Clean Break Episode 2 Recap: Mystery, suspense and even more angst – what happened next in RTÉ’s new drama?
(Fair warning: this review contains episode spoilers and is unashamedly Damien-centric!)
Where the first instalment introduced the main characters in a town filled with grim secrets, the scope in the second is broadened beyond their contained interweaving, when the police and wider community become involved; all embraced by the dark, eerie tone established in the series opener.
The town, depicted with the same visually compelling cinematography, again provided a brooding backdrop to the unfolding events.
The storyline picks up from the heart pounding cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1, where reluctant kidnapper Danny Dempsey (Damien) runs away from gunfire into the Wexford woods, after the tiger kidnapping went badly wrong.
Danny has escaped the shooting, with a badly injured leg from tripping on barbed wire, but is still on the run. He makes a frantic phone call to the orchestrator of the crime, Frank Mallon (Adam Fergus), informing him that the two other kidnappers, Noel (Ned Dennehy) and Teeth (Packy Lee), shot at and tried to kill him.
But despite his concern for Jenny (Amybeth McNulty) during the kidnapping being the cause of the plan’s failure, she and her mother Annette Rane (Kelly Thornton) are still the primary thing on his mind. “You just make sure that little girl and her mother are alright, do you hear me?”
Frank himself is filled with angst over the kidnapping outcome, while an ever more menacing Noel and Teeth make it clear they intend to hunt Danny down and “bury him six feet under.” Frank’s anxiety intensifies when he discovers his daughter Corrina (Kelly Thornton) is secretly seeing Danny.
Desmond Rane (Aidan McArdle) goes from creepy in the first episode to chilling in this episode, at one point called “rigor mortis junior” by one of the investigating police officers. He is utterly cold with his daughter (Jenny) after her ordeal and seems completely unaffected by events, even returning to work when he does not need to.
Jenny, who recognised Danny as one of her kidnappers, lies to the police (and her parents) to protect him, holding on to his boxing gloves charms off his neck chain as she falls asleep. She has touching faith in him, telling her Mother “there is someone out there looking out for us” and nods when she asks if she has “some secret hero.”
Danny’s connection with the young people of the town becomes even more apparent when he finds two young lads, Keith (Sean Byrne) and Andy (Lloyd Hogan), heading to their secret hideaway hut in the woods by the railway line. The boys let him hide there, agreeing not tell anyone they have seen him and to help him by bringing clothes, food and first aid for his injured leg.
When Corrina comes to look for Danny at the boxing club, she and Ben (Sean McGinley) have the most interesting Danny related exchange of the episode, with hints at his mysterious back story: “That’s what I worry about.. because he’s easily led you know, too easily led..” “Like that time at the Olympics you mean?” “Yes, something like that. That’s what I mean, because he’s easily gulled that way, and as for you, you need to know that Danny is like the sun, he comes and he goes and does nothing else in between.”
Danny’s presence is felt even when he is not in a scene – with tension growing as the investigation continues and everyone looking for him – Noel and Teeth to silence him, Frank who it seems wants to look out for him, Ed Banner (Aaron Monaghan) who wants money he owes him and Corrina who eventually finds where he is hiding out.
Dressed and in new clothes and disguised in a hoody, Danny heads to town, where he sees a TV news report on the kidnapping through a window. The scene serves as a powerful reality check, the insular town, with so many secrets hidden within it, suddenly becomes exposed to the larger world and we the audience, as well as Danny, suddenly have a larger context within which to view events. Danny really is in a desperate situation, and it becomes harder and harder to see how he can escape from it.
Things become even more intense when secrets are revealed and cracks begin to show within the town. While watching the same news report at home, Corrina guesses it is the kidnapping Danny is running from, and after confronting him about it discovers that Frank is also involved (significantly not revealed by Danny.) Casino man Ed Banner comes to Mallon’s Motors to let Frank know he knows about Danny and his involvement with the kidnapping.
Danny realises he only has one option and tells Corrina that he doesn’t have much choice but to go somewhere else and plans to leave the next morning.
The intensity and suspense are turned up even higher in the dramatic final minutes of the episode, when we witness a series of critical events and things reach crisis point.
In a shocking scene, panicky Frank, who is already way out of his depth, finds out just how murderous Noel and his sidekick Teeth are, when they kill Ed Banner and make it look like he hung himself. His murder is a reminder of the still missing casino owner Long John and the body dumped in the river at the very outset of the series.
Corrina chooses Danny over Frank when she refuses to tell her father where he is hiding and joins her boyfriend in the hideout.
Jenny has a scary nightmare, where she is running down a dark alley when she sees Danny – who appears to her as more of a horror figure than hero – his finger over his mouth telling her “shhhhh.”
Episode 2 is another cleverly crafted tale, effortlessly inviting us deeper into the dark and deadly drama of Wexford. By the end we’re even more invested in what happens to each of the main characters, pulled into the heart of the tense dynamics between them, with a growing sense of awe at how the series arch might resolve.
Damien is consistently engaging as vulnerable and kind-hearted, yet savvy and resourceful Danny; his acutely authentic performance and on-screen presence adds to the drama’s sense of danger and tension in a way that is viscerally felt. Adam Fergus excels at bringing a greater sense of inner conflict to Frank, kindling a greater sense of sympathy for him.
We’re left wanting the suspense resolved now, but never wanting it to end. How can Danny and Frank come out of this, not just without a criminal record, but alive? How long can the crumbling secrecy around the kidnapping be sustained? Has the situation, and relationships affected by it, gone beyond the point of no return? How many more murders can remain undiscovered in this small town?
In this masterful drama there are no guarantees our questions will be answered next week, but we definitely cannot wait to find out.
Watch RTÉ One’s video recap of Clean break so far.
Clean Break returns Sunday 11 October 10 pm on RTÉ One.
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