Single Father: Episode 2

After the emotional downpour that was the first episode of Single Father, BBC One's new four-part drama starring David Tennant, comes a more upbeat second instalment. Well, slightly.

It's certainly not the tear-fest of the series opener, but it is infinitely more tense, dramatic and complex. The episode also includes one of the most extraordinary scenes committed to the small screen this year, but more of that later.

As revealed previously, one of the children of the family does not belong to Dave (played by Tennant) and so he sets about trying to track down her "real" father. And this is the real thrust of episode two; a kind of crime mystery, a parental "whodunnit?", as it were.

Acting as a backdrop to this is the familial struggle Dave is suffering with his sister-in-law Anna (played with bitchy relish by Neve McIntosh) and his daughter from a previous marriage, Tanya, who also works with Dave in his photographic studio.

Throw into this mix: his ex-wife (positioned as a "gold-digger" by Anna), his sons (who seem to be reacting to the uncertainty in their lives, in a shockingly violent way, it has to be said), as well as the ongoing grief he is feeling and you have quite the melting pot.

Though given the screen-time of a sub-plot, the relationship between Dave and Sarah (Suranne Jones) is very much the focus of the piece. Casting her as a teacher (and "blonding" her) certainly helps the viewer fight any unsympathetic feelings against a woman who already has a partner and was Dave's dead wife's best friend. Traditionally, she would be with wicked witch of the story. But it is down to the wonderfully warm performance from Jones that will have the audience dismissing any negativity towards their seemingly inappropriate relationship.

Their burgeoning romance is also the heart of the laughter of Single Father. Despite their age, Dave and Sarah act like awkward teenagers at times, not to mention hormonally-charged. They're a joy to watch and utterly captivating.

And so to a scene that takes place towards the end of this episode between Dave and possible ex-partner of Rita (Dave's departed wife), Stuart (played by the superb Rupert Graves). It's a scene that is as tense as any Tarantino face-off, as jaw-dropping as a Lost-style season finale (with revelations to match) and shot like the emotional equivalent of a Western showdown.

Tennant has never been more compelling on the small screen than he is in these devastating moments. His facial expressions display an unmatched array of conflicting emotions and confusion as his sparring partner for this tete-a-tete reveals the truth about Rita - and, if the "next time" trail is anything to go by, it would appear that these revelations haven't finished either.

Single Father significantly ups the drama from the opening episode, layering the series with multiple stories and complicated relationships; the likes of which prime-time television is not accustomed to.

Airs at 9pm on Sunday 17th October 2010 on BBC One.

> Buy the DVD on Amazon.

Reviewed by Cameron K McEwan.