I guess it’s Katy Murphy’s spotlight episode now? The question mark because Murphy’s entirely in support of Ken Stott throughout the episode, so even though she’s in it more and we finally find out her backstory, she’s just the love interest. Especially when Stott’s drinking problems come up—he makes a full disclosure about it to her; to be fair, the drinking at work seemed so casually accepted I thought it was just Scotland in 1994.
But, no, it’s actually a big problem. Especially now Stott and David Tennant seem on the verge of getting a gig at Radio Scotland. It’s really interesting to see how “Asylum” presents Stott’s anxiety over meeting with producer Arabella Weir, as he’s ostensibly the only well-adjusted lead character. Lots of good acting from Stott. Lots. Even if it comes at the expense of other actors, like Tennant and Murphy. Murphy so, so much.
There’s a whole kittens in the wild needing protection and tween boys starting fires subplot, which has tragic consequences but also very human ones, leaving Stott—not Murphy—to realize more about the reality of the hospital and how it actually functions.
Stott’s also got home and work issues—grandmother Elizabeth Spriggs is serious about moving to Lithuania and she really wants Stott to pay for it, which leads to more of an emphasis on work—including getting in a feud with alpha salesman Neil McKinven. As usual, Roy Hanlon’s amazing as Stott’s boss. There’s a whole shenanigan sequence with McKiven, Stott, and Hanlon, which seems like screwball—with director David Blair keeping it from going too far—but only Hanlon is at home in the mixed genres. He’s so good.
But it’s not entirely Stott-centered (with Murphy and Tennant his sidekicks), there’s also the ongoing tragedy of Ruth McCabe’s living situation. She’s still literally hiding from the social worker so she doesn’t get dumped at a gross halfway house. While definitely effective, the humor isn’t quite gallows enough. Writer Donna Franceschild never quite figures it out, even when the arc seemingly resolves here.
As usual, it’s an excellent hour of television. The way Murphy’s still a mystery for Stott to unravel versus the guest lead is unfortunate, albeit narratively driven.
The cliffhanger’s probably the show’s bleakest to date, which is saying something.