Oh sweet heavens. Oh Colin. I've watched the third episode of It's A Sin four times now, and it doesn't get any less gutting. You've seen it, you know where it's going. Let's at least pretend for the time being that we don't, though, OK? It's the only way we're going to get through this recap.
So, as we open episode three, everything's looking up for the Pink Palace gang! Well, not exactly up. Ritchie's auditioning and auditioning and auditioning, gradually bouncing down the dignity staircase until he's right down at the bottom, pretending his shirt's blowing off. That said, he does meet fellow aspiring thesp Donald Bassett and they're very quickly doing something Ritchie never does: actually hanging out properly and having a nice time. They're almost a couple. "Sweetheart?" scoffs Roscoe after Donald beckons Ritchie out. "Who says fucking sweetheart?"
Meanwhile, Jill's treading the boards herself in a big French Revolution musical before dashing off to answer the phones at Gay Switchboard. Word of the Aids epidemic is spreading, but without official answers people are confused, frightened, ashamed. Roscoe wakes up in an extremely flash flat overlooking Westminster, while Colin's making great progress at his new gig in a copying shop. He's got his own keys! And chips for tea! Good for you, Col.
Unfortunately, that's about as good as it gets for Colin. He has a fit and collapses at work, though at the hospital he's as bubbly as ever and confident he'll be right as rain soon enough. His mum's got other concerns anyway given the more unfortunate side effects of Colin's fit: "The smell of adult piss can linger."
Ritchie and Donald finally go all the way with each other, though not without some fumbling and cursing of condoms. They'll be fine though, right? "We're not dirty," Ritchie reasons. The next day they're comparing notes on who's rumoured to be in the closet. Philip Schofield's "at it like billy-o" apparently, and so's Derek Jacobi. And so, they reckon will they be, especially Ritchie if he wants to be as big as he reckons he should be.
"Fuck that, I wanna be massive," he says. "I wanna be in the West End... then I can graduate to films."
But then he spots a little red patch on Donald's back. At the same time Colin's back at home in South Wales, and after another fit he's effectively imprisoned in what looks eerily like the exact same bed as his mentor Henry died in in the first episode.
There's no sympathy for Colin from his doctors or the police who keep him inside. "If he chose to be part of that cesspit, well – who am I to judge?" says a police officer who thinks he's a public menace. That particular moment echoes Greater Manchester Police chief Sir James Anderton's 1986 assessment that people with Aids suffered because they swam in "a human cesspool of their own making". Charming.
The gang swing into action, lawyer up and bust Colin out. Ritchie, though, is freaking out about having slept with Donald, and cuts ties. If Aids could get Colin, it could get anyone. And so we get to the most painful bit of It's a Sin so far.
"I never did anything bad," he tells his mum from his hospital bed. "I really didn't. Can they make me better?"
Colin knows that he's not going to recover. "Oh mammy, make them do something," he sobs. "I don't want to die."
It's going to be a long, long time before any bit of TV drama is so gutturally hopeless, and probably as long before it's as awkward and sad as the scene where Colin, who's going senile at the age of 21, starts wanking in his hospital bed. In front of his mum. (You can read a bit more about that how that scene felt on set here.)
Roscoe, at least, is having some joy this episode: he's manage to wangle his way back into the super-luxe pad of Tory MP Arthur Garrison, and is drinking as much loose-leaf tea as his body can take while watching the Thames roll by. Ritchie can't deal with
And then there's Colin's swansong. We learn he had a thing with the closeted suburban son who he briefly shared a house with, and whose mum we see passing Jill and Ritchie on their way out of the same ward Colin eventually dies on.
This is the pivot point of the series: people make decisions innocently and for hopeful, wholesome reasons, only to be hit with leaden, punishing consequences. After just finding their feet in episode two, the gang are suddenly out of its depth and struggling to keep their heads above water.
Some more thoughts:
Still no 'It's a Sin' by Pet Shop Boys. Surely – surely – we're edging closer though. PLEASE
Still, we did at least get a blast of 'You Think You're A Man' by Divine.
An underrated heartbreaking moment here is Roscoe frantically binning Colin's stuff in a paranoid frenzy. He's so scared and so
Oh, Colin. You poor love.
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