'There is nothing she could do that could possibly surprise me now' said Ellen at the start of last night's finale of The Replacement.
Oh, how wrong she was. Because Paula (played chillingly well by Vicky McClure) was only just getting started.
Tuesday night's conclusion of the tense BBC One three-part drama had us alternately grabbing the sofa with frustration and yelling at the TV. Here are the moments which made us shout the loudest:
When Paula pushes Ellen from her job... then makes sure she couldn't get a job elsewhere
'At least some good's come out of it', says Paula, with maddeningly calm, when Ellen is forced to quit the architecture firm she's built her career in. Not content with ousting her from the job she loves, Paula then goes on to sabotage all of Ellen's attempts at further employment by giving dreadful references. Obviously this - as we were soon to discover - was just the tip of the iceberg. But still - low move. Viewer frustration level: 6/10 'argh!'
When Paula starts messing with Ian's head
'I'm here as a friend' she tells Ellen's husband Ian when she drops into his office with urgent news. To build the image of Ellen's dishonesty she first tells Ian his wife was fired (rather than quitting, as Ellen told him) before expertly planting the seed about Ellen's supposed affair with David. 'She's David's isn't she' she says about their baby, 'just because your wife's had an affair, you don't take it out on the child.' Viewer frustration level: 7/10 'ARGH!'
When Paula is 'pushed' down the stairs
'Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it' we yelled repeatedly at the TV as Ellen ran up to the gallery area to confront Paula at the library's opening party. But, impulsive as ever, Ellen didn't listen (couldn't hear us). Paula then stood in a blind spot and threw herself down the stairs, but not before she'd issued a 'don't touch me' just loud enough for a witness to hear. 'She pushed me!' From passive aggression to... kindergarten tactics. Viewer frustration level: 8/10 'ARRRRGH!'
When Ian shows staggeringly poor judgement and disloyalty
The Replacement finale saw Ian graduate from a calm, reasonable husband to a maddeningly short-sighted fool. Ellen wasn't much fun to be around in the previous episode, but equally there wasn't much for-better-for-worse in evidence over the 'affair' rumour planted by Paula (a woman who he knew was suffering from psychological problems after it was revealed she was pretending her deceased daughter was still alive). Why was he then so quick to believe Ellen would push Paula down the stairs? Even worse, why did he - after Ellen was separated from Lea by social services - so cruelly allow his wife's nemesis to have such close contact with her daughter instead?* Arguably one of the most satisfying moments of the series was seeing Ellen's sister Lucy open the door with a 'Fuck off, Ian.' Viewer frustration level: 9/10 'ARRRRRRRGHH!'
*and would you honestly believe a random colleague your wife hates over the woman you claim to know and love, however frustrating her behaviour?
When Paula kidnaps both Ellen and Lea
Paula stealing Lea. Paula locking Ellen in a car. Paula making Ellen take an overdose. How many times did you yell 'come on Ellen GODDAMMIT!' as she smashed her way through the windscreen? Or were you just yelling at this pretty far fetched twist in the plot? Also where did those sudden mechanical skillz come from? Great observation from Twitter user @Pheenuts 'not losing your hotwiring ability when off your chebs on pills - she's Glaswegian alright' Viewer frustration level: 11/10 'ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!'
Still *deep breath* if you made it to the end without suffering a coronary - and gave those far-fetched plot lurches the benefit of the doubt - you'll have seen Ellen finally vindicated. Though her marriage to Ian doesn't survive the trauma, in the final library garden scene we're lobbed a pretty big hint that she ends up with David.
Highly watchable stuff. More of the same please, BBC.
P.S. Big shout-out to Ellen's loyal and unflappable sister Lucy for being the only sensible one in the entire show.
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