Glasgow, 1982: Young Paddy Meehan walks to work with her walkman. She’s a coffee and copy girl, but a break allows her entrance into the world of journalism–a world she has stubbornly found a toe hold.
I love Paddy. She’s fiercely intelligent, can write like hell, and while she’s figuring herself out, she’s also unwilling to simply be who her parents, boss and boyfriend want her to be. And while she’s often frightened, in the face of breaking a story she’s often fearless.
The two series, available on Acorn for streaming, are well worth watching. 1982 is nailed, as is Paddy’s authentic mix of insecurity and overconfidence. Paddy and I would be pals, for sure, and yet that’s one area that the series feels off. She doesn’t hang with any girls beyond the sister she shares a room with (who leaves for the convent) and the co-worker she boxes in the face and gives a swirly too. Violence in the workplace is never kosher, but her co-worker did indeed build a strong case for a swirly(as in head in the toilet and flush). Certainly in 1982 Glasgow, there were a shit ton of young women struggling toward the futures they were dreaming up and yet Paddy can’t seem to find them. She’s caught between the ultra Catholic world of her parents’ home and expectations, as well as the ultra masculine world of old school journalism. This world is shaken up in season two when a career woman takes over the office and shakes it up, but she’s a flat villainous viper and one of my complaints about the shows. The other complaint has to do with the second season’s ending.
While the two series are totally watchable, (spoiler alert) the concluding episode contains my pet peeve among mysteries featuring female protagonists. Unexpected pregnancy. In this series, the time frame(1980s) and setting(Glasgow) makes Paddy’s fate much more believable–she finds herself pregnant, and so the ending is heartbreaking. She confesses to her deeply religious mother, who for once, silently listens, tears tracking down her face and we understand that pregnancy is the end of her investigative reporting. In telling her mother, I knew she was going to carry, keep and care for the baby, and Paddy, I am certain, would be a fine mother. Maybe Paddy would find a way back, but it cuts off with this scene, and my gut says otherwise. DCI Jane Tennison found herself in the same predicament, as do countless female detectives on current television and every time, I find myself screaming at the television to beyond–to the writers, who can’t imagine detectives that are both smart enough to catch murderers and navigate birth control and claim their own sexuality and care fully for their entire selves and not bitch ceaselessly about being single(I just watched the first episode of Murder in Suburbia where these smart, wonderful, attractive, awesome detectives did just that and there was no celebrating what being single can afford a person and honestly, it was just too much and granted I am not single, but when I was single I never gathered with my single friends and bemoaned my single status. We were too busy having fun and having wonderful conversations and doing awesome things. So television writers, if at all possible, please work on cutting the “unwanted pregnancy episode” and “desperate single” schtick and also “beleaguered and married” crap. Please. Seriously. Please.).
Now Paddy, based on time and place, was trapped(no access to birth control, which was widely considered a sin) and tricked by a silver-tongued, good-looking copper who spun a tale, but the price she pays is steep. Paddy achieved her own big dream, and as viewers, we watch it being laid down. It’s incredibly hard, but only because there is something truly glorious in watching Paddy go for what she believes she, herself, was born for.