Occasionally my viewing habits are controlled by an external force, also known as my mother. She has a soft spot for easy-going, paint-by-numbers dramas. She is currently enjoying Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate, now in its third series. Anything by Mellor sits well with her, as they are all roughly the same. The men are idiots, regardless of how good or bad they are, and you can tell a good woman from a bad one by how she treats other females in the cast – those take the ‘we’re all in this together, girls!’ path are heroines (double this if they are working-class), those who choose to belittle such bonds are the villains.

What makes Mellor’s programmes so watchable though is that you never quite feel as if you are falling into the realms of cliché. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments we come close – the stepson and heir to the aristocratic pile this series is set in is as callous and avaricious as every other such character is in a thousand other similar dramas – but suddenly a jolt comes from a character that shocks you out of your comfort zone.

Take the most recent episode. The character of Sean looked like he was going to be reduced to just being broody and having a horrible secret in his past, which on the surface he does. He was forced out of his dream job in the police after he began a relationship with an underage cadet and he was entered on to the sex offenders register. Except he never realised the girl was underage until it was too late, and when he tried to cool the relationship, and make the wrongs less, well, wrong, she developed a stalker-like obsession with him. Even upon engaging on a new relationship with another man and having a child with him, she still wanted Sean. And there he was, unable to move on like she had, tarred with being a criminal after a stupid error.

Mellor presents us with a contentious issue here – on the one hand, a man’s whole life has crumbled after one error. The sex was consensual, and the girl had undertaken repeated acts of subterfuge to maintain her lie. He is a sex offender in the eyes of the law, but is he in reality? On the other, allowing a shade of grey in such an area of the legal system would open a massive can of worms. It is hard enough to prosecute for genuine sex crimes as it is without creating special caveats.

I think Mellor gives us her answer at the end of episode. Sean puts right all that he can. He comes clean to his colleagues and potential future girlfriend about his past. He persuades the girl who is following him to return back to her boyfriend and child. He gives up on his dreams of travel, and crushing though it is, starts creating a new one. Sean is a good person who did a bad thing but as innocently as it is possible to do said thing. He repairs the damage as much as the world will let him, so he is allowed another shot at happiness. Some of you may disagree, but it is one I think he deserves.

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