Patrick Malahide as John Poole in Five Days S01E05

Five Days S01E05

In a mental health facility.

In a mental health facility.

Admin: It is now day seventy-nine since Leanne went missing. Her body has been found and the police have a strong suspect with Kyle Betts (Rory Kinnear).  In the previous episode, John Poole insisted on viewing the body.  Seeing Leanne’s corpse, which had been in water for some time, took its toll on him.  He is now in a mental facility after harming himself.  His granddaughter Tanya (Lucinda Dryzek) seems to be the only person who visits him, even if it means ditching school and taking a very long bus journey.

RF:  Tanya seems to have made it up with her friend Jamie from S01E01, relying on her and her family for some moral support.  I’d also note that she’s showing a huge amount of bravery and devotion in undertaking to visit John in such a daunting place with such regularity.

Tanya Visits John

"No, No....I don't want you coming all this way."

“No, No….I don’t want you coming all this way.”

Admin: John is extremely distressed when Tanya arrives.  He immediately leaps from his chair, “No, no– I don’t want you coming all this way….a child your age exposed to this.”  Tanya ignores his anguish and remains cheerful.  She has the newspaper and a pen so he can do the crossword.

RF:   Oooohhh, it’s such a huge and complete change for John from when we left him.  🙁  He’s covering his face with his hand and visibly trembling when we first see him, unshaven and clad in a bathrobe, and has obviously been in the facility for quite some time.  It’s a great contrast from the confident man we saw in the previous episode who insisted on seeing his daughter as his last duty to her.  Yet his instinct is still to try to protect Tanya by sending her away.  For her part, Tanya seems to have happened upon a remarkably effective way of handling John’s despair by behaving as cheerfully and ordinarily towards him as possible.

Admin: He’s still vexed though referring to himself as “daft, yes….selfish…stupid.”  Granted, I’m more than a little obsessed with The Pickwick PapersMr. Alfred Jingle, but that bit reminds me of his Fleet scene.  Not that the characters are in any way similar (they totally aren’t); it’s just that one moment reminds me of him.

"Daft....yes, selfish stupid."

“Daft….yes, selfish stupid.”

RF:  I hadn’t thought of Jingle before when watching this scene (and I’ll join you in that obsession), but you’re right that there are some similarities between this and the Fleet scene.  Both characters are despairing and in distress, at the end of their emotional ropes, and castigating themselves bitterly for their current situations.

Admin:  Absolutely.  And thankfully they have their supporters, in this case John has Tanya.

Admin: Tanya thinks his distress is because Grandma, Barbara Poole, still hasn’t visited.  “Well, she’s fed up with me.  No change there, then.”  John gives a small rueful laugh after that line which I rather like.  Oh, that Barbara…we wish she would change.  Tanya is pretty fed up with Barbara for saying that John had an “accident”.  Tanya wonders how that is supposed to help things.  Tanya is really ready for everyone to just be honest with one another.

RF:  Notice how Tanya offers John a tissue to blow his nose much like a parent would a child, making it even more obvious that they’ve exchanged caregiver/cared-for roles since we last saw them.  Even in his current state, John is still playing peacemaker, telling Tanya that she shouldn’t blame Barbara for lying about his condition and not coming to see him (no points for Barbara, as far as I’m concerned).  But John is enough himself to be ever so slightly cynically amused that Barbara hasn’t changed.

"It's me you should be angry with."

“It’s me you should be angry with.”

Admin: But, John won’t let Tanya speak ill of Barbara.  “It’s me you should be angry with, Tanya, not your grandma. She’s been so strong and looking after you all.  Whereas look at me…”  He says Barbara was the best thing that ever happened to him, “until your mum came along…and then you, of course.”  Awwww.  I like how he quickly thought to add that on.

RF:  John is seeing his inability to cope with Leanne’s death and the aftermath as a failure of his strength, precisely the reason he was so insistent upon seeing her body in the previous episode and making it even more sad that he’s ended up this way.  I appreciate that he wants to smooth things between Barbara and Tanya, but I don’t think Barbara’s “so strong” if she can’t even bother to come see him.   His “until your mum came along… and then you, of course” line does suggest that Leanne and Tanya supplanted Barbara in John’s affections, although we pretty much realized that already.

"...and then you of course."

“…and then you of course.”

Admin: In the previous episodes, Tanya might have been upset at that, but not now.  Tanya is very understanding and says she knows he always loved her mum.  John then, somewhat unthinkingly, adds, “you know all about fathers and daughters.”  Ouch!  That was actually a brutal thing to say after all the crap Tanya’s biological father Daf has put her through.  But, Tanya takes it shockingly well and confesses to John that when her mother first went missing she was actually kind of glad because she thought that meant her dad would have to come back from France and get her.  How wrong she was.

RF:  Tanya does roll her eyes ever so slightly at John’s “fathers and daughters” line, but  reacts no more than that because she’s being very gentle with him.  You’re right that it’s a brutal thing to say, but I don’t think John’s really aware of the full implications of his words at the moment.  I also got the impression Tanya’s become used to these sorts of remarks because John is mostly repeating things he’s said on previous visits.  She’s also had time to become used to the idea that Daf failed her; in my opinion, he abandons her in a way that John or Vic would never abandon Leanne, or Tanya for that matter, if they had a choice.

Admin:  John continues being kind of clueless, “You always love your Dad; you can’t have an ex-dad.”  Tanya then reveals that maybe all is not well with her, “I think the world would be a better place without all this love going on.  Because all it does is make people hurt each other.”  John is absolutely stunned she said that, “But otherwise life would be lonely.”  Tanya still loves her granddad though and shows that by hugging him.

"You always love your dad."

“You always love your dad.” Note the stare.

RF:  Mr. Malahide has a rather scary (and very effective) thousand-yard stare in this scene.  John’s talking to Tanya, but he’s not fully engaged or present in the conversation.   He doesn’t seem completely aware of what he’s saying nor her replies; his eyes are unfocused and blank, as if he’s gazing in horror at the inside of his own skull.  John does finally engage with her, making eye contact when Tanya comments that love makes people hurt each other; he seems shocked and surprised that she’d say such a thing.  They’d both obviously find life much more lonely without each other and it’s a wonderful moment of connection when they hug.

Admin: It is a beautifully acted scene, Patrick Malahide and Lucinda Dryzek have incredible chemistry.  John’s comments about dads were as much about him as anything, but I think they helped show how much Tanya has grown.  Before she would have flounced out of the room, but this time she stayed and talked things through.  And even though she made the observation about “love” it is obvious she still loves those around her.  Daf isn’t anyone’s idea of an ideal father, but I think she is capable of forgiving him.  Also, I should note that later in the episode we see she has come a long way with Matt who is more of a “dad” to her than Daf ever has been or likely will be.

They hug.

They hug.

RF:  I totally agree, this was an amazing, heart-wrenching scene.  Mr. Malahide’s ability to convey the drastic change in John from when we last saw him, giving us a slight glimpse of the massive upheaval and breakdown he’s experienced, is masterful.  I also agree that Ms. Dryzek does a wonderful job showing us how much Tanya has matured; she’s grown into being John’s emotional support and main caregiver in Barbara’s (purely voluntary) absence.  And Tanya’s still able to express love, even though most of those around her have let her down in one way or another.   She and John still have great chemistry, clinging to each other as something constant in their lives. However, you’re right that her relationship with Matt has come a long way from when we first saw it.

The Mystery is Solved

Admin: I won’t go over it, though.   For that Wikipedia’s Five Days article is the best place.

RF:  I’ll just say that I didn’t find the resolution all that satisfying.

Admin: No, it wasn’t at all satisfying.  I suppose, in a way, that is realistic though.  There was no grand whodunnit moment because the truth just sort of tumbled out in a jumble.  It all felt profoundly pointless, but I guess that was the point.

RF:  Very true that it was pointless and random, which is especially frustrating when we’ve seen the profound effects it’s had on Leanne’s family.

Barbara Visits John

Barbara visits John as he is working in the facility garden.

Barbara visits John as he is working in the facility garden.

Admin: Now it is basically time for everyone to just start picking up the pieces and begin putting their lives back together.  John is cleaning out flowerbeds at the facility when Barbara visits.  She realizes she is paying for her previous actions. “It is so lonely at home, you can’t imagine.” She reminds him of the time he asked her if she would ever grow up.

RF:  Barbara initially frames the situation in terms of what she’s experiencing; that is, it’s lonely at home for her, although she does admit to having a “bloody cheek” in coming to see John now, as well as that she’s been angry with him.  In an earlier scene she vents to Sarah, of all people,  about how “the men in [her] family” all “pick their moments” to be unavailable to her, with Vic in hospital, Matt (temporarily) arrested, and John “out for the count” as if each situation is a personal affront, so I suppose it could be considered remarkable that she’s unbent enough (or is desperate enough) to finally come visit John.  I think it’s partly because Vic rejected her in the hospital that she decides to turn to John, even in his broken state.

Admin: He doesn’t respond so she starts to leave, but then he says, “Job of a lifetime, that is.”  He gets up and talks about how on the day Leanne disappeared he was making jam and that Barbara didn’t like; she said it was runny. Barbara reverts back to her sarcastic nature, “I’m sorry, how thoughtless.”

"Job of a lifetime, that is"

“Job of a lifetime, that is”

RF:  Yeah, John has an interesting non-reaction to Barbara’s appearance.  He’s neither surprised nor unsurprised, just… kind of a blank.  Then he begins recounting the jam-making, something he’s obviously fixed on that has bothered him for a long time.  He seems to have thought about it the entire time he’s been in hospital.  I wasn’t sure if Barbara’s “how thoughtless” was meant to be sarcastic or not; I just took it at face value as a mostly reflexive answer.

Admin:  I guess it could have been a reflexive sort of thing.  She certainly wasn’t expecting him to start talking about jam.

Admin:  John explains why this had been bothering him. “And I thought, well not right then but later, I thought she’s wondering if it’s runny because I didn’t boil it for long enough. She’s wondering if I didn’t boil it for long enough because I went out.  She’s wondering if I went out and killed Leanne.” Barbara seems to actually get this one right, “It never occurred to me for a moment.” I think she is being completely honest there because, well, such a thing wouldn’t occur to her.

Remembering making jam the day Leanne disappeared.

Remembering making jam the day Leanne disappeared.  Again with the stare.

RF:  John seems to be obsessing about the jam-making in particular as something Barbara was dissatisfied with,  constructing an entire unlikely scenario around why she might think he’d killed Leanne.  It’s a bizarre thing for him to say, but it shows the unhealthy direction of his mind since his breakdown, or possibly before his breakdown. He’s still feeling immense guilt for, and therefore trying to assume some blame for, Leanne’s murder, however implausibly.  He’s also doing his unsettling thousand-yard stare thing again, appearing haggard, fragile, and just slightly more functional than when we saw him with Tanya.  Even his slightly stooped posture suggests his vulnerability.  But you’re right that Barbara at least gives him an honest and supportive answer.

Admin:  So true about the stare.  He looks positively unsettling there.

"It gets so there is nothing you can hang onto, no one you can trust."

“It gets so there is nothing you can hang onto, no one you can trust.”

Admin: John continues, “You get so there’s nothing you can hang on to. No one you can trust.”  The scene closes with them standing apart.  I think it is now up to Barbara to do just as Tanya did and work hard to show John she really does trust him and that he must trust her.  Even though their final scene didn’t answer all the questions, it ended on a hopeful note.

Will they reconcile?

Will they reconcile?

RF:  John’s comment about “no one [he] can trust” suggests he’s learned the hard way that Barbara failed him when he needed her most, even though he told Tanya that Barbara was being very strong for everyone and not to blame her.  And Barbara has no answer for him.  It all kind of rounds out a theme of failed familial relationships and expectations (perceived and actual). However, you’re right that there’s a slight amount of hope in that John and Barbara have finally managed to speak honestly to each other, although the amount of physical space remaining between them (note that no one rushes into each other’s arms; that would be too easy) indicates  they still have a long ways to go.   I think he’ll be relying more on Tanya than Barbara for stability and support as he begins to recover.

Wrap-Up

RF:  Wow, this was just an amazing, heartbreaking episode and role for Mr. Malahide.  He was wonderful as John Poole, showing a huge range and layers of emotion, creating a completely believable sympathetic and gentle character.  I find this series very hard to re-watch because he’s so incredibly effective in it, tearing my heart out every time.  Mr. Malahide has great chemistry with Ms. Dryzek and Ms. Wilton as well, with the latter portraying Barbara Poole’s flaws and emotional unavailability very effectively.

He looks so sad.

He looks so sad.

Admin:  Agreed.  His portrayal of John Poole is beautifully and skillfully handled.   All of his one-on-one scenes with Tanya, Barbara, Vic, and DCI Barclay are compelling and all really brought me in as a viewer.  It is an emotional series, no doubt, but it is also really excellent and shows that Mr. Malahide is his element playing loving and sympathetic characters.

Gallery:

 

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