Review – The A Word: Season 2, Episode 5

As the series comes closer to it’s end, I still can’t get rid of the persistent thought that something is going to go wrong. There’s just so many possibilities at this point that it seems unlikely that it will be fully reconciled in one final episode – and even if it were it would probably feel quite rushed.

The episodes starts with a mirroring between Joe and Paul – both completing a morning listening to music routine. I still find that Paul’s behaviour – comparable to Allison’s in season one – is being approached and dealt with far more sympathetically than Allison’s ever was. And I still don’t understand it.

Anyway, the tension and argument starts quite early on in this episode when Nicola shows a series of recordings of Joe that she hopes to use to educate other medical professionals about autism – it would be a considerable understatement to say that Paul is not happy with any of it.

Nicola: Most people think autism as one of two extremes; either a non-speaking child in distress or Rain Man. Joe’s a great example of—

Paul: (muttering) Yes…great example.

Nicola: —of autism that can get missed because Joe’s autism is hidden.

Paul: There’s nothing much on what we just watched!

Whilst it has become increasingly apparent that Paul does not accept Joe for who he is, this is the first instance where it has been so explicitly discussed. It gets discussed a lot in this episode.

Drama continues when Rebecca returns to reveal that she has passed her driving test (no congratulations from Paul) and that she isn’t going to university. Cue a second argument, this time between Allison and Rebecca.

Which of course means it’s time to go across to have yet another drama start to emerge between Maurice, Louise and Ralph. Maurice continues to bumble through every social interaction he has with Louise and then once he’s alone with Ralph, is promptly informed by the young man that Louise won’t need Maurice once she recovers from cancer.

That’s all in the first quarter of the episode so, considering this is the penultimate episode of the series, there’s a lot of fracturing and not very much time to try and resolve them without making it rushed and poorly written. Whilst the writing for this season has gotten better, there’s still the possibility that “rushed and poorly written” is to come…

Then we get the fourth big dramatic scene of the episode where Eddie – despite being the offerer of sage advise for both Paul and Maurice in this series – has a disastrous date with Holly. Holly’s character displays a considerable number of autistic traits – bluntness, perseverance, difficulty interpreting non-literal language, verbal scrolling – and with that in mind it is a shame that it looks like her character is being written out as her and Eddie break up. Although, not until after she lists of every single reason/excuse Eddie has ever given for not staying the night with her or having her stay the night.

Eddie: Well, I’d say no hard feelings but you might just accuse me of coming up with another excuse.

Everything back with the Hughes family falls to pieces and Paul refuses permission for the video to be shown whilst Allison grants it, and Maurice and Louise struggle through awkward social encounters.

Then we finally see the extent of how much Paul does not accept Joe being autistic. While Allison is with Nicola, Joe and Paul watch television together. Joe starts to rock and we watch as Paul is no longer able to hide his problem, intermixed with scenes from Nicola’s presentation. Even though they are in the privacy of their own home, where Joe should feel safest, Paul grabs Joe and tries to force him to stop rocking. Joe, quite reasonably, runs away upstairs.

Of course, Paul doesn’t self-reflect on this and instead argues with Allison some more when she gets home, putting words in her mouth and generally being wholly unpleasant. Then comes the scene that’s been building for a while:

Allison: His autism isn’t an option extra Paul, it’s a part of Joe. It’s part of who he is.

Paul: Yeah and I hate it, Allison!

Allison’s character growth is shown again as she points out that by hating Joe’s autism, Paul is essentially hating a part of what makes Joe, Joe. It’s not a surprise, when you think of Paul’s reaction to the autism provision and his behaviour around Mark it was clear that this reveal was a long time coming but, once again, there was far fewer criticism of Paul’s character for this scene. I don’t know if this is because the people who got so annoyed with Allison’s character last series have stopped watching or what but I continue to be baffled by it.

The rest of the episode bounces quite a bit between Paul or Maurice behaving ridiculously and other characters calling out Paul or Maurice for being ridiculous. There’s even a surprise visit from Rebecca’s dad Ralph to make sure that maximum tension is achieved. He gives Rebecca a camper van. The episode ends with a scene that has been praised by quite a few people on social media where Paul goes around and films Joe and people saying the first word that they think of when they think of Joe – ending on Paul saying “son”. While there were a few clips of Joe stimming, I felt that the video was more of an effort on Paul’s behalf to get as many clips and as much stuff that wasn’t “visibly autistic” to create some kind of alternative video to Nicola’s. Which isn’t inherently a bad thing – after all, I am far more than just my autism and would never want to be boiled down to it – but it came across to me, in light of previous arguments, as Paul’s attempt to “remove” the autism from his son in the only way he could do so.

One more episode…

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