The Great Doc Martin (Re)Watch Continues – Series 4, Episodes 2 and 3!

Our great Doc Martin viewing marathon continues here at Telly Visions this week as we dive into Series 4. We’re so close to the Series 5 premiere now – and to finishing our rewatch! (Or, well, at least to it becoming an “actual” watch) I can’t wait to get to the part where I’m watching episodes you guys haven’t seen already!

Up this week, we have “Uneasy Lies the Head” and “Perish Together as Fools.” Several readers have said that Series 4 is occasionally (often?) frustrating going, so I’m simultaneously curious and anxious about how these episodes are going to go.

Because some of these criticisms about this season are – well, at least they seem so after three episodes – pretty well-grounded. The Martin and Louisa storyline does seem to have oddly stalled despite her being pregnant, Edith is annoying even though it makes sense to have her around, and Martin’s reactions to the baby news haven’t been ideal (save a small scene here and there). Series 3 handled balancing multiple plots and characters arcs more deftly, and the problem of a lack of perspective for Louisa seems to have gotten exponentially worse. We’ll have to see how things progress…but I’m nervous now. 

Anyway, onward! Click through and come chat with me about the next two episodes in our rewatch, and feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, general rants, whatever, in the comments.

Series 4, Episode 2: “Uneasy Lies the Head”

This is the One Where: Louisa officially tells Martin she’s pregnant and insists she doesn’t want him involved. Aunt Joan is equally insistent she be allowed to help. Louisa takes a room at the pub and tries to get a job at the school she used to work for, but soon learns the new headmaster has some…issues.

Louisa Breaks the Whole Pregnancy Thing to Martin. Picking up right where things left off at the end of last episode, Louisa tells Martin that she’s pregnant and that things haven’t exactly been working out for her in London, so she’s back in Portwenn to stay. Martin…well, doesn’t exactly react in the warmest of manners. It’s understandable that he should be shocked and confused and thrown off by all this, but his reaction is, I assume, somewhat less warm than Louisa might have been hoping for. Of course, he also makes several awkward comments about whether Louisa’s sure the baby is theirs and that she’s left it a bit late to get an abortion at this point. Sigh. The only upshot of this storyline (because generally I think it’s a bit eyeroll inducing) is that Martin’s reaction to the prospect of being a father should be incredibly interesting – unfortunately, we don’t see a tremendous amount of that in this episode, beyond him being sort of shaken and not knowing what to do or how to treat Louisa.  Louisa, on the other hand, is simply determined that Martin doesn’t need to be involved with her pregnancy or the baby, and says she was just stopping by his place first, so that she could tell him the news before the whole village found out.  I’m not sure exactly how to read this scene – the two of them certainly don’t behave (towards one another at any rate) as though they have a lot of residual pining style feelings going on, but I can’t imagine Louisa went to Martin’s house without part of her hoping that something had changed, or that Martin saw her for the first time in six months without at least recognizing that he still cares deeply about and for her. (This of course is all predicated on my reading that they do still carry romantic feelings for one another, obviously, though it’s likely that an argument could be made credibly that they don’t.)

The scene between the two of them on Louisa’s first day back at the school where Martin calls her decision to have the baby without talking to him first high-handed and insists that her current situation is a result of the choices she’s made was the most intriguing part of the episode and it would have been lovely had it gone on longer – not only because it’s an interesting look into the way the two of them view the world (obviously, opposite) but because these are the sorts of emotionally raw, almost-but-not-quite nasty scenes the two of them should be having. The only way for them to really move past this together is probably just to really fight it out properly, slog through all their mutual hurt feelings and whatever else is going on and see where they end up. But it just ends with Louisa telling Martin he’s not her doctor for this pregnancy, and he leaves.

Edith is Awful, But the Character Does Serve a Purpose. Edith is pretty terrible as a person – she doesn’t excuse herself once Louisa arrives at Martin’s (as any person with actual manners would do) and she hovers over Martin as soon as Louisa’s gone. She makes snide comments about how Louisa must be from the village, inquiring if she has a job, and informing Martin that he isn’t obligated to “rescue” her because she’s a grown woman that’s made her own choices. Yeah, Edith is a huge jerk. But, the scene between Louisa and Aunt Joan about Edith is interesting – not because Edith is interesting, but because Edith’s existing on this canvas opens up an interesting window into Martin as he used to be, into the character before we met him. 

The Martin before he developed his blood phobia seems to be quite different from the Martin we know now. Through Aunt Joan, we learn that Martin and Edith at one point were not only together, but that they planned to get married, and that Edith broke off their engagement and (presumably) broke Martin’s heart. This is fascinating, as it’s difficult to imagine Martin being so wrecked by the end of a relationship (he certainly seems to be coping fine without Louisa, generally) and it’s equally challenging to picture Martin so in love with a (horrible) person like Edith that he’d want to marry her.  Her intellect and similar career pursuits would certainly give them a great deal to talk about, and her lack of warmth and personal skills certainly rivals his. But, other than them both being highly intelligent and both being doctors, I’ve no idea how that relationship would have ever worked. I can only surmise that Martin must have been quite different then, and I appreciate that in some way Edith’s presence gives us a look at who he used to be and what his life was like at that point.  I’d like to see more of that – Martin’s backstory – but I could certainly do with less of her and her grating attitude.

But of course, instead, the two of them make plans to have dinner. Television hates me.

Louisa and Her Endless Array of Cardigans Gets a New (Old) Job. Seriously, Louisa Glasson must keep whatever equivalent they have of Ann Taylor Loft in Portwenn in business. It seems impossible that one person should own that many cardigans, but okay. Louisa has an interview at the school she used be headmistress of for a teaching job. The new headmaster, Mr. Strain, is behaving very oddly, and seems paranoid about Louisa being after his job.  I’ve a few problems about Louisa’s selling her needs as a mother down the river to get this man to give her a job, but I can understand how desperate she must be to get back to doing something she loves and that will let her support her baby.

It’s the Little Things. While some of the aspects of this episode’s main plots remain frustrating, there were some hilarious small moments.  Mrs. Tishell’s super aggressive behavior toward Louisa over her pregnancy is extremely, and something that I certainly hope will continue for the rest of the season even though I think her response is unfair. And, of course, Pauline discovering that Martin had been looking at bisexual dating sites on her computer was also comedy gold.

Martin Saves the Day AgainMartin ends up saving Louisa and the schoolkids from Mr. Strain, who is having something very close to a psychotic break down at the cove, and is making the schoolkids clean rocks for….some reason. Martin shows up and attempts to rescue everyone, Mr. Strain ends up hitting Louisa and knocking her down on the ground. Martin has a moment of what appears to be genuine concern in this moment about both Loiusa and the baby, but of course, immediately afterward, Edith shows up just as Louisa’s telling him the baby moved and ruins everything because she’s horrible.

It’s going to be a long season, isn’t it?

Series 4, Episode 3 “Perish Together as Fools”:

This is the One Where: PC Penhale’s brother Sam comes to town. Louisa has a medical scare. The surgery is being redecorated. Al tries to convince Pauline that he’s good enough for her.

For some reason, this episode title just makes me think about the “Live Together Die Alone” episode from Lost, and of course that’s half of what I thought about during this episode. I watch too much television. Unfortunately, this episode is the first of Series 4 to be really...well, just okay. It's there and a few interesting things happen, but overall I found it sort of bland and a bit dull.

PC Penhale’s Brother Comes to Town. It’s rather nice that finally PC Penhale gets a subplot that’s about his character and his history after a whole season and some change, and the appearance of his brother Sam is more interesting than that agoraphobia mini-subplot from last season. It’s interesting that he’s a younger brother – his overachieving attitude definitely makes a lot more sense now, in the sense that he’s trying to live up to or compete with Sam. Sam comes to town to stay for a bit, having lost his job, and gets hired to re-paint Martin’s surgery. The relationship between the two Penhale brothers is interesting and sweet, and it’s unfortunate that it turns out Sam has given himself lead poisoning from forging artwork. I sincerely wish that hadn’t happened – because I like the two of them together, and I like Penhale having someone around that makes him a little more human and a little less policeman automaton.

Edith and Martin Go Out, Sort of. Edith’s function as a window into Martin’s past continues – which is the only way I can tolerate her, because their dinner (lunch? I can’t tell) date is completely dull. However, we do learn that Martin used to write her poetry back during their courtship days. Yeah, just take a second for that to sink in. Martin used to write a girl poetry. It’s impossible to picture it. It sounds like a pod person. (Edith also hardly seems like the type of person who’d enjoy/appreciate receiving poetry, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.) Their meal together has that weird vibe where it sort of feels like a date, but doesn’t – or rather, probably, it would be a date if Martin were more adept at picking up social cues than he is (see: the cheek kiss at the end). Oddly, it is hilarious that the scene between the two of them in the car, when Edith tells Martin that his breath indicates that he might have jaundice or something, it was such a mirror of that moment when Martin tells Louisa her breath smells bad after their first kiss. Funny, yes, and clearly an indicator that she is probably where Martin learned about what is and is not appropriate in a relationship. Thanks a lot, Edith.

Martin Gets Almost Sentimental Over Louisa’s Ultrasound. I’ve been waiting for something like this since we learned Louisa was pregnant. I’d love love love to see more of Martin’s perspective about having a child – whenever Joan asks about his plans for the baby, he keeps insisting Louisa doesn’t want him to be involved, but he never says anything about whether he would like to be involved. That he has conflicting and hesitant feelings towards the idea of fatherhood is completely understandable, given his own atrocious parents and his strained relationship with him, as well as the fact that this pregnancy is something that completely came out of nowhere. But it certainly makes his character more sympathetic when we are reminded that his conflicted feelings surely must also include moments where he’s happy or excited or incredibly curious about fatherhood and his child, instead of just the awkwardness we’ve seen him previously display around Louisa. It’s nice to see even just a bit of the happier side of it, and hopefully there will be a bit more of it coming episodes.

Initial verdict about Series 4: well, not as bad as I’d initially feared, but certainly not as fun as Series 3. I’m not sure where we’re going with all of this, exactly, but I’m curious to see what happens. So I guess we’ll have to see. On to next week!

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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