Hollington Drive spoilers follow.
Sophie Petzal knows how to weave a good yarn. She's the brain behind Channel 5's compelling thriller Blood, starring Line of Duty's Adrian Dunbar, and she's rustled up another alluring offering for us in ITV's new four-part drama Hollington Drive, which also stars a LoD alumni.
Anna Maxwell Martin plays Theresa, a visibly restless woman who spends most of her waking moments deep in contemplation. There is something clawing away at her, which cannot be quelled by her nomination for a local business award or her IKEA showroom-worthy home, complete with kitchen island; she has a past, the violent details of which are hinted at throughout the series' opener and revealed to her partner Fraser (Rhashan Stone) at the end of the first episode: she was raped at a party roughly a decade or so ago and her child Ben (Fraser Holmes) was born out of that trauma.
Theresa makes several troubling remarks about her son, who she has become increasingly more concerned about over time.
"Something's not right," she says. "I think he needs help. I'm worried about his behaviour."
At the root of her disquiet is the fear that part of Ben's father lives within him, and any display of roughhousing, however innocuous, is evidence of that. And Theresa's fears are only buoyed further by the recent disappearance of Alex Boyd, Ben's ten-year-old neighbour and classmate.
Both what has happened to Alex and his current whereabouts are unknown, but we quickly learn that he was not a happy child.
One of his teachers informs the school's head, Theresa's sister Helen (Rachael Stirling), that he was "distant, a lot", sometimes hungry and both anxious and angry "a lot of the time". She had spotted bruises on Alex's body, which could be evidence of self-harm, or of someone else's inflicting damage on him. Theresa also found a mark on Alex's desk in his bedroom which bears witness to his discontent.
We know that his dad Gareth (Jonas Armstrong) is having an affair with Helen. Perhaps Alex discovered the truth about his father and Gareth, spooked that he would blow his secret, intentionally hurt his son or accidentally exerted too much force in a bid to keep him quiet. Perhaps Alex inflicted the injury upon himself, distressed by his dad's infidelity and sensing the breakdown of his parent's marriage.
Did Alex leave of his own volition, desperate to escape the trouble at home, only to find himself in even deeper waters?
Talking of which, if any of you watched Deep Water, another ITV drama, you'll remember that one of the characters, sensing that her marriage was trapped in a downhill spiral, fabricated her daughter's disappearance in the hope that her husband wouldn't leave her. Is Alex's mum Jean (Jodie McKnee) playing a similar role here?
It's also indicated that Alex is being bullied by his peers. Theresa discovers a photo on one of her son's social-media accounts in which Alex's head has been superimposed onto the body of a woman with the hashtag: "Alex Ladyboyd". Is Ben leading a solo campaign of torment against him, or is he acting alongside others? Did he inflict those bruises on Alex?
Is Alex even alive, or were those marks a precursor to the deadly fate that awaited him, orchestrated by Ben?
We know that Theresa spotted her son and her niece Eva (Amelie Bea Smith) chucking Alex's phone in a public bin, which was later uncovered at a landfill site. Why did they have Alex's phone? Were they personally involved, or did they stumble across it? Are the pair covering for the real culprit or culprits?
One of the neighbours tells Alex's mum that there are 12 registered sex offenders living in the local area, which opens up a disturbing new narrative avenue. But is the offender right under our nose?
Helen's husband David (Peter McDonald) and Fraser's brother Eddie (Ken Nwosu) will likely raise suspicions given that this is an ITV drama and they, well, exist. Does Fraser's daughter Georgina (Tia Watts) have a dark secret?
With more questions than answers, episode two can't come quickly enough.
Hollington Drive continues on Wednesday, October 6 at 9pm on ITV.
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