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ITV's Titanic (Julian Fellowes) - Second episode review

Titanic, ITV

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JULIAN Fellowes’ Titanic continues to promise more than it delivers now that we’ve reached the halfway point. And it’s still difficult to care about many of the characters.

Whereas the first episode hit its own iceberg by focusing too much on the first class passengers and their incessant woes, this second hour did at least opt to spend time with some more interesting characters.

But the non-linear format of the programme continues to be a big problem. As with the first episode, there’s still not enough time to get to properly know the myriad characters present.

And Fellowes, for his part, seems to be trading on people’s assumptions rather than doing a lot of the hard work. Early on, in particular, his script was littered with ironies that felt as though they were penned with the benefit of hindsight.

This felt particularly laboured during the opening exchanges between Timothy West’s Lord Pirrie and Stephen Campbell Moore’s designer Thomas Andrews, when the former was forced to angrily suggest: “There won’t be a fault, not on the Titanic!”

And it was underlined again, once ship Captain Smith (played by David Calder) lamented the decision to leave one ‘unlucky’ crew member on dry land, to the disappointment of his mother, by telling him: “Well, I hope one day she will forgive us.”

Such scenes were preaching to the choir, really, and came at the expense of spending more time with the character’s we’re supposed to care about.

First and foremost in this episode was working man Irish Catholic engineer Jim Maloney (Peter McDonald) and his family, who were travelling to New York in search of a new beginning. They, at least, afforded some insight into the social struggles of the era, while offering the possibility of a flesh and blood set of characters we could root for.

But alas, by the half hour mark, they’d been reduced to supporting characters once more… Maloney’s children seen fleetingly making it above deck once the iceberg had hit with his fate presumably still hanging in the balance below.

We will doubtless get the chance to find out what happens but the non-linear approach has interrupted that particular flow, especially now that we have to wait another week and go back to the beginning again!

And then there was Muriel and John Batley (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Toby Jones), first seen last week struggling to fit in with the upper class hierarchy, and this week seen bickering between themselves over their lot in life and the disparity between classes.

Thus far, Kennedy’s Doyle has positioned herself amid the massed ranks of those characters we struggle to care about… and this despite Fellowes’ last act U-turn, in which she confronted her own bitterness while contemplating her imminent demise. It seemed contrived, to say the least.

But Jones, at least, provides an interesting, if still enigmatic, presence. With his worried expression and obvious frustrations, he is one of the more intriguing characters to be around and he was rewarded with the episode’s best moment: seeing the surprise impact of the iceberg as it scraped along the side of the ship. His reaction was terrific, the moment genuinely haunting. His subsequent look of resigned doom a picture of sadness and frustration.

But, again, Titanic remains a series of moments. There’s not a lot of emotional depth because there are simply too many characters in too short a space to get to know and empathise with in the time allowed.

Personally, I would have liked to see more of Jenna Louise Coleman’s feisty maid Annie, whose budding relationship with Italian server Paolo (Glen Blackhall) offers the most likely hope of some form of doomed romance, or Second Officer Charles Lightoller (Steven Waddington) and First Officer Murdoch (Brian McCardie), who seem to be nicely at odds with the pomp and ceremony of the ship’s wasted etiquette.

Had we been allowed to focus on things from more of their perspectives, rather than those of the upper decks, we might now be more hooked. As things stand, Fellowes’ appears to be spreading himself too thin (rather like the lifeboats) and drowning as fast as the infamous ship herself.

Read our review of the first episode