Roger & Val Have Just Got In: The Gift (2.6)

Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Shock (2.1)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: The Woman in the Attic (2.2)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Surprise! (2.3)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Pam’s Collage (2.4)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Poem for Uncle Jack (2.5)
BBC Series 2

Roger & Val finished beautifully in this episode, delivering a fairy tale ending that wasn’t in the least cloying – a hard trick to pull off. Mind you, it doesn’t start off well for our heroes. Val (Dawn French) gets in first and grumpily starts making sandwiches for when Liam, Roger’s (Alfred Molina) 31 year old son by Jean Duggan, and his grandson, Rhys, come round to tea. Val is clearly upset by the discovery of Rhys in last week’s episode, a painful reminder of their own son who died as a weeks old baby 19 years before.

This unhappiness comes out in a nagging meanness of spirit that picks on everything Roger does. As when he struggles in the door with armfuls Jean’s shopping. “It must be nice to have more than one lady.” He does his best, telling her, “You’re my wife,” to which she replies, “And she is the mother of your son.”

But Roger has a plan. He’s bought Val a maternity ring, which she won’t even touch. This is the most obvious meaning of “gift” in the subtitle. Dreadfully disappointed, he takes it upstairs and puts in the shoebox containing their son’s death certificate and blue teddy bear. The symbolism is heart rending.

Downstairs, Roger puts up the Wendy house he bought that afternoon for Rhys to play in. The unspeakable Pam Bagnall, who pipped Val to the deputy headship post, has stored the last 12 years of history department files in black bin bags in her garage. Her successor needs them, and Pam gets a bollocking in the Head’s office. And her first staff meeting as Deputy Head is a rambling, unfocused shambles that reveals unresolved psychological issues with her controlling mum. Right. The Nurophen Plus connection (see last week’s episode). “Is it the drugs talking?” asks Roger. Val swears she’ll refuse the job if it all goes pear shaped for Pam. But we know better, don’t we?

Val is still in nit-picking mode, and discovers that Roger bought the wrong cheese, sparking a fresh outburst of disproportionate anger that turns the Wendy house into the symbol of a rival domestic establishment to their marriage. In the middle of all this she gets a call from the Head to say that Pam has taken early retirement, so Val is offered the Deputy Headship. Roger wants to open a bottle of champagne, but she’s still feeling hurt and combative.

Val wants him to take the Wendy house down. For Roger, it’s become a symbol of No Surrender. He squeezes inside, singing “We Shall Overcome.” Val goes upstairs to the shoebox of dead memories and has a profound change of heart at the sight of what it contains. She puts on the maternity ring. “That is absolutely gorgeous.” She also embraces her promotion. “Valerie Stevenson. I’m the new Deputy Head. How do you do?”

Val takes the blue teddy bear downstairs to put in the Wendy house. It’s a lovely moment as she puts her hand, with the ring on, through the flap. Roger kisses her hand and then rises, wearing the Wendy house like a ship under full sail, to kiss her through the flap. Genius writing.

The doorbell rings and they look at each other with wild apprehension. Roger answers the door with a delighted “Hello, Rhys” and the little chap barrels down the hall into Val’s arms. “Hello.” An expression of pure bliss on both their faces.

Needless to say, Rhys is the real “gift” in the subtitle, and the only other character to appear besides Roger and Val. What a brilliant series – funny, quirky, wise, and emotionally intelligent. This show deserves a BAFTA.

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