Review – The A Word: Season 2, Episode 4

If nothing else, this season is going to stick in my memory for the great quotes that come from some of the characters. Admittedly Joe, Rebecca and Nicola get the majority of them and they were already my three favourite characters so perhaps that’s part of it.

Anyway, Rebecca colludes with the rest of the family to send Allison and Paul away to reconcile their differences for the weekend while they look after Joe and complete the onerous questionnaire about him that Allison was given. Meanwhile Maurice prepares for his big race while also dealing with his feelings for Louise.

As Rebecca, Joe and his waterproof speaker take their morning walk, Maurice rushes over to Louise’s. She’s sick from the chemo and Maurice is uncharacteristically subtle and delicate – he cleans up, offers to drop around some tea and then makes up a story about needing an extra pair of hands to help at the race so as to get Ralph out of the house and to stop Louise worrying about him.

And as Maurice commandeers Ralph for the morning, Rebecca herds Allison and Paul off to Eddie’s flat in Manchester – she’s caught on that there’s something not going well and wants them to spend some time together and sort it out. Rebecca and company assure Allison that they’ll look after Joe and fill out the development questionnaire in time for their return.

Nicola: Does your child have difficulty making friends?

Rebecca: No, not really he’s just choosy.

For reasons unknown, Eddie seems reluctant to leave and return to Manchester where a night with new girlfriend Holly awaits. Instead he gets stuck into trying to teach Joe to ride his bike without stabilisers so that he will “pass” more questions.

The bike riding scenes will be undercoated with a familiar frustration felt by autistic people and families alike – everything is completely rooted in what someone can’t do. There comes the follow-up argument of ‘but if it were completely strength-based, how easy would it be for places to avoid providing services?’. Tricky topic – but either way the bike riding does not go to plan despite Eddie’s best efforts and he eventually throws an adult tantrum that leads Joe’s former classmates, Ramesh and Bill to ponder whether perhaps Eddie didn’t sleep through the night.

Things aren’t going much better in Manchester as Paul alternates between joking around, complaining that Allison isn’t immediately over his confession of being attracted to another woman, and throwing tantrums when things don’t go his way or he has to deal with the fact he hurt her. Paul is becoming increasingly unlikeable throughout this series and I find myself struck again that whilst last series the internet lit up with widespread criticism for Allison’s character (and rightly so), there has been far less directed at Paul this season despite him being pretty selfish and awful throughout.

Allison: We’ve just been talking about you being attracted to someone else.

Paul: You said you got it.

Allison: I got it. It still hurt like hell!

Joe and the rest meet up with Maurice at the race – who is alternating between bumbling through interactions with Ralph, worrying about Louise and have minor existential crises. One such crises takes place in the middle of the race where he just…stops. Eventually Eddie and Joe find him and he is strangely philosophical about life in general before darting off to complete the race and run around to talk to Louise – reconciling in his typical clumsy and somewhat endearing manner. During this time Joe asks: ‘My feet don’t hurt do they?’ and it’s revealed that he has odd shoes on, no doubt accidentally swapped during his time on the trampoline. Joe’s following near-meltdown about his shoes is the little push that Allison and Paul need to race back from Manchester.

Things continue to get awkward as Allison goes around to help Sophie with Mark’s college paperwork, Eddie’s Manchester-girlfriend Holly turns up, and Maurice gives Ralph relationship advice.

Allison: If Mark is gonna get the college to him, it’s all in the wording so if he needs one-to-one maths support for eight hours a week, a designated quiet space and dancing girls then we write that in and let them fight it, we do not let the council suggest stuff because they will suggest the bare minimum and then say they can’t even give you that. What? Why are you looking so worried?

Sophie: Because if you don’t stop soon and take a breath, you’re gonna explode and make a mess of the carpet.

Rebecca has her own confession to Nicola; amongst the chaos of the Hughes family, she has turned down her place at university as she worries about the pending breakdown of her family and how it will affect Joe. Despite Nicola’s attempts to change her mind, Rebecca seems pretty set in her decision.

The episode ends with Joe successfully riding his without stabilisers – not as a result of Eddie’s tutelage or Paul’s promise that he would get Joe riding his bike but because of Rebecca’s ongoing teaching. When the whole family seems to be imploding around them, it’s no wonder that Rebecca is reluctant to leave Joe behind among it all.

Ever watch a series and get a horrible feeling that someone isn’t going to have a happy ending? That’s kind of building up with this series…

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