Review: Silk, season 1

Maxine Peake in Silk

Silk takes us on a roller coaster ride with barrister Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) and the barristers, clerks, and juniors in her chamber. This very British legal drama is full of courtroom scenes and goings on in chambers, but doesn’t delve into most of the character’s personal lives.

With Martha Costello as the lead part, we see her at home where she does the same things she does each day at work: work. She’s the most brilliant barrister in her firm and is after ‘the silk,’ or her membership on the Queen’s Counsel. As members wear silk gowns of a particular design, the award of Queen’s Counsel is known informally as taking silk, and hence QCs are often colloquially called silks.

I actually decided to watch it because Nina Sosanya is in it, playing Kate Brockman. Unfortunately, she played a rather unlikable character who stirred up trouble in her firm because she thought the clerk Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke) was crooked. Perhaps that’s why Nina Sosanya didn’t make it into seasons 2 and 3 of the series. I have to admit, I love watching her in action, even when I don’t like her character. The way she’s staring off to the side in the cast photo below is telling.

Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones, Nina Sosanya, Neil Stuke, Natalie Dormer, and Tom Hughes in Silk

Nick Slade (Tom Hughes) and Niamh Cranitch (Natalie Dormer) were the youngest members, learning under the tutelage of Martha Costello and Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones). Clive Reader was the firm lothario, and quickly seduced his pupil Niamh.

Somewhere along the line, after a victory in court, Martha Costello and Clive Reader seduced each other. A big part of the personal story arc of Martha Costello in season 1 is that her night with Reader left her pregnant. The two of them weren’t really ‘a thing.’ A victory celebration went a bit too far that one time. In season 1, both of them were trying for the silk, so they were in competition with each other. To Clive’s credit, he stepped up and offered to be there for Martha when he learned of the pregnancy.

The key thing about Martha Costello was her passion for justice. She could win cases using the most original arguments when she believed her victory would serve justice. But in one case she argued, she actually helped her opponent win because she thought that was the just result. She was incorruptible. I admired her.

The series was very oriented to cases, work on cases, and court appearances. I was often puzzled by the intricacies of the British court system and how things work in chambers. But after a couple of episodes, even my befuddled American brain got things figured out well enough to keep up.

I watched Silk on Amazon video. Amazon only has season 1, which consists of 6 episodes. The series had 3 seasons, aired on the BBC from 2011–2014. Hulu has all three seasons. The series was created by Peter Moffat. The only woman director in season 1 was Catherine Morshead.

Have you seen this series? What did you think of season 1?

2 thoughts on “Review: Silk, season 1”

  1. I have seen the first season of SILK. it is good as entertainment, but several details are unrealistic.

    (1) A pupil steals a wig and a robe, but apparently he gets away with it! Not realistic

    (2) Martha has a car, a fancy sports car. How can she afford it? Where does she park it? Who wants to drive a car in London?

    The car has no roof, but in one case she parks it outside in London where rain is a common event!

    (3) Martha is not easy to like. She smokes cigarettes whenever she has a break. Every evening when she come home, she drinks a bottle of beer. Does a female English lawyer really do this in 2011?

    (4) A lawyer is sniffing cocaine at a party in chambers. Hardly realistic!

    (5) When the clerk gives a lawyer a new case, he hands over several binders with perhaps 500 pages and tells the lawyer that the case starts the next morning.

    This is completely unrealistic. When a is arrested and charged with a crime, he or she must wait for 6 months or more for a court date. There is plenty of time for a lawyer to prepare a case.

    Perhaps the people behind the drama want to show us how hard the lawyers have to work. This message could be conveyed in a better way.

    It is a shame there are so many unrealistic details in this drama which aims to be realistic.

    Season one cannot get more than 3 or 4 stars.

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