The Split: Break the Chain
  • 4th Jun 2018

So has this six episode divorce drama delivered on its promise to entertain you?

From my perspective, I am concerned that many will assume the behaviour of the divorce lawyers portrayed to be a true account of those of us working within the profession.  For me, the characters are somewhat larger than life but the reasonable accuracy of the legal content I found refreshingly good.  What kept me watching as well was the drama’s proverbial “emotional rollercoaster” in full swing.  This kept viewers guessing and trying to imagine the likely outcome.

Thinking back to my article entitled “The Split: A Chain Reaction”, after the first episode aired, few could have predicted how the story would have unfolded into the climax of the final episode. For my reference to a Diana Ross song written by the Bee Gees in that title to naturally lead into my use of Fleetwood Mac’s “Break the Chain” to mark the end I could not have hoped for as a more perfect follow up. 

But enough of musical references, what this production does well is reveal human fallibility that exists everywhere – whether you are in the divorce business or having to use it or just watching on from the side lines.  Many have loved, whilst others have hated, the affluent London lifestyle depicted in the drama.  The many social scenes showing the consumption of alcohol in a work hard and play hard city had me wondering about the choices made in such an environment but it felt plausible. 

A couple of early stories dealt with topical legal issues so there was balance between the legal and family aspects.  One such story involved a footballer and his intended wife’s pre-nuptial agreement.  The face off between the competing lawyers of Hannah Stern and her love interest’s former wife is not the manner in which I would conduct such negotiations but luckily some media magic intervened to help the pre-nuptial couple unite in agreement, just when all seemed lost. 

The main legal story that was threaded throughout the six episodes laid bare Davey and Goldie McKenzie as they battled their way through financial disclosure (Form E), a First Directions Appointment at Court where it was plain Davey had failed to be transparent (as he is obliged to be) and the finale of the Dispute Resolution appointment where pragmatism ruled the day to avoid the family being embroiled in greater embarrassment and humiliation of further court hearings. I did not feel anyone came out looking their best and due to the pressure to make difficult decisions on a day in court it is prudent to consider the use of mediation and collaborative practice where possible.

Centre stage throughout the drama was Nicola Walker as Hannah Stern. She weathered every storm despite personal distress and delivers a final victory by securing the family name “Defoe” within her newly adopted firm Noble & Hale.  In so doing, she sacrifices her mother, Deborah Findlay’s character’s ability to practice law.  Her resilience is impressive though her facial expression (cue camera zoom) tells of the personal struggles beneath.  Some scenes where she took the opportunity to send a coded message to her sister or husband in the presence of a client you would not expect to happen in practice.  Whilst there were close family moments where she is seen playing nerf gun battles or dancing and singing with her sisters you sense that she is nearly always working.  This must resonate with many families and can be what puts lots of family relationships under strain.

Hannah and her husband are shown to be just as vulnerable as the clients to the risk of infidelity but what will she do about it?  We will only know for sure if we tune in when the second series is released, but the highs and lows of the finale were not exclusively about her.  The life messages of the show flow thick and fast when the youngest sister ties the knot against all odds and the estranged father played by Anthony Head dies as the drama concludes.  The mother sums it all up in the wedding speech for her daughter declaring the importance of love.  She also states that life is about gains and losses. A divorce, as I see it, is a loss with the gain being what the future can offer once the marriage is ended. Gains and losses are unavoidable but helping people manage them with integrity is what counts.