Queer as Folk 2

Tuesday, February 15, 2000 by

Up until that first commercial break Queer as Folk 2 felt as though it was going to deliver (in an agreeable enough way) more of the same. Stuart fucking/”fuck off”ing, Vince worthy and charming but a bit useless, Nathan enthusiastic yet on the periphery and Alexander unconcerned, uninterested and luminescent. The previous series ended with Vince and Stuart in celebration of their unchanging, tiny world; however after 15 minutes of the usual banter and soap-operatics something was different aboutQAF2. That world was no longer enough.

QAF2 is altogether colder and darker than before. The cock-sure predator, Stuart Jones (played again as insoluble and otherly) appears to be crumbling a little. Is this a man half gone to seed? Accompanied by Vince his efforts to find an easy shag had a tinge of desperation this time around, as though he was insistent on doing what he does. His confrontations with his family revealed for the first time an angry vulnerability in the character; as he “came out” accompanied with a flood of crude euphemisms for homosexuality (shades of Alan Partridge’s “lezzers, les-be-friends, spare rib-ticklers”). When he pulled an imaginary gun on Alexander’s mother towards the end of the episode, we could see a character fracturing under the prospect of change.

No one in QAF2 wants to change and herein lies the plot. Russell T Davies bravely challenges the tenets of his series head on and gets to grips with Vince and Stuart’s relationship. The culmination of this episode was, in many ways, their dance. Through the gentlest, slightest body language a depth of feeling was expressed that neither of them would ever verbalise. On the brink of sleeping together they both bottled out, (“well, long day tomorrow”) neither of them daring to alter their relationship. Somehow it all felt right.

Second series are always funny anyway, as we acquaint ourselves with changes in format and line-up. Nathan’s father has gone in a development that was hinted at last time, but is treated woefully incidentally. Same with Donna, who was dispatched in merely a sentence; although as Nathan moves to assume Stuart’s mantle her absence is probably forgivable. Alexander’s character has been beefed up making him implausibly one of the central pivots of QAF2, and thus robbing it of that bright irreverence for which he could be relied on as a second-stringer. But, alas, it’s Hazel who really disappoints. Davies seems to be building her into that salt-of-the-earth, worldy-wise, plain-speaking matriarch that haunts the likes of Coronation Street(witness: Rita Fairclough). Hazel is the barometer of what’s intrinsically right (borne out by her swift demolition of Vince’s father’s efforts to empathise with his son’s lifestyle). She is the bottom-line … she’s actually a bit of a bore.

But all in all, a fine outing for the Folk. It feels different this time, certainly – but different – good. No more are they immortal hedonists. They’re growing up, growing old. But they’re really doing it.


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