It's Upside Down, Inside Out & Round and Round in 'Funny Woman's Penultimate Episode

Gemma Arterton as Barbara and Leo Bill as Tony tripping at a club in Funny Woman Season 1

Gemma Arterton as Barbara and Leo Bill as Tony tripping at a club in Funny Woman Season 1

© Potboiler Productions; © Sky UK Limited

Sophie was flying high in last week's Funny Woman; this week, she’s laid low. Some would say she has only herself to blame, and to those people, I issue a very loud and rude raspberry while showing them the door directly out. We have neither time nor need for such retrograde nonsense when we know that you can’t keep a good woman down, especially not when she is a) a comedy genius and b) surrounded by supportive friends and family as well as sexist garbage heaps. 

The retrograde sexist garbage heaps fall into two categories: stuffy, patronizing men who are vaguely and uncomfortably aware that their era just might be drawing to a close, and women who have most unfortunately fallen into the trap of upholding standards that harm them, too.

Ted Sergeant puts Sophie on suspension from work for the foreseeable future. Did she say a naughty word? Sure, and why shouldn’t she — it was le mot juste to describe the philandering cad she thought was her faithful, tamed rake of a boyfriend! Furthermore, why, exactly, is she the one to face negative consequences for a word when Clive is merely inconvenienced by the absence of his leading lady? Will he receive so much as a reprimand? Not from Ted, that’s for sure! He demands Sophie’s building pass and sends her on her way, none the wiser that she’s been wrongfully terminated and has grounds for a grievance and reinstatement. 

Gemma Arterton as Sophie in a bad wig in Funny Woman Season 1

Gemma Arterton as Sophie Funny Woman Season 1

© Potboiler Productions; © Sky UK Limited

She doesn’t fare any better at Brian Debenham’s office. He’s behaving as though Sophie has gotten into hot water to spite him, and takes some malicious glee in informing her that the Carry On film part has gone to “a bubbly little blonde called Barbara Windsor”. (She was indeed little – scarcely five feet tall – and bubbly, and blonde, and went on to become a beloved institution, earning a Tony nomination for Oh, What a Lovely War!, joining the cast of EastEnders, and being named Dame Barbara Windsor, DBE by her late majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.) 

Do you remember the perfume counter girl, Milly, at Lewis Peters who gratefully swapped shifts with Barbara so she could pop down to the clinic for “clap cream”? I mention it not to shame her but note she’s among the staff surrounding and taunting Marj with nasty innuendo about Barbara being — not to put too fine a point on it, but they are the ones drawing an enormous penis right by Barbara’s mouth on the cover of a tabloid — a slut. Pot, I’d like to introduce you to kettle. You have so much in common! Marj eventually has enough of this girl-on-girl social violence and dumps a massive bowl of custard on the ringleader’s head. Custard’s versatility! Who knew?

Finally, we come to Auntie Marie, who cannot contain her disappointment in her niece, who she considers an albatross around her neck and a girly Icarus. It’s hard to decide what drives her rage more, Barbara’s desire to figure out what she’d like to do in life or, having put in the time and work to help raise Barbara, for her to have the gall not to furnish the precise outputs Marie thinks she somehow deserves for having set aside all of her own hopes and dreams. (Nevermind that she did so unbidden and that she appears never to have discussed any of this with George.) Barbara owes Auntie Marie the marriage and family Marie never had for herself “because I was always saddled with her!” Kudos to Rosie Cavaliero for not shying away from playing an unabashed abuser; I fervently hope not to see this character again next season.

Morwenna Banks as Patsy is plotting to help Barbara return in Funny Woman Season 1

Morwenna Banks as Patsy in Funny Woman Season 1

© Potboiler Productions; © Sky UK Limited

Let’s segue to the more supportive people in Barbara/Sophie’s life. Marj and Diane continue to be the best, the three commiserating over Sophie’s suspension at CTV. They hatch a scheme for Sophie to sneak back into the building to give Ted Sergeant a piece of her mind, using Diane’s pass and wearing her Sandy Shaw-style wig as a disguise. The only fly in that particular ointment is she can’t be at CTV in London to shoot an episode of Top of the Pops, because that venerable series is (was, RIP TOTP) shot in Manchester; some amusing chase scene bits ensue, culminating in Sophie reunited with Dennis, Bill, Tony, and (sure, ok, he can be there too), Clive. 

Turns out they had a bit of a brawl—as much of a brawl as four not-terribly-tough guys with minimal fighting experience can have, anyway — and are determined to prevail over Ted Sergeant! The best thing Sophie can do is to return to her flat and pretend she has mumps. "Working it out" takes a backseat to the week’s new episode, which features a Pakistani character, Ganeet, Clive’s counterpart in Pakistan’s State Department. They’re casting a Pakistani-British actor named Harinder Singh — who script-reliant Clive notes is already off-book walking into his audition — when Ted insists on casting Spike Milligan instead. Ah, yes, noted Pakistani comedian Spike Milligan! This minstrelsy is what Dennis, Tony, and Bill would avoid by casting Harinder; but it’s a precondition for considering Sophie’s return to Jim and Barbara. Sigh.

Sophie is moping about the flat, wrapped in a duvet, nibbling dejectedly on toast when Marj arrives in a rush because she’s hosting the women’s group meeting. Sophie offers to clear out, but they invite her to stay. During sharing time, one woman confides she has left her husband and children because even though her husband is a decent man and she loves her children deeply, her situation has plunged her into a depression she feared would become suicidal. Sophie is sympathetic but deeply discomfited, reflecting silently on her own mother. (Said mother may be appearing soon; she’s sent a letter to Sophie at Brian’s office, which Patsy quietly tucks away.)

Gemma Arterton as Barbara and Tom Bateman as Clive are back on in Funny Woman Season 1

Gemma Arterton as Barbara and Tom Bateman as Clive in Funny Woman Season 1

© Potboiler Productions; © Sky UK Limited

Tony and Bill entice Sophie to join them for a night at a gay bar, where they have a mind-bending time thanks to tabs of acid bestowed upon them by a drag queen in full Glinda The Good Witch regalia. To the strains of “Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane and “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, the three dance, twirl, drink, and alter their perceptions of the world. As Bill finds a cozy corner to make out with another chap, Sophie and Tony have a heart-to-heart about his wife, June, who has encouraged him to get out there and experiment to figure it all out. What he’s figured out is that he’s bisexual, though neither he nor Sophie uses that word. (Irrespective of vocabulary, I would love to see June next season, as she sounds lovely and open-minded, and it reflects well on Tony that she loves and trusts him to such a degree.) In a callback to an earlier episode where Bill laid his head on Tony’s leg while they had a deep conversation, Tony now finds solace lying his head on Sophie’s sequined lap. Aw.

Another couple navigating their complicated union is Dennis and Edith. Until now, Edith hasn’t been given much to do than convey a queasy mix of affection, jealousy, and exhaustion with Dennis. In the penultimate episode of the season, she and Dennis finally have it out about their relationship. He’s been inattentive and dispassionate for ages while she has fallen head-over-heels for her boss/the host of the show she works on, Vernon. Dennis tries to salvage things, but the effort is weak and too late; Edith is done. Dennis should have to eat some crow over this and own his true feelings for Sophie. All four of these people deserve better.

The final scenes of the episode set up some extra chaos for next week’s season finale, with Ted being unable to fire Dennis because he already quit over Ted’s insistence on Spike and cruel refusal to reinstate Sophie and both Dennis and Clive zipping up to Blackpool to declare themselves to Sophie. Clive is there partly on his own behalf and partly at the urging of Brian, who may also be Clive’s agent. That aspect of their relationship isn’t clear, but over Martinis, Brian convinces Clive that the only way to get the press off his back and to get Sophie back on the air is for them to reconcile as publicly as possible. Most regrettably, Dennis folds like a house of cards once he sees Clive, who then appears at the Parker residence, kneeling in front of the door, engagement ring extended. Oh, my!

Stream Now

Funny Woman

Barbara Parker heads to London to take on the male-dominated world of comedy by storm.
Funny Woman: show-poster2x3

Bits & Bobs:

  • Sophie’s second sequined minidress of the season—worn during her night out on the town with Tony and Bill—is another stunner, but I give Outfit of the Episode to her ensemble as she walks dejectedly through the rain to Brian’s office. The overall effect of her yellow and green umbrella, hair protected by a silk scarf, a blue and green-striped pullover, and matching green blazer over jeans and maroon flats is definitely meant to signal comfort over chic, but it’s also very chic, which is underscored by the melancholy song playing over this moment, “Comment te dire adieu,” by Françoise Hardy.
  • Joke of the week is a cute little sight gag. After Clive stumbles over an apology to Dennis, Bill, and Tony, the three of them accept his meager offering. Dennis provides a gentlemanly handshake, Bill (lolling on the floor) extends his pointy Chelsea boot for Clive to tap with his own, and Tony does the same. I’m sure this will catch on like wildfire among the youth!

Sophie's Selfie

Sophie has been happily steeping in the potent brew of British TV since her parents let her stay up late on a Thursday watching the Jeremy Brett adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. She loves mysteries, espionage thrillers, documentaries, and costume dramas, and if you're not careful, she might talk your ear off about the Plantagenets. Sorry about that in advance! 

You can find Sophie on all the platforms as @sophiebiblio and keep an eye on her bylines from all over the internet via her handy portfolio.

More to Love from Telly Visions