‘The Split’ on Sundance – Worth the Binge


If you’re an Anglophile and haven’t caught The Split on Sundance yet, it’s time to set aside some binge hours.

Centered on the lives of the Defoes – mother Ruth, sisters Hannah, Nina and Rose – The Split is a British take on a legal-procedural drama. Ruth Defoe is the head of a legal firm that focuses on divorce, which includes her middle daughter, Nina. Hannah Stern, her eldest daughter, moved on to a competing firm because Ruth wouldn’t retire and let her take the helm.

Their lives are turned upside-down when the girls’ father, Oscar, returns after a 30-year absence. As one would expect in any drama focusing on divorce, there are plenty of secrets and lies to go around among clients and barristers alike. What distinguishes this drama from many produced in America is the absence of gratuitous sex – or any sex at all. That is not to say that the characters are prudish, but that The Split relies on the real drama of human interaction – at its ugliest and most beautiful.

So, while there are adult themes and language throughout the program, The Split doesn’t have NSFW (or switch-off-for-kids) scenes. There is something to be said for well-used innuendos in drama, and this show is proof of it.

With a cast of powerful women at the center, there are feminist overtones, especially when it comes to marriage. However, it is a second-wave style of feminism, and soft-pedaled at most. Rose, the youngest Defoe, is preparing to get married throughout most of the season, while Hannah, the eldest, is struggling with her own marriage. Nina, the middle sister, is the commitment-cynic, and Ruth is the most opposed to women relying on men at all. (Secrets revealed mid-way through the season clarify why Ruth views marriage the way she does.)

Sundance made the right choice to carry BBC’s The Split, and one can only hope that the program will continue as scheduled in Britain next year. At least a few viewers here in America should be looking forward to Season 2.

Image: BBC