost entirely devoted to it. As Matt continues to watch the video made by their late mother, he discovers that Chris wanted Jack’s approval and Chris discovers that Matt is still watching the video to his horror, which leads to him starting a physical fight with Matt. The fight scenes between them were both funny and hard to watch in their realism, especially as Chris has never been shown as violent. The most enjoyable moment of these scenes was ultimately Billie pulling them both by the hair to break the fight up.

Despite his limited scenes, Gus stole every single one of them with his both hilarious and heartbreaking antics. I certainly didn’t see the reveal of the fact that his doctor is also Layla’s mum coming,  however I also felt that Gus’ desire to die and subsequently changing his mind when he hears Billie sing was a cliche.

When Chris, Matt, Billie and Layla return, they are blindsided by the arrival of Matt’s ex-girlfriend, Anna. While I know Susan brought her back into the picture purely to get her way, in writing terms Anna’s introduction was forced and rushed to enable the equally rushed inevitable break-up between Matt and Layla. I felt that the hiking scenes were only inserted for the purpose of the break-up.

Anna’s return isn’t the only thing that four of them are blindsided by, while it’s of no surprise to the viewer, the record company’s true colours and intentions are inadvertently revealed to Billie, Chris and Layla, which predictably but rightly results in her tearing up the contract. Due to the obvious outcome of this subplot and Marc’s request earlier in the episode to have her sing at his event, I see a record contract through Marc coming.

Throughout it all Harriet and Susan’s deteriorating relationship is faintly present throughout the episode with Harriet’s choice to throw a party when Susan leaves and the subsequent consequences, and Susan’s dinner and hook-up with the potential hotel buyer, Andrew Weston. I appreciated the writers’ choice to have their relationship in the background of this episode as it didn’t really add to it, however Susan’s actions, especially of Andrew’s cliche proposal, will eventually play out in a later episode, most likely the finale. I also appreciated the writers’ choice not to focus on Marc and Billie’s developing relationship, as I felt it would have taken away from the Walperinga subplot.

Overall this was one of the best episodes of The Secret Daughter that I’ve seen to date due to the change of scenery, change of focus, and character development with Chris, as well as the development of the sibling relationship between him, Matt and Billie.

 

Stray Observations:

-Gus riding a lawn mower and eventually jumping over the fence into random people’s backyards, complete with snatching a snag at a BBQ and being hosed down, has to be the funniest police chase I’ve ever seen.

-I enjoyed watching Chris chugging beer in the pub along with Billie’s subsequent reaction.

-Billie didn’t interact with Harriet and Susan at all, at least not directly and on her own, in this episode.

Best one liners:

  • “I always knew how easy he was on me but I didn’t know how tough he was on you.” (Matt to Chris on Jack as a father).

The Secret Daughter–Season 2, Episode 2 (Respect)

This episode picks up where we left off and focuses more on the minor characters–especially Harriet and Layla.

Harriet’s anger at Susan for her ignoring her needs, as well as her treatment of Billie, comes to a head when she looks into “divorcing” Susan and trying to sell her share of the motel–both of which she tries without success.  Interestingly when she has the chance to get away from her mother in a realistic and more successful way, she reconsiders, which I’m hoping is played out later as it was left unresolved in this episode.

The bigger focus was on Layla trying to find independence and ultimately remove the label of “gold digger” that Susan put on her in the previous episode. I felt that her dissatisfaction with her life at the hotel and her attempts to find work were portrayed realistically for the most part, with the exception of the scene at the gardening shop which I felt was predictable. I appreciated the outcome of Billie and Layla moving out into their own place as it provides potential for character development and for great scenes away from the hotel.

The most interesting aspects of the episode for me were ultimately the ones that weren’t fully explored–Chris’ career dreams and Katrina, Jack’s first wife and the boys’ mother. Obviously her video diaries will lead to some sort of twist or obstacle in the overall story, however this is yet to be revealed, I did enjoy Chris’ and Matt’s reaction to seeing their mother again, especially Chris’, as Katrina was never mentioned and Chris’ character development wasn’t really explored in the previous season. I’m looking forwarding to seeing these aspects explored further.

On smaller notes, Gus has returned to Walperinga and his seemingly failing health is yet to be addressed. Also, I feel that Marc and Billie’s burgeoning relationship, if you will, is developing too quickly and that the writers are quickly demolishing the tension between them. I did enjoy their scenes in the bar, especially with the writers’ choice to turn the “man saving woman from a brute” cliche on its head by having Billie save herself and then make it clear to Marc that she doesn’t need saving. That being said while no viewer likes sexual or romantic tension to drag out, at the same time it’s not satisfying if it’s demolished too quickly. I also enjoyed Billie’s photo shoot at the studio, however due to the boss’ demands to have her photos severely altered in PhotoShop, specifically to lighten her skin, I see a sad betrayal-like outcome on the horizon.

I felt that the episode’s ending of Susan about to tell her solicitor of her plans to cut everyone out of the estate shows a lot of promise for future episodes–both for this developing story arc and for Susan’s character, especially as Harriet is calling her out on her behaviour and her jealousy of Billie is becoming transparent.

Overall this was one of the most interesting episodes I’ve seen, especially as the focus was more on the minor characters rather than the main players.

 

 

Stray Observations:

-The requests to have Billie’s photos severely altered in PhotoShop provides a sad but realistic glimpse into the expectations of women and their looks in the entertainment industry.

-The Walperinga Band (forgive me I can’t remember their name) that Billie was a part of makes a reappearance.

Best one liners:

  • “I like you so much better now that we don’t have to pretend” (a drunk Susan to Billie).
  • “You’re a shocking liar, honesty suits you better.” (Marc to Billie)
  • “For future reference, I don’t need saving.” (Billie to Marc)

 

 

The Secret Daughter–Season 2 Premiere (Always on My Mind)

As it has been a year since the season 1 finale aired, I had to re-read my review on it to be able to review this episode, even though Mauboy provided a voiceover summary of the season at the beginning.

My review of the finale focused on Harriet’s misguided actions and mistakes to keep Billie around, Susan pretending to be nice to Billie in an effort to avoid a lawsuit by her, Billie performing in Jack’s Bar in front of a record producer (portrayed by INXS’ Kirk Pengilly), Billie finding out that she’s not a Norton and discovering it was okay for her to have feelings for Jamie, Billie running away with Gus, and Susan lying about her departure to Jamie.

The episode kicks off with Billie and Gus travelling home on the train and apparently according to Susan, a couple of weeks have passed since the finale. I’m not sure if this is a continuity error (especially as there are unfortunately a few in this episode) or whether Billie and Gus just took their sweet time getting back home.

I felt it was an interesting choice to have the episode briefly focus on Billie finding another side to her family through her mother, unfortunately I felt it was just a distraction away from the Norton side of things. It felt forced and awfully convenient, especially the moment Aunty tells Billie to go back to the city. That being said, the moments from this brief subplot paid off with subtlety throughout the episode, with the warm welcome Billie received from her mother’s side of the family contrasting beautifully with her tension with Susan. I felt that the photo of Billie as child confirming that she is in fact a Norton was a nice throwback to the pilot, not to mention a full circle way to provide the confirmation.

Meanwhile back in the city, it’s revealed that Hannah’s actions in last year’s penultimate episode and finale are now common knowledge to Chris and Jamie. I actually enjoyed the moments of sibling bonding between Chris, Jamie and Billie throughout the episode, as it was something that couldn’t be touched on last season due to the uncertainty of whether Billie was really a Norton. I also enjoyed the moments between Billie and Susan as they are finally addressing Susan’s hatred for Billie. Billie’s choice to stick around wasn’t a surprise, there would be no season if she didn’t. These moments contrast beautifully with tense moments between Susan and Harriet, as Harriet inadvertently exposed Susan’s airport lie to the family.

It didn’t surprise me that Kirk Pengilly didn’t reappear as the record producer and that another opportunity to start a singing career was presented to Billie, as it’s a reason to keep her in the city and with the Nortons. Unfortunately I felt that her dance performance in the record company’s office was cheesy and over-the-top.

On smaller notes, I appreciated that Billie and Jamie’s feelings were addressed especially at Layla’s hand, although I found it weird that Layla and Jamie would still date after that. My favourite moment of the episode was actually Layla locking Jamie and Billie out so they can deal with it, and her subsequently watching them via the CCTV cameras, alongside Chris at the reception desk. I also loved Billie and Jamie’s thumbs up to the camera, knowing that they were being watched. I also appreciated the hints of Gus suffering from a yet-to-be-identified serious health condition, which will obviously be explored this season.

The addition of James Sweeny to the cast as the wealthy Marc Laurent will hopefully provide a breath of fresh air to the series. I felt Marc and Billie’s first and second meetings to be cliche, and apparently he’s been introduced as a love interest for Billie, so it will be interesting to see how this is played out throughout the season.

Overall I felt this was a good but not great season premiere, I felt that the closure of the Billie-Jamie subplot and the confirmation of Billie as a Norton after all of the sample-swap drama from last season, was messy. That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing what this season will bring.

 

Stray Observations:

-The train that Billie and Gus were travelling on certainly looks nicer than those on offer through NSW TrainLink.

-The little girl that Billie’s Aunty says is her niece would actually be her second cousin (continuity error).

Best one liners:

  • “It’s easy to be good on you” (Jamie to Billie).
  • “I guess that goes for you too” (Aunty to Gus in regards to his place in Billie’s mother’s family).

The Secret Daughter–Season 1 Finale (Risk It)

I wondered what the finale would be like after Billie was told that she’s not a Norton.

I liked the focus on Harriet and her intentions behind her actions being revealed to both Billie and the viewers. I liked the display of evolution in their relationship as Billie was the only one who knew where to find her and gave her some tough love, in regards to her grief and Susan, to the point where she actually defends Susan. Speaking of Susan, it was a little cringeworthy to have her pretending to be nice to Billie purely to avoid a lawsuit. I’m divided as to whether this is a part of her character, writing that needs to be improved or possibly both. I found it interesting that she takes the risk to lie to Jamie about Billie’s whereabouts at the end of the episode, considering that she would still be at risk of a lawsuit, which is why she was pretending to be nice in the first place. Despite this, I am looking forward to seeing this played out next season.

I did enjoy the next step of Billie’s career path, which was being a headliner in Jack’s Bar, as well as being on show for a record producer. I enjoyed it as it went full circle–in the pilot she is performing to a small crowd in a pub and in the finale she is performing for a larger crowd in a sophisticated bar, with the possibility of a huge career in front of her. While Jessica Mauboy looked great in her dress, I personally felt that the symbolism wasn’t really needed, as her evolution as a singer was already obvious. I felt that Kirk Pengilly’s cameo as the record producer was purely inserted to state the obvious to Billie, and that his performance was a little stiff, however his character did his job. I wonder if Kirk’s performance is just a cameo or whether he’ll be a recurring character next season if Billie does return to Sydney.

I felt that the writers did a good job of wrapping up this season’s plots and establishing new plots for the next one. Since Billie admitted the truth to Susan and Harriet to Jamie, I’m wondering whether it will be common knowledge when the next season kicks off. I’m also looking forward to finding out where Gus and Billie ended up going and I felt it was a smart choice by the writers to leave it open.

Overall, this episode, for a finale, did its job. I also felt that it was understated, however this was consistent with the level of drama throughout the season, and was well done. I’m looking forward to reviewing season two next year.

The Secret Daughter–Season 1, Episode 5 (I Fought the Law)

This episode didn’t have the drama I hoped it would, until the last two minutes.

This episode was mostly about Billie’s court case.

Ryan O’Kane played the role of the ridiculously bad solicitor rather convincingly, however what I liked most was Gus’ role in the subplot. For the first time Gus shows some ironic competency with the law or rather what happens when you break it. I feel that Gus trying to help Billie by being a “double agent” and for calling the police to report Bruno and Rachel for stealing the necklace, was ingenius and the highlight of the episode as it shows immense character development. I also loved the revelation of Billie’s prior conviction involving a plastic fork and a pizza.

In regards to the outcome of the court case, it was obvious that Billie wouldn’t be going to jail and in all honesty, the dragging out of the court case and Jamie’s sweet but cheesy character reference were cliches. I understand the need to advance the overall story, however it could have been done better.

Harriet’s behaviour was the most interesting element of the episode, especially as it lead to the outcome at the end. Harriet’s conscience is finally catching up with her and she reveals the truth to the solicitor about the shoplifting incident, as well as Billie not being a part of the Norton family. I also liked her interactions with Bruno and Rachel as it served Billie’s subplot and also served as a reminder to the public of how people can take advantage of social media and how easy it is to do so to children. I also found it interesting that she is the only one who can see the chemistry between Jamie and Billie.

I feel that Layla and Jamie’s hook up was only added to make Billie feel jealous, which I have stated in my previous reviews is strange, due to the fact that she didn’t know that she’s not related to Jamie, until now.

On an another note, I feel Susan is becoming more unlikeable due to her reluctance to help and her obvious joy when she overheard Harriet revealing the truth to Billie. I’m glad that Jamie finally called her out on her behaviour and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’ll be like in the finale now that she has an upper hand.

Overall this episode wasn’t as exciting as I thought it should be, however it was a definite improvement from the last one.

 

 

 

The Secret Daughter–Season 1, Episode 4 (Lean on Me)

I felt that this episode is a bit of a filler to lead into the remaining two episodes.

My reasons for this are due to the episode revolving around Jack’s funeral, the arrival of Layla, the return of Gus, the media catching on to Billie’s appearance in the Norton family and Bruno’s discovery of where Billie is. All of these moments are building up towards explosive drama.

While it was good that the funeral was brief so the viewer isn’t traumatised or bored, I felt that Chris’ eulogy was sweet however it was undermined by Jared Turner’s stiff performance. I felt that he was trying to hard to be emotional and it honestly didn’t feel authentic. It didn’t surprise me that a couple of journalists managed to sneak in and take photographs of the funeral, the whole “hiring security to keep media away only for them to show up” plot device is a cliche. However I felt it was a good and realistic choice for the media to reveal Billie’s whereabouts to Bruno.

Despite how I felt about his performance at the funeral, Jared Turner’s performance with Renee Lim (Vivienne) was amusing. Considering how serious Chris is, it was a breath of fresh air to finally see a perkier side to him after he and Vivienne finally give into their lingering feelings. I loved the interaction between them, especially Vivienne first attempt at declaring her feelings for him as it gave the episode as whole some much needed humour.

I find Billie’s jealousy towards Layla making a move on Jamie strange, considering that she believes Jamie is her brother. I think the whole “love triangle” angle would only be effective if she thought or knew that she wasn’t related to him.

I’m interested to see what Bruno and Rachel’s next move will be now that he knows where Billie is. I’m also interested in seeing the next episode so I can find out who this “worst lawyer” will be for Billie’s court case. One thing I wasn’t interested in seeing was Billie’s band in Walperinga as they really didn’t add to the episode.

Overall the episode was clearly a filler and because of that it was a little dull, however I think it provides a great transition to the remaining episodes.