Power, once tasted, is difficult to relinquish. Thwarted would-be Prime Minister Aiden Hoynes (David Tennant) is finding just that. The craving within him to get back what he once had is what motivates him to act in such questionable and unsavoury fashion - he is determined that he will recover his rightful place in Parliament.
There was no doubt, at the climax of episode one of The Politician’s Husband, that betrayal by not only his trusted best friend but also his beloved wife had wounded Aiden very deeply indeed. The shock is how he chooses to channel this hurt and rage and need to reassert his dominance into a singularly unpleasant sexual assault on Freya (Emily Watson). It’s a difficult watch; Freya is hurt, humiliated and dominated by Aiden in the most base and primal fashion. It’s not a scene to dismiss lightly, and those with their own reasons for being sensitive to such content should perhaps approach with caution.
With that in mind it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Aiden as he struggles to accept his new role as househusband. He’s gone from running the country to cleaning the kitchen and minding the children in a very short time, while his wife enjoys the thrill of power and success that was once, as he saw it, his entitlement. He steps up his plans for revenge against his political rival Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard), and also turns his ire on the duplicitous Freya, now another person who is blocking his path back to Cabinet and whom he believes to be in cahoots with Bruce. So he uses all the resources available to him – a few loyal insiders, social media, smear campaigns – to attempt to make life as difficult for them as possible, and also to discover the scope of Bruce’s own ambitions.
There is a catastrophic fissure opening up in the Hoynes’ marriage though one which they are at great pains to cover up, playing the golden couple, Aiden as the dutiful supportive husband proud of his wife’s success. Behind closed doors there is a maelstrom of lies and jealousy and deceit and a struggle to get the upper hand. The added strain of the challenges posed by son Noah’s autistic spectrum condition only add to the tension and the disintegration of the Hoynes’ relationship
Much has been made of the Shakespearean influence apparent in The Politician’s Husband. Everywhere there are plots and counterplots, and whisperings in corners and on stairs and greed, deceit and downfalls. It may be three witches short of a Scottish play, but Aiden certainly has his own secret backers and channels of information. As the convoluted plot moves into the final act we are still not sure whether this will turn out to be, for Aiden at least, a tragedy or comedy.
Watch The Politician's Husband tonight at 9pm on BBC Two
View a preview clip from tonight's episode here: