Reviewed By: Eiphel
Review Date: 11/27/12 3:57 am
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"We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell."
The words which formed the very title of the first episode of the season prophesy the events of the last. The Fallen King of Britain is not only another tightly woven, multi-layered installment of this great season, but a denouement that ties together everything we've witnessed between the beginning and the end, and I can't think of a better statement of the conclusion it reaches than that quote.
Dorian, now one of the city bankers living things up in 2007 before the crash of the economy, has a luxury apartment in the top floor of a skyscraper. Almost all of this story takes place in that apartment, and particularly upon the balcony - And that's relevant, because it means the city of London is, literally, a backdrop to events. Dorian's world is physically present to observe, and those observations set the stage in the first part of the story. Dorian tells what his life is now, he protests his love for the twenty-first century. But he also reminisces, all the way back to his true youth, and everything in between. In the contrast we see a world that has lost all its sophistication. No more trappings of romanticism, lustre and beauty. His latest friend is hardly Oscar Wilde, and his yuppie parties bear little resemblance to the dinner parties he attended over a century prior. Much as Dorian determinedly praises this new age, one wonders if he protests too much.
The play subtly counterpoints talk of Dorian's portrait with characters gazing out over the city, and the similarity of the observations, when you spot it, is striking. This is the city as portrait, and it's a city which reflects Dorian more closely than ever. Last week's episode showed the eighties as an era when the modern world started to catch up with Dorian, with our protagonist deep in his element. This week continues that thread, but the twenty-first century reflects more than Dorian's superficial hedonism. Dorian can be seen as a character ahead of his time, suffering the same sort of dislocation and disenfranchisement as other, more mundane examples of such people. When the world finally draws level with him, what we see is no homecoming for Dorian however, but merely a world that has brought everyone else as low as him.
This is what I really took away from The Fallen King of Britain; that Dorian is no longer anyone special. That for all his unique nature, the place he has arrived at is a place myriads of other, mundane people arrive every day. There's no magic in the escape Dorian seeks, no arcane secret underlying that life - and Dorian doesn't realise it. That ignorance underlies Dorian's turmoil in the story, his paranoia and inability to make sense of what is happening. What really drove this home for me was the perspective embodied in the character of Simon. Viewing this story without the context of the wider series, without knowing Dorian's secrets, this story might just be the story of an ordinary man broken by the modern world. Charlie White who took some bad coke and lost his mind. Outside of Dorian's head, there is nothing else at work. It is only those Confessions of Dorian Gray which suggest anything more. Secrets shared only by Dorian and we the audience. When Dorian reflects that demons come in all shapes and sizes, one can't help but recall Oscar's epigram.
All of this leads to an exciting finale, proving you don't need galactic stakes to make for a dramatic conclusion. As the story reaches its end there's the unshakeable sensation that something has to give, and we can't know what that might be. Suffice to say, it fuels some sterling performance from Alexander Vlahos, culminating in a fantastic soliloquy that /demands/ a second season, that we might see how Dorian is changed.
Impeccably formed from start to finish, an exquisite character portrait itself, Confessions is one of the best productions I've ever heard, and The Fallen King of Britain provides it with a conclusion that wholly honours this exceptional work. 9/10.