If Doctor Foster fans were worried whether series two would live up to the shocks and surprises that we saw in the first series, the jaw-dropping cliffhanger and table-turning events in last week’s penultimate episode should have laid those to rest.
Manipulative cheat Simon really shouldn’t have told Gemma that the only way he’d be leaving his home town again was in a coffin…
Unsurprisingly, the show’s cast and crew are keeping tight-lipped about what’s to come in Tuesday’s finale, but considering all we’ve seen this series – that homecoming party from hell, the collateral damage to Tom and others and those graphic close encounters – there’s still plenty for Suranne Jones and co to talk about.
Let’s start by going back to Gemma doing the thing we were all shouting at our tellies for her not to do – but secretly hoping she would – when she spotted the open back door of Simon and wife Kate’s infuriatingly expensive new home and headed in.
“When I read that episode – firstly the fact that she’s in his house – I was like: ‘What the f*** are you doing?’” says Suranne, 39, who plays Gemma.
“‘We’re two minutes into the show, why are you in his house?! You idiot!’ Then Simon comes up the drive and you’re like: ‘NO!’ Then he starts to say what he says to her about her top and her clothes.
“He’s judging her. But it’s all set amongst the calmness of him making the bloody tea. It was great.
“And there was that brilliant bit in the same episode where Gemma just smashes Simon’s car door because there’s a childishness to them too. The show still manages to be funny.”
For fans of the previous series’ grand-finale dinner party – when Gemma finally let rip at Simon and Kate in front of her love rival’s parents – it was reassuring to see that here was Gemma, two years later, as fearless (and possibly deranged) as ever, with both ex-wife and husband still dealing with powerfully unresolved emotions.
As she sipped smirking Simon’s passive aggressive Yorkshire tea and stroked the work surfaces, it was hard to tell whether they were about to take this upstairs or all the way to the morgue.
“This show – of all shows – thrives on unpredictability, breaking the rules and pushing characters to places you haven’t seen them before,” says Doctor Foster creator/writer Mike Bartlett.
“Gemma and Simon are such interesting characters, they will take you to places where maybe you don’t feel comfortable. That’s exactly the world of this series.
“We like to present ourselves as coherent human beings – particularly now that everyone shares everything [on social media] – but that’s a lie.
“We’re all a mass of messed-up contradictions, doing things we shouldn’t, having thoughts we shouldn’t, our bodies doing things we shouldn’t.”
“That’s the whole story of Doctor Foster,” adds Suranne. “People are a bit weird…” Gemma discovered exactly that when she brushed a hair off Simon’s shoulder at the homecoming party and felt him getting aroused.
“Gemma was left with these sexual feelings,” admits Suranne.
“It’s that: ‘Where did it go?’ Not only are there feelings of hatred left but also all this other stuff of: ‘We were having sex two days before I found out [about his affair].’ I think she just needs to know that Simon still feels like that. But then that’s a thrill at the same time, even though she hates him.”
Series two certainly hasn’t shied away from sex, with Gemma and Simon’s monumentally ill-advised kitchen and front-room reunion (while son Tom plays his music upstairs in that house with its painfully
thin walls) taking things further on screen than the show has ever done before.
“I think it’s important that we’ve shown the sex we’ve shown,” says Suranne. “In a story about infidelity, betrayal and sexual feelings within relationships, you’re obviously going to have sex scenes.
“Without them, it wouldn’t have been as powerful.
“I think any actor would say to you that gratuitous sex is something you don’t want to be involved in.
“Why would you want to do that? I’ve read scripts where I’ve thought: ‘We didn’t need to see that.’
“It’s sometimes awkward to watch. I think you know when it’s not really part of the story because you
go [cringes]: ‘Turn it off!’ If it’s part of the story, you’re in it. I’m there with them.
“Of course it isn’t thrilling to read sex scenes when you’ve just had a baby [Suranne gave birth to her son last year] and you’re going back to work six months after…”
“Sorry,” says Mike.
“But it’s important,” explains Suranne. “I kept saying to Mike: ‘Maybe Gemma has just put on weight. Could we reference that?’”
Talk of the headline-making hate sex scene in episode three brings us to Gemma and Simon’s son Tom.
Poor Tom. If series one focused on Gemma dealing with the affair, this series has looked in depth at the effect these two adults not being able to control their feelings has had on their vulnerable teenage child.
“This series, Tom is starting to feel the effects of the divorce,” says Tom Taylor, who plays him.
“Being a teenager is hard anyway, even more so as his parents are so messed up. Tom blames both of them because neither of them is willing to back down. He feels out of control and conspired against.”
While there’s sympathy for Tom’s predicament – clouded as it is by his assault on Isobel – what’s more surprising is the mixed feelings some viewers have expressed for Simon, even when he gets his comeuppance on the forecourt.
“It’s a complicated situation, the downfall of a relationship,” says Suranne.
“This series there has been an amazing switch in each episode where you don’t really know who you’re rooting for. Watching Simon as a viewer, I can be going: ‘I f***ing hate him!’ But at the same time I felt sorry for him.
“I think that’s brilliant. As long as you totally understand where Gemma and Simon are coming from, I think you can afford to hate one of them.
As long as you never hate both of them at the same time. I was happy this series not to be liked at certain times because the writing was strong enough to take it.
If I’d been too protective about that, it might not have worked. I had to let go of being likeable.”
Mike is full of admiration for both Suranne and Bertie Carvel, who plays Simon.
“They’re both – in very different ways – utterly unafraid,” he says. “That’s quite rare. They don’t care if they don’t look their best on TV.
“They don’t care if it might be hard, as Suranne was saying about doing sex scenes soon after giving birth. As long as it is in service to the story they will do anything. They will bleed through the eyes to get it done.”
Sixteen-year-old Tom Taylor admits there have been times when the show’s content has been too graphic even for him, especially series one when he was underage.
“I was allowed to watch it,” says Tom,
“But during certain scenes my parents would say: ‘Tom, avert your eyes.’ I’ve learned so many lessons from working with Suranne, Bertie and Jodie [Comer, who plays Kate]. They’ve made me love working in television. The last episode was hard to film, though…”
So, with Simon, Gemma and Tom still potentially trapped in their living hell, will there be a third series of Doctor Foster?
There’s a smile from Mike.
“Well, if you’ve got a child, in some sense you can never split up,” he teases. “But it sort of depends how this one ends, doesn’t it?”
LAST IN SERIES! Doctor Foster, Tuesday 9pm BBC1
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