After a year-long wait, Hope Street has made its return to screens, with a second series that, quite frankly, had a lot to live up to.
The BBC One serial drama, which centres on the residents and police department of the picturesque seaside town of Port Devine, burst onto our TV screens last year not with a whimper, but with a bang.
With its warmth, humour and absolutely delightful collection of characters, it really did tick all the boxes, with the intensity of procedural crime coupled with the qualities of our greatest soaps, making for a lovely little unique serial which proved to be just what our daytime TV schedules were missing.
The intention was always for it to come back, given that it is, after all, a serial drama, so it was no surprise when a second series was commissioned – especially when you factor in just how successful the programme proved to be. Then, of course, there was that cliffhanger, which left audiences desperate for more.
The hopes were high, especially given how much we loved the first series, and we’re pleased to report that the sophomore season does not disappoint, boasting a newfound confidence and freedom that the previous series lacked.
Given that Hope Street is an ensemble, town-centric show, much of the first series understandably spent a lot of time establishing who’s who, who works where, in addition to all the unique dynamics between the residents of Port Devine that we know and love.
But with that task having been accomplished, the show feels much more at home, so to speak, in its second batch of episodes. The writers know who everyone is now and how they’d react to any given situation, which allows series two to really hit the ground running.
Having said that, the opener of the second series does a little establishing in and of itself, ensuring that it exists as its own piece, in addition to being a sequel to that of its predecessor. We’re six months into the future, with Finn O’Hare (Ciarán McMenamin) secretly struggling to come to terms with the events of the accident.
The biggest change is that Leila Hussain, whose arrival in Port Devine was pretty much the entire premise of the show during the first series, has gone, which we imagine left the writers in a bit of a predicament when it came to storylining series two.
Hope Street’s greatest strength, however, is the ensemble aspect of it. It’s a soap in that respect, with no one character being at the centre, but rather it’s about the residents, so – while Leila’s departure is quite disappointing given how instrumental and brilliant she was – the remaining characters are enough to ensure its future.
What’s more, bosses whet the audience’s appetite with something completely new, with the arrival of Al Quinn, played by the superb Stephen Hagan, setting the cat among the pigeons and creating for some truly delicious conflict across pretty much all of the dynamics of the show.
The fact that Al is an old colleague and mate of Finn’s allows him to bed into the show really quickly without having to establish the relationship too much. We must commend actors Stephen and Ciarán for their role in this, given their excellent on-screen chemistry.
In terms of his characterisation, Al is charming, suave and everyone’s best friend, but he’s far from a cliche, with there being much more to him than meets the eye, something that becomes apparent as we move through the course of the season, with this particular narrative hitting its stride around the third episode.
Finn, as we mentioned, struggles in the aftermath of the accident, coupled with the continued breakdown of his marriage to Siobhan, leaving him a shell of his former self, with a storyline that allows actor Ciarán to truly shine. Siobhan comes into her own this year, with increased screen time giving star Rachel Tucker the chance to do what she does best, as the former couple attempt to work out if they have a future.
Marlene, however, is arguably the shining star of series two, with a number of truly great storylines and scenes allowing the character to properly thrive – which we’ve been desperate to see ever since we first set eyes on her last year.
Callum, meanwhile, remains his lovable lovely self, with Niall Wright’s portrayal so on the money, while his on-screen chemistry with co-star Kerri is as electric as ever, with the duo of actors once again cementing Marlene and Callum as one of TV’s greatest partnerships.
Speaking of partnerships, Nicole Devine and Clint Dunwoody also have much more to do this season which is another welcomed change, with the characters being less confined to the pub and getting involved in all sorts, with an interesting storyline seeing the couple spend a lot of time with Marlene, in a narrative that allows for moments of both humour and heart – often at the same time.
Moment of appreciation for Niamh McGrady, who – much like last year – manages to steal every scene that she’s in.
The crime-of-the-week stories fit the bill, ranging from charmingly predictable to devastatingly poignant, with a number of twists along the way that you might not see coming, which is also the case for the season’s primary character-driven stories too.
If the first series of Hope Street, like we said, put the ‘hope’ back in serial drama, then the second shines a neon light at the genre, fighting for its place in the TV schedules with tighter scripts and a newfound confidence in its identity which has simply left us desperate for more.
It would be great to see the fabulous Amara Karan back as Leila at some point in the future, if a third series is commissioned, if even just to tie things up properly since some questions remain unanswered. But all in all, it’s good to be back in Port Devine!
Hope Street series two airs Friday at 1:45pm on BBC One, or stream every episode on iPlayer right now.
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