Five Days S01E01
Admin: In 2007 Patrick Malahide played John Poole, the father of a young woman, Leanne Wellings (Christine Tremarco), who has gone missing in the drama Five Days. It is part police procedural and part family drama as it deals directly with the turmoil that family go through when a loved one goes missing as well as the struggles the police have in handling the case.
RF: The juxtaposition of all the people and intersecting stories is really well done and engrossing. There’s a deep sense of foreboding and impending doom right from the start, but we’ve already started caring about these people and don’t want anything bad to happen to them.
Admin: Since we’ll be focusing primarily on Patrick Malahide’s performance, this Wikipedia link might be useful in establishing the plot. It is a very convoluted and emotional story with several major characters and their differing view points, so this isn’t going to be a full-review, but rather an episode-by-episode look at John Poole’s narrative.
John Poole: Domestic Marvel and Jam Maker
Admin: We first see John Poole in the kitchen making jam. Being a retired science teacher he manages to make it look a bit like a chemistry experiment. His wife Barbara (Penelope Wilton) is having a whinge over not having time to look after her daughter’s dog, a “smelly, blessed thing.” John, seemingly a more placid sort, reckons he doesn’t mind but is quickly told he doesn’t have time either. It looks like she is more interested in her golf game as she heads out to beat the rain while he continues being all scientific and using his watch to time his jam’s progress.
RF: He looks as if he’s having a bit of a hard time reading that measuring cup before he puts his glasses on. He does seem to be very meticulous (wearing an apron! measuring ingredients!) and as you say, is very easy-going with his, “Oh, I don’t mind,” in response to the matter of the dog. Poole also appears to be a multi-tasker, although I’d say he’s paying more attention to his jam than to Barbara’s griping. Dare I say he’s tuning her out? They are already very believable, down-to-earth sort of characters.
Admin: And on a somewhat superficial note, I’ll mention that he looks very handsome in those glasses. 😉 True, he seems like he is very used to her ways and just continues whatever it is he is doing.
RF: The scene also suggests that John Poole occupies a somewhat non-traditional role in the household. He’s the one who looks after baking and cooking, while Barbara doesn’t go too far beyond toast. I could be reading too much into it, but I do think there’s a large hint that Poole is more of a nurturer.
RF: I believe it’s very significant as well, especially in light of what happens in future episodes, that in the face of her problems with Leanne, Barbara rejects Poole’s idea of a “mother to daughter” talk with a curt “As if that would do any good.” Poole then immediately leaps into the breach, saying he’ll do it instead. We can already see that he’s used to being a buffer and peacemaker in family dynamics, and likely does most of the communicating when a softer touch is required. Notice how he makes no answer to Barbara’s declaration that he doesn’t have time for the dog. I think he’s become practiced at avoiding conflict with Barbara whenever possible.
Admin: John and Barbara continue the jam story later in the evening when Barbara notices him looking pleased with himself. He tempts her with a bit of jam, and it is clearly very tasty, but she just has to point out it’s runny. Bah! John reckons there is “sixty-five quids worth” of jam all told. Apparently he is a regular at the market where he sells his goods. He tries to get Barbara to take part, “I could do with a bit of totty to attract the customers.” Nope, she’s not a market person. He looks remarkable hurt about that and consoles himself with a spoonful of jam.
RF: Barbara gives him a sort of take-back compliment when she first says the jam’s “lovely”, then immediately criticizes it as “runny”. Hey, it hadn’t had time to set yet! He looks very disappointed when she says she won’t go to the market with him and isn’t “a market sort of person” when it’s evident that he is (and it’s a very nice bit of wordless acting by Mr. Malahide, too). It looked to me as if it was the sort of offer he’s been making persistently over the years, and she’s been rejecting it just as persistently, not perceiving or understanding his unspoken message. Poole is resigned and accustomed to the hurt, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still experience it. Meanwhile, Barbara breezes through the whole thing without realizing the effect her words and actions are having.
Admin: They still don’t know that their daughter and two of their grandchildren are missing, so meanwhile their son-in-law Matt Wellings (David Oyelowo) and their oldest granddaughter (from Leanne’s previous relationship) 13-year old Tanya (Lucinda Dryzek) have called the police out. But, the jam scenes are key because they give remarkable insight into the Poole personalities and relationship.
RF: It’s a little more painful to know that we’re seeing a very ordinary slice of the Pooles’ life before it’s thrown into disarray by Leanne’s disappearance. You’re absolutely right that they give us a clear image of the dynamics that are going to be in effect as the situation unfolds.
The First Night
Admin: When the Pooles are told what is going on (Matt advised the police that the grandparents could help with Tanya), they drive out to see Matt and Tanya. Barbara is still criticizing Leanne because she never keeps her fridge full. She’s talking a mile a minute, and John’s face shows that he is very used to her complaints. She notices his looks, “…and don’t, don’t tell me not to worry…that’s what mothers do.” Poole just sort of raises his hands slightly in surrender.
RF: I think we’re seeing more of his tuning-out again. The full impact of what’s happened hasn’t hit them yet and they’re still behaving very much in their usual mode. This scene also reinforces that Poole is the one who’s used to giving way in the relationship, while Barbara’s used to taking a more dominant role. Notice how Poole’s face expresses volumes (we get a few almost-eyerolls and silent sighs of resigned frustration) but he makes no verbal reply to Barbara’s continued haranguing; she even cuts him off pre-emptively with “don’t tell me not to worry” when he hasn’t said anything yet! There’s also some irony in Barbara criticizing Leanne’s conduct as a mother when she doesn’t seem to have a very close relationship with her daughter in the first place. Hmmmm… Body language-wise, they’re both facing away from each other, as much as they possibly can in a car.
Admin: Yeah, I noticed that. He is leaning really hard to his side.
Admin: At the Wellings’ residence, Barbara is making toast. John points out that the sandwiches are still on the table, so he doesn’t think anyone will eat them. “I’m not making sandwiches, I’m making toast. Everybody eats toast.” “It’s not a criticism, love.” You can see that Barbara wants to keep busy, while John seems determined to provide emotional comfort.
RF: Good point! She very much seems to want to keep her hands occupied, maybe to avoid thinking about what’s going on, or possibly having to talk to anyone and become more emotionally involved. Or perhaps she’s channeling her emotions into nervous energy. She begins to get defensive with her “everybody eats toast” comment, hence Poole’s immediate defusing of the situation (something I suspect he’s done a lot) and “I yield!” hand gesture. The tenseness of the situation is beginning to exacerbate existing sore spots and conflicts.
Admin: That theme is continued when the Pooles are getting ready to go back home after talking to the police. Matt had asked them to spend the night and John thinks they should, “I think he’d like us to say yes.” But, Barbara doesn’t want to sleep in Matt’s and Leanne’s bed. Instead she says they’ll be back first thing in the morning with the breakfast.
RF: Poole is intuitive and sympathetic enough to understand Matt’s unspoken request where Barbara isn’t; she seems more concerned with her own needs. Once again, Poole doesn’t say a word as they leave, although he appears to be holding his own strong emotions in check.
Admin: We start to see that Tanya and John have a special relationship and that he is her rock. This echoes the relationship her mother had with John’s father-in-law Victor Marsham (played beautifully by Edward Woodward). John is the one who speaks most closely to Tanya. When she attacks the police for suggesting that Leanne may have simply ran away it is John who calms her down with a heart-felt hug.
RF: Very true that Poole appears to be one of the few points of solidity in Tanya’s life; he can relate to her on a level that her stepfather and even her own mother can’t. He gets the hard job of breaking it to Tanya that her mother and siblings have disappeared. Also true that Poole is the one offering Tanya comfort while Barbara looks on from across the room, making no effort to come closer. Emotional warmth doesn’t seem to be her forte.
Admin: Barbara was talking non-stop about a time Leanne ran away as a child. She continued her talk even when everyone could hear Tanya start screaming. She didn’t stop until Tanya actually entered the room and flew at the officer. It seemed a little odd that she would continue talking with all that shouting going on, but that sort of energetic chatter seems to be Barbara’s way.
RF: I suppose her chattering could be her way of trying to distract herself from worrying, or maybe she’s talking to fill the void and put off talking about Leanne’s disappearance.
Admin: John continues to try and help Tanya when her friend Jamie visits. He thinks Jamie could cheer her up, but that goes horribly wrong when she suggests that Leanne simply ran away with an unknown boyfriend. Jamie was just joking, stupidly, and didn’t realize the subtext meant Leanne took her two youngest, leaving Tanya with Matt.
RF: And once again, it’s Poole who has Tanya’s emotional well-being at heart. He looks very concerned when he’s by himself and there’s no one else to see; he’s still holding his own emotions in check. Jamie says a pretty thoughtless thing for sure, which is exactly the wrong thing to say at that time. Poole directs a worried look upwards and frowns in concern when Jamie runs out after fighting with Tanya. He knows something’s gone wrong and immediately goes upstairs to offer more comfort.
Wrap-Up to Episode One
RF: It’s a faint note of hope in a hard-to-watch but very well done drama. Even the tiny gap of time between Sarah noticing Ethan and getting the police’s attention is almost excruciating.
Admin: Wasn’t it just? I felt like screaming at the police myself!
Admin: As John Poole, Patrick Malahide quickly establishes a very warm and loving man. He is calm and collected, but there are little rifts in his life. He isn’t happy that his wife doesn’t share his interests, and we later learn that he isn’t overly fond of Matt who isn’t very financially well-off. But, John is the one who actually wanted to stay and provide comfort and stability for both Matt and Tanya. I think that says a lot about his character.
RF: John Poole is very appealing and we get the sense that he feels things deeply. Besides being calm and collected, he’s soft-spoken and gentle, and possesses the emotional sensitivity to read other people that his wife lacks, although he keeps his own feelings under wraps most of the time. Barbara doesn’t realize that “this is really happening” (after a phone call from a radio station) until nearly the end of the episode, when Poole probably realized it much, much earlier. You’re right that it says a lot about his character that his primary concern becomes providing comfort and stability for Matt and Tanya, whereas Barbara seems more concerned with how things look to the outside world. Now we’re curious to see how these characters cope with the next steps in the investigation.