‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 6 Review

Fresh Meat co-stars Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh starred in this episode of Dates, which saw lesbian Erica being forced to go on a date with a very forthright Scotsman named Callum.

Of course, we last saw Erica on a date with Kate – which ended with the cliffhanger of Erica’s brother reacting quite badly to the revelation of her sexuality. In fact, he objected so much that we found out in this episode that he had set up a date for her with Callum, who was quite a complex character (more of which later).

Within five minutes of the date beginning, Erica had told Callum that she was gay and did not see the point of wasting any more of his time. However, Callum persuaded her to stay, eat her food and drink an abundance of alcohol – which they both clearly did as Part Two began with them both plainly inebriated.

A deep discussion about human sexuality began, in which Callum, who defined himself as ‘a one’ on the sexuality continuum (‘if one is as straight as you can be and ten is as gay as you can be’), claimed that Erica is in fact bisexual, and tried to convince her that they could have a relationship. This appeared to be the beginning of the end of the niceties as Erica took exception to Callum’s contradiction and began to point out his faults – including arrogance, a trait which he refused to believe he held, prompting him to shout at Erica and attack the restaurant waiter.

The date was salvaged, however, when Erica’s brother arrived and was told in no uncertain terms where he could stick his concern about his sister’s sexuality, and Erica and Callum strode off to ‘get drunk’ – again.

VERY ENTERTAINING’

What else could I have been expecting but another brilliant episode of Dates. It was difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry tonight but Jamie Brittain’s excellent script made Erica and Callum’s date very entertaining to observe.

The chemistry between Gemma Chan and Greg McHugh was palpable and made the episode that much more enjoyable as it meant they were able to show their characters’ complex relationship – which saw a lot of highs, but sadly just as many lows.

COMPLEX CALLUM

It was great to see Erica finally stand up to her brother tonight and gain the strength to defend her sexuality to him, especially after the climax to last week’s episode, in which we had seen her finally become comfortable with her emotions but then be plunged into doubt and guilt again by her sibling’s objections. Although it would have been nice to see her pop up in a future episode, it  doesn’t look like we will and I don’t think we really need to: her story has been told and she has triumphantly found the courage to stick two fingers up to her brother and his traditional Chinese views. And that was the reason for her being in the series.

Meanwhile, this was the first time that we had met Callum, and I found him very difficult to get the measure of. When I watched the episode, I wrote in my notes about him, ‘Very forthright’ and then immediately after, ‘Quite naive?’ I included the question mark because I wasn’t sure whether he would go on to show his naivety, but I sensed that there was a little lurking within him. Even now, having watched the whole episode and weighed up what I thought of him, I’m still not sure whether naive is the right word. I suppose that, like so many of the characters in Dates, he was desperate to find love and discovering that he had been set up on a date with a lesbian just proved another kick in the teeth (and was especially painful as he had apparently only ever been on a date with one woman before). Callum described himself as a ‘beautiful, flawed, multi-faceted, complex individual’ and he was certainly that – with particularly emphasis on the latter adjective.

Despite his tough, harsh and slightly scary exterior, there was undoubtedly a kindness inside of Callum which crept out at certain moments in the episode. When he confronted Erica’s brother on her behalf, for example, he may not have displayed particular kindness to him but it was all done as an act of compassion for Erica as he knew that it would ultimately benefit her and enable her to move on with her life and stop carrying so much ‘gay shame’ (as I recently read it adequately described).

I’m sure Callum would have been an interesting character to develop and perhaps put in other episodes, with other daters. I personally would have been very interested to see whether his extreme anger and mood swings were a result of his frustration about Erica’s sexuality or if they are just in his nature and, if so, would he have the capability to take them even further?

A ‘complex individual’ he certainly was.

I’m struggling to comprehend that, by next Wednesday, Dates will be over. However, I am determined to savour what remains of the series as one written, acted and directed with more precision, care and focus is difficult to come by.

Dates will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00pm on Channel 4

What did you think of Dates? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Feel free to comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

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