National Treasure is a four-part 2016 British television drama written by Jack Thorne. It stars Robbie Coltrane as Paul Finchley, a once successful comedian of the 1980s and early 1990s, now hosting a television quiz show. He is accused of raping several young women in the early 1990s. Julie Walters plays his wife Marie, and Andrea Riseborough plays his daughter Dee. The drama is inspired by Operation Yewtree, a police operation that resulted in the prosecution of several veteran TV performers.
The show was very well done and hooked me in quickly. The lead character Paul is now rather unappealing yet held in high esteem by an adoring country for his lifetime of entertaining achievements.
His very dutiful Catholic wife, combined with the perks and entitlements that come from being married to a national treasure shows herself as a willing co-conspirator, even to the detriment of her own daughter. Her co-addiction is apparent but never given language.
Here is a short review of the four episodes:
- After an awards ceremony, veteran comedian Paul Finchley is arrested on suspicion of raping Rebecca Thornton in 1993. This has a hard impact on him and his family. His Catholic wife, Marie, is horrified and his daughter Dee, a recovering drug addict, cannot take it in. Paul’s life goes into a downward spiral as he is dropped from his presenting duties and to make matters worse, he faces more charges as more women come forward, including an alleged under-age victim.
- Dee begins to wonder if her father, Paul, was abusing her as a child. She attempts to confront her former babysitter, Christina, who has formally accused Paul. Flashback sequences show that Christina introduced Dee to drugs. On deciding that Paul is innocent, Dee crashes her car in a suicide attempt.
- Marie is confronted by Rebecca in the Ladies toilet at court. She starts questioning Paul’s innocence. Paul is advised by his barrister to claim he had consensual sex with Rebecca. Marie starts wondering why she has stayed married to Paul, despite his numerous extra-marital affairs.
- Marie has sex with Karl, Paul’s former comedy partner, who has been in love with her for decades. Only two of Paul’s accusers have persisted in their claims. In court, Christina is proven to have lied, claiming that Paul raped her in his luxury car, which was in fact being driven by Marie (who committed a traffic offence, proven by police records) in another city that day. Rebecca, once a besotted admirer, is ridiculed by Paul’s (female) barrister for having written him a fan letter a year after the alleged assault. Paul is cleared of raping both women.
However, a flashback sequence confirms that he did have sex with Christina, who had been flirting with him. The sex was presented as consensual, but Christina was only 15 at the time and there is no category of consensual sex with a 15-year-old, it was rape. Flashbacks also show that Paul, who had recently learned that the TV network was losing interest in him and wanted to promote Karl as a bigger star going forward, did have sex with Rebecca in his caravan whilst filming on location. Karl was outside the caravan and overheard Rebecca’s screams, but this is implied as role play due to the dialogue shown between Rebecca and Paul. He backed Paul in court due largely to his own guilt for lusting after and finally sleeping with Paul’s wife. After the verdict, it is implied that Marie leaves Paul, and his relationship with Dee seems strained.
The brutal bargains agreed upon at the beginning of this marriage made a tragic ending inevitable. Paul was driven by lust, power and his own narcissistic personality disorder that sealed the path. What is bred in the spirit is born in the flesh.
I am sure his need to act out sexually did not go away after the trial ended. That is a huge hole that cannot be shamed or scared away. Living a lie and being larger than life is not sustainable.
As we climb out of 15 months of a shutdown world and into the sunlight of the summer new challenges await. If you are struggling to find balance or relief, just remember that there is help. Reach out, take a chance, and remember, misery IS optional.