Doctor Foster - season two finale: devastating or tosh?

Gripping end to “middle-class horror story” leaves viewers unsatisfied

Doctor Foster
(Image credit: BBC)

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Doctor Foster season 2 finale.

The season two finale of domestic revenge thriller Doctor Foster has left viewers and critics divided.

Aired on BBC One last night, the episode also prompted speculation about a third series - and about the nature of modern Britain.

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The drama, starring Suranne Jones as scorned wife Gemma seeking revenge on her adulterous husband Simon (Bertie Carvel), has gripped the nation for five weeks. Many fans and critics hoping for a satisfying conclusion were left baffled, shocked and unsatisfied. Others just wanted more.

After an “unbearable month of tension”, Doctor Foster reached its dramatic conclusion, says Louise McCreesh on Digital Spy. It’s been “an absolute trip”, says the critic.

The early episodes in the series kept most fans happy, says McCreesh, but some grew dissatisfied as Gemma and Simon’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. Viewers were also “a little mad” about the unresolved ending, which saw Gemma and Simon still alive, but their son, Tom, missing.

“But at least this means there has to be a third series, right?” says McCreesh.

That will be of little interest to The Guardian's Julia Raeside, who says: “For me, the story of Doctor Foster is done.” The ending was “unbelievably devastating”, says Raeside, although with Tom still roaming the streets, Gemma "shivering pensively in a turtleneck”, and Simon busy putting his life back together, there is the potential for a sequel.

But “I have feasted on their misery long enough”, says Raeside. “It was delicious, but I’m full.”

In The Daily Telegraph, Allison Pearson says viewers were on the edge of their seats wondering how this “revenge tragedy bonkers” show was going to find a plausible ending. “We soon discovered the answer: they couldn’t work out how to finish it.”

Simon and Gemma, says Pearson, turned into “Punch and Judy on acid, vying to outdo each other in nastiness”. We ran out of sympathy for the doctor, adds the critic - who concludes that the only tears she cried were over the fact that in a golden age of TV drama, “this is the pot-boiling tosh the BBC serves up to its British audience”.

This show has “gripped the nation” because it is “a middle-class horror story”, says Helena Bassil-Mozorow on The Conversation.

The series, written by Mike Bartlett, dismantles ideas about the rational bourgeois individual and the ideal woman, she explains, as “everyone who looks nice and decent on the outside is soon shown to be deceitful or incapable of controlling basic impulses”.

Bassil-Mozorow says Doctor Foster is “addictive viewing” precisely because we know how “impossible the standards of the middle-class ideal are, and how many of us fail to live up to them".

So, will there be a third series? The Daily Mail says a tweet on the official BBC One Twitter account, which read, “Gone... but never, ever forgotten”, hints that it's curtains for the show.

In The Daily Telegraph, however, Ed Power reports that Bartlett is discussing a third series, so it looks like “we'll be seeing our beloved bonkers characters again”.

Ratings-wise, the returning Doctor Foster has been an unqualified success, says Power. “Dramatically, though, there is a case that Bartlett and the BBC should have left well enough alone.”

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