‘Dates’ (Channel 4) – Episode 9 Review

Tonight we came full circle as we caught up with the couple with whom Dates began: David and Mia.

Within the first few moments of meeting David (Will Mellor) in the pub, it was clear that Mia (Oona Chaplin) was behaving as moody and manipulatively as ever. She claimed that she did not want to meet David’s kids, forcing him to flounce out and be replaced by Stephen (Ben Chaplin), whom Mia had summoned between sips of red wine  and drags of a fake cigarette.

Stephen was clearly still hurt from when Mia stood him up (in the seventh episode), so the conversation wasn’t exactly flowing to begin with. This was in no way helped by Stephen having brought along his teenage son – who was even moodier than Mia. When will we see a polite, courteous teenager on TV, eh?

When Stephen returned with Mia to her flat, they found a very drunken David sitting outside with a cut hand, which Stephen treated with a sanitary towel. After healing David’s hand, however, Stephen’s realisation that he had been deceived and was wasting his time with Mia led him to tell her that he would not be staying. With a kiss on the cheek, he left the apartment, leaving Mia and David alone to drunkenly squabble. During the tiff – which started over her apparently originally saying that she would like to meet David’s four kids – Mia confessed that she had once been a prostitute, which we already knew (but I had admittedly forgotten about) from the third episode.

As a tearful Mia deliberated over David’s ultimatum of carrying on with their relationship or sending him packing, Stephen called his son and offered a trip to the Science Museum, which the whiny sod refused, owing to its poor layout. It seems that the hurt that Stephen caused as a result of his philandering had finally come back to bite him.

Mia soon decided what she wanted to do about herself and David, but actually didn’t choose either of the options which were originally given to her. She proposed that they don’t enter into a serious relationship, but just have ‘more fun’. And David agreed!

What do you think the writer is trying to say about our attitudes to love?

‘A LITTLE DISAPPOINTING’

When I watched the preview for tonight’s episode and saw that David, Mia and Stephen were all going to be featuring, I was ready for a great finale to the series. I expected a feud, complete with tears and heartache and a relationship or two hanging in the balance. We didn’t get that, though. What we did get was generally a little disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, this episode wasn’t bad, but most of the episodes have been much more than  ‘not bad’ and I feel that we deserved something which was nearer to the standard of the previous episodes. Where was the gripping action? The twist and turns in the plot? I didn’t expect an explosive conclusion but I did want something which flowed well and showed the intricacies of the characters’ relationships – not just an episode with a basic framework of a beginning, a middle and an end, like this!

What has kept me absorbed by Dates is the great chemistry (or lack thereof) between the couples. It was great to either see a good connection crumble or a bad atmosphere blossom into something more hopeful – so where was that in tonight’s episode? I understand that we had already met the three principle characters before (together they had appeared in over half of the episodes in the nine-part series) but surely that would have given more scope for exploration of their relationships! How had David and Mia been getting on since we saw them embrace in Episode Five? Had they been arguing? Had they been going strong? Had it just been a one night stand, or had they formed a more serious bond? Likewise with Stephen’s thoughts towards Mia: how exactly did he feel about her ditching him at the last minute? If he was bothered he didn’t show it, and if he wasn’t, why wasn’t he? Was it because he expected it of her or because he is of a similarly callous nature that he didn’t think much of it?

At the very least I wanted to gauge a reaction from Stephen and David when they found out that they had both been seeing Mia. I’m sure having them confront either each other or Mia would have made for not only a greater viewing experience but a better writing one, too. I bloody love writing arguments and tiffs – it’s so much more interesting than just letting people get on and not think much of others’ revelations.

What I’m trying to say is that this episode could have been so much better. It wasn’t the conclusion that Dates deserved.

 

Despite the odd weak episode (namely Episodes Seven and Nine) Dates has truly been a fantastic series and I’ve loved reviewing it, as usually I could enthuse about it and really try to understand the characters and what made them tick. Clearly others have enjoyed these reviews as much as I have because, within two days of publishing my first review of Dates, the number of visitors to this site had soared from just 50 to 624. So thanks!

Dates may have begun life as part of Channel 4’s Mating Season but I would quite like to see it return. I think there are many more situations and characters to be explored, it would be a shame if Bryan Elsley and his team neglected to do so.

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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