* spoilers ahead
Regardless of your opinion of Keeping Faith, its success is impressive. With more than 8 million views on iPlayer, and almost 300,000 in Wales ‘have watched each of the weekly episodes … the highest audiences for a non-network drama shown in Wales for over twenty years, the series, produced in both Welsh and English, focuses on Faith (Eve Myles check name), as she tries to uncover the whereabouts of her husband after he simply fails to arrive at work one morning.
The central conceit, while fairly standard, is engaging, and the status of their relationship, currently fractured after the birth of their youngest child, allows for discussion surrounding the nature of her husband’s disappearance and her own identity. The couple, both solicitors running a firm together, have seemingly drifted apart and Evan, struggling to drum up business while Faith is on maternity leave, becomes increasingly secretive and distant. Interesting, while Faith is obviously bereft at her husband’s disappearance, her character also displays a great deal of righteous anger, recognising the selfishness and ignorance that her husband has displayed.
It’s a shame then, that with a strong central narrative, the series chose to focus on a myriad of storylines that add needless complication and distracts from that central relationship. While I understand that the moments showing Faith supporting clients, fighting for their cause and defending them in court, is intended to aid character development, it frequently results in a baggy, loose narrative in a series and genre that relies on cohesion for its success. Myles is a strong enough actress that such backstory or additional detail is merely unnecessary.
We can see from the interaction with her children that she is a good mother, in the same way, we can see from her interactions with her peers and friends that she is a good person, thus a collection of scenes that end up feeling a collage, are not needed. In fact, all they do is distract from the central story, and in turn, undermine its importance. While it is clear that Faith is concerned about her husband, her various exploits and attempts at investigating, become the central focus with little connection to her apparent central mission of finding her husband or at least uncovering his reasoning for leaving. Perhaps then, it’s a question of balance in terms of narrative or editing. Certainly, we would expect Faith to be desperately searching for answers, but when this search is set against a backdrop of humdrum activities (defending a client who has stolen from the church collection), it results in the viewer losing their hold on the narrative thread.
Similarly the use of repeated incidental music, along with a handful of songs, to signal emotional development, immediately cheapens the series. The acting is strong enough to convey these feelings to the audience without the need for additional emphasis from poorly judged music choices. The repeated music actually impedes any real development, or sense of the story moving forward, and in turn, slows the pace.
This confusion is perhaps best exemplified in the series’ final moments. After spending much of the series searching for her husband, and getting increasingly angry at his actions, Faith admits her feelings for Steve, whose generous help has afforded Faith much needed support. This moment, in which Steve arrives at Faith’s house after the apparent narrative conclusion, allows for an instance of physical closeness between the two, with a clear declaration of romantic feelings. This scene feels like the right conclusion for the series, and their relationship, in its sensitivity and realness, feels entirely believable, is instantly brought into question by the apparent reappearance of her husband. This revelation is entirely misjudged. Evan as a husband has shown himself to be entirely lacking, and no amount of sun-dappled scenes in a meadow (which consistently intersperse the series) can convince otherwise. Thus, his arrival is one, for me at least, that was entirely unwelcome. His disappearance had allowed Faith to reassert herself professionally and intellectually, and rediscover herself, why then, should his reappearance take place? It feels lazy, resulting in a schlocky conclusion that is simply included for the opportunity for a second series.
That is not to say that the series as a whole is unwelcome, but rather, that the series could have been so much more. It is immensely gratifying to see a Welsh drama receive so much attention, and yet, the decision to produce it in both Welsh and English, when a version in just Welsh would have sufficed, smacks of attempting to appeal to the masses. Given the plethora of dubbed neo-noir series that have seen huge popularity, there seems to be no real reason to have produced two versions. With news announcing a second series, one hopes that a Welsh version alone will be released having proved its merit.