The Return of “Silk” (Series 2)

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

(BBC “Silk”)

Horace Rumpole relied on the South London crime family, the Timsons, to keep him supplied with adequate draughts of Chateau Embankment, a claret designed to curl your toes.

The return of “Silk” on BBC1 (series 2) introduces us to a new London criminal family, the Farrs, on which Billy, the senior clerk, hopes the future profits of Shoe Lane chambers will rely. But only if their solicitor, the aptly named Mickey Joy, likes the performance of the barristers. By which he doesn’t mean their forensic skill but rather their compliance with the larger family concerns.

To say the Farrs are like the Borgias in wickedness is to malign that estimable Florentian family. The Farrs are thugs. Their heavy man, Brendan, pulls out the eyes of his victim. The government having cut legal aid the criminal bar is struggling to keep their horse hair wigs alive. So means to an end….

We see Billy having whisky discussions with Mickey in the local pub. He wants to be the only supplier of barristers to Mickey. And since he’s got three barristers on his cases, Billy thinks he’s on to a winner if only the barristers play along. But there’s the rub.

Enter our dashing new silk (QC), Martha Costello. Working class lass from up north beats posh southern kid, Clive Reader, to the golden prize of Queen’s Counsel. (I’ve already made my views clear on that to the dismay of many barristers.) Martha don’t like Mickey because her client, the heavy Brendan, clearly has the IQ of a 5 year old and is being set up by the Farrs to take the fall.

Billy gets Clive to act as her junior in the case. Clive is still smarting from not getting silk and to compensate has bought himself a very powerful Norton motorbike. Clive the posh boy in the Cameron-Osborne mould, is prepared to cut a few ethical corners here and there if it keeps him in well with the clerks.


Martha is as naive as Billy is manipulative. Somehow, and you have to suspend disbelief here, she persuades the jury that Brendan, all 6 foot 7 inches and 250 pounds of him, is a hard done by lad. Instructed to remove the victims eyes, nose, ears, tongue and fingers, he only takes out the eyes because he’s kind. Then he calls 999 (or 911). Instead of taking the fall, he’s acquitted.

You can see what’s coming next, can’t you? The Farrs are pissed off. So just before Martha is to take her silk victory lap up Middle Temple Lane, Billy gets a call to say that Brendan’s eyes, ears, etc have been removed and he’s dead.

Martha’s heart is in the right place but she’s seriously lacking street smarts. I hope her new wig keeps her brain warm.

As much as “Silk” irritates me, I enjoy it. And I classify watching it as work which most people can’t do. So I’ll be in for the whole series. More to come.

One point: these TV series about barristers are incestuous. In 2000 there was a better TV show called “North Square” about a set of barristers chambers in Leeds. The actor who plays Mickey, Phil Davis, was the senior clerk, Peter, in “North Square” (even more Machiavellian than Billy) and Clive (Rupert Penrys-Jones) was one of the barristers, Alex–again a posh boy.

Both “Silk” and “North Square” were created by the same writer, Peter Moffat, a British playwright.

Then, would you Adam and Eve it, Phil Davis (Mickey/Peter) and Rupert Penrys-Jones (Clive/Alex) both turn up in another TV show called “Whitechapel” (2009) about copycat Jack the Ripper murders where Rupe is the posh, naive, educated CID inspector and Phil is the trustworthy, university of life trained sergeant.

At this rate they’ll take over every legal TV show going….Stop!

Quick Followup: The Guardian has an interview with Peter Moffat, “Silk’s” writer. One of the comments refers to an even more lively Australian barrister series called “Rake“. Here’s the blurb:

Barrister Cleaver Greene’s life continues to spiral out of control – the latest blow being the beating he’s just received from Mick Corella’s stand-over man Col for unpaid gambling debts. As usual, Cleaver retreats to the arms of his lover/friend/confidant Missy, a high class call girl who works at a brothel also frequented by Cleaver’s friend, Attorney General, Joe Sandilands.

Can’t wait to see this one!


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25 Responses to “The Return of “Silk” (Series 2)”

  1. mr toad Says:

    silk is great

    silk cut isnt…why do they smoke a fag two puffs then chuck it out a window or on the ground
    these smoothy details arent needed
    doncha think?

  2. johnflood Says:

    You’d think given the price of fags these days, they’d smoke them down to the butt!

  3. Ann O'Dyne Says:

    I have been enjoying SILK after first liking Ms Peakes sassy Dinner Ladies character. Of course the Kate character will have to come to a bad end as punishment for trying to them them all honest.

    re Rupert and The Great Phil taking over everything: in the old days of Brit movies whenever an actor was told of a new film casting he would automatically ask “what role has (Denholm) Elliott got?”

    RAKE the series set in Sydney with the barrister who gets beaten up and treated badly by everyone including his colleagues and children, is/was wonderful. worth just buying the DVD now.

  4. Ann O'Dyne Says:

    drat. meant ‘keep them honest’ up there on line two.

    Followed your link to ‘barristers who disagree with you’: where you said ‘most people haven’t a clue what a barrister is let alone a QC’
    A joyous and nationally beloved Australian film The Castle has the definitive scene in that regard.

    Scripted by lawyers, everyone in this country must have seen it and loved it. premise: A man’s home is his castle and the govt cannot acquire it against his will. another DVD worth getting.

  5. Col Says:

    Great story but can’t hear the speech because of the music. I think this is technically poorly made

  6. Tony Dryland Says:

    Enjoyed Silk until the episode last night. Now, too much sex, too much swearing and cannot hear what the actors say. Look at scene early in the programme last night, where Maxine Peake and another walk away from camera, speaking along with the clattering of shoes, drowing dialogue. Not minded now if I miss Silk.

  7. johnflood Says:

    @Tony I think it will be worth sticking with it. These stories always have to have their side bits. Clive’s forthcoming contretemps with his regulator over those photos should be fun.

  8. Nick Says:

    Rake is based on a real (still at the Bar) Sydney Barrister

  9. kath Says:

    Have just watched tonight’s episode but have lost the significance of Clive’s letter and why they were all so worried

  10. Aled Says:

    Brilliant last episode – Maxine Peake & script superb

  11. melanie Says:

    Absolutely love this series my only regret is that they don’t make more than 6 episodes!!! so sad. I cannot wait till the next series, hurry up please….Some of the other comments regarding badly made due to the ‘not being able to hear the dialogue’ due to background music and footsteps is ridiculous, maybe you should test your hearing, it adds to the series not distracts and i have been more than able to understand everything the actors have spoken. A great big well done to touching on the issues of prostate cancer and hope the next series continues this and emphasises the importance of men attending regular check ups and taking their health seriously before, in the case of Billy, it’s too late.
    thank you for a brilliant series….

  12. Nicholas Says:

    Does anyone know where you can find a list of the music they use in the programme? I want to find a track from last nights episode! Thanks!

  13. Joff Says:

    Nicholas – was it the music when the clerk was in the NMR machine (which was the best and most elegant song I’ve heard all year)? If so listen to

    … and if you like it , how about then clicking on ?

    if not … play the episode on your PC, and run Shazam on your mobile perhaps?

  14. David Says:

    Nicholas 21st June…….It’s “Puncture Repair” by Elbow off the album “Leaders of the Free World”

  15. John Flood Says:

    @Nick thanks for the tip on “Rake”. I must try and see it.

  16. Chris Says:

    I did enjoy watching Silk, the similarities to North Square are such it is almost like watching a second series of the latter (actually there were more main characters in North Square).
    Still a few points for discussion which didn’t sit well with me:
    Martha back in the court room the same afternoon after losing her baby?!
    Even falling for Clive’s slimy charms in the first place!
    Kate, Nick and Neve all disappearing after Martha’s “happy family” speech to end season 1. Too convenient?

  17. valerie Says:

    After watching the final episode of series 2 (warning – plot spoiler follows) I don’t understand the actions of Micky Joy, the Farr’s solicitor. If he really secretly wanted to get Farr convicted then 1. why insist on Martha defending him. 2. why set up a fake alibi with Billy and 3. why then feed info to the prosecution which destroys this alibi, but gives him another, (and incidentally will bring criminal charges against him and destroy his career plus put him in mortal danger from the Farrs?)
    Why not wait until there was a decent case against Farr which didn’t rely on police perjury and lying witnesses? And why not let another barrister defend Farr, one who wouldn’t fight quite as hard as Martha? I’m sorry but the obvious stupidity from Joy, who is not a stupid man, spoiled this episode for me. Also the background noise, which drowned the dialogue too often. And the idea that the Bar Ethics Committee would drop an official complaint against Clive just because Billy threatens a barrister is not v credible either.

  18. Vera S Says:

    Would love to see the writers develop a relationship story line with Martha and Daniel as I think there is a bit of chemistry between the two – and I think it can be done without distracting from the core story line of the show. Does a female barrister have to be portrayed as either an alcoholic or a work alcoholic without a life.

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