The Politician's Husband: Episode 2 Review

Episode two of The Politician’s Husband picked up where episode one left off – the hurt and betrayed Aiden Hoynes (David Tennant) is waiting for wife Freya to return after very publicly humiliating him on national TV. It’s her expression of the thrill of empowerment that triggers in the effectively emasculated Aiden the need to reassert his control and dominance. He humiliates Freya, performing a vile and brutal sexual assault on her that leaves her in shock and pain and him immediately remorseful. If there were cracks appearing in the Hoynes-Gardner marriage already there is now a yawning gulf between them. This isn’t something that a few anguished tears on the stairs, a muttered sorry and a reconciliatory cup of tea can fix.

Freya is left bearing the physical and mental marks of the attack. It does seem, on the surface, that the couple remarkably quickly draw a line under the rape and move on, but this probably isn’t the case for Freya, and all her following actions are fuelled by simmering resentment. She rails against Aiden. She isn’t going to relinquish her new found power and has come to realise just how much she sacrificed of herself to support his career. Now she’s no longer in his shadow. She sneers at their shattered relationship: “…Our fairytale marriage. Our domestic idyll. We are the golden couple after all”. It’s the point at which battle lines are drawn between them.

Neither Aiden nor Freya are particularly likeable or admirable during this episode. Aiden is complex. In David Tennant’s hands he’s someone you both at once despise and pity. He’s not a good man, and his motivation is the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy – jealousy, greed, lust, revenge. In just the first five minutes he’s led the audience from feeling heartfelt sympathy at his betrayal to seeing him as a vile animal who will stoop as far as necessary to get what he wants. He manipulates her, tearfully kissing the bruises he caused in one scene, but even then we know that this is a man who won’t relent, he’s always looking for that opportunity to topple her. By the climax, he is again emasculated, even sporting his wife’s pink apron to carry out his domestic tasks. Emily Watson, meanwhile, gives Freya an underlying steeliness. She’s still the loving, doting wife and mother, but she’s also driven – there’s a stone hardness to her eyes as she contemplates Aiden’s moves or barefacedly lies to him. You get the impression now that she will turn on anyone who threatens to rob her of her coveted seat at the Cabinet table, even if that might be her own husband.

Both are employing all the wiles and deceit that they can in order to keep a step ahead of the other. Aiden is now targeting both his former friend Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard) and Freya, but the two cabinet ministers are countering his every move and apparently becoming ever closer. It’s their utter self-absorption that directly leads to a terrifying incident involving the Hoynes’ son, Noah. Noah, of course, has Asperger syndrome, which makes it extremely difficult for him to deal with change. Of course, he’s not the only member of the family facing such a challenge. Aiden literally flees from his father Joe (Jack Shepherd) when presented with the truth about what is happening. Meanwhile Aiden’s lack of engagement with Freya has not gone unnoticed by nanny Dita who makes an ill-judged move on her boss. It’s clearly a matter left hanging – the embarrassed young woman has yet to deal with being spurned.

By the end of the episode Aiden seems to be at an impasse. He’s tried numerous strategies but is no closer to recovering power, while Freya’s rise seems meteoric. However it is a chance remark by a Times interviewer that gives him an idea for another scheme; despite his pledge to Freya he most certainly is not done with it all. Just as she believes that there may be hope for their relationship after all, Aiden is about to step up the dirty tricks a notch.

The Politician's Husband concludes on Thursday 9th May at 9pm on BBC Two

The BBC have provided details of support groups for those who may have been affected by issues raised in this episode - click here for more info