When politics crosses family lines, loyalties are supposed to be clearer. But that’s not the case for Aiden Hoynes (David Tennant) and his wife Freya (Emily Watson).
Both are politicians in the same party in the British Parliament. At home there is plenty of sex, two children -one of whom has Asperger Syndrome- and a live-in nanny.
Aiden is so ambitious he resigns from Parliament as part of a plot to trigger a leadership spill. But the plan goes belly-up. It soon emerges that Cabinet colleague Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard) has betrayed him in order to take the title for himself. Aiden’s wings are clipped and he is banished to becoming a ‘house husband.’
But Freya, a Junior Minister who had sacrificed her career for that of her hubby, is surprisingly offered a peace-offering with a Cabinet role. Despite her reluctance, Aiden convinces her to take the position, whilst scheming about how having an insider can help rescue his career.
As Freya rises through the ranks in British politics, her ascendancy and power is contrasted by that of her partner, humiliated publicly and neutered by those closest to him.
While his wife revels in a taste for power, Aiden’s only soulmate is his ageing father Joe Hoynes (Jack Shepherd) who tests his son with moral questions. Aiden’s own son Noah (Oscar Kennedy) tugs at his father’s emotions as he struggles with Aspergers.
Tennant and Watson are gifted with a mini-House of Cards by writer Paula Milne. While it divides its conflict between domestic and political arenas, the material offers plenty of range. With their marriage at risk of imploding, issues of trust, power, honesty and paranoia are up front and centre. Tennant especially revels in scenes of rage and political chess-games. Watson keeps her cards astutely close to her chest.
Ed Stoppard and Jack Shepherd, in particular, are very effective in support roles, facilitating the centrestage drama.
Milne’s exploration of a man’s role as he is superseded by his wife’s career is such that you are never quite sure where the blood will spill. Things really hit their stride by the second episode.
The Politician’s Husband is a smart essay on sacrifice and trust, with two dynamic performers who revel in the best it has to offer.
The Politician’s Husband airs Mondays at 8.30pm from August 4 on BBC First.