The Great Doc Martin (Re) Watch Continues - Series 4, Episode 4

The great Doc Martin viewing marathon continues here at Telly Visions this week as we continue on with Series 4. We’re two weeks from the Series 5 premiere, guys! And I’m so close to being caught up! It’s all very exciting.

Due to the fact that this series contains an odd number of episodes, we’re only covering one installment this week – “Driving Mr. McLynn.” There were apparently a great many things to say about this episode anyway (sorry in advance), and now we’re only four away from being all caught up, which means that I’ll finish Series 4 on the same day Series 5 premieres. How’s that for no waiting, huh?  If only that could be arranged for every show I watch.             

Series 4 continues to be this strange combination of interesting and intensely frustrating. “Driving Mr. McLynn” was an extremely strong episode though, and probably the best of the series so far, even though (as you’ll see) there are plenty of mindboggingly enraging character moments.

So, onward! Click through and come chat with me about the next episode in our rewatch, and feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite moments, funny lines, general rants, whatever, in the comments.

Series 4, Episode 4: “Driving Mr. McLynn”

This episode is so frustrating! While it is the first installment of Series 4 that “felt” right – in terms of pacing, storyline balance, character screentime, etc. – it’s also the first time I’ve ever legitimately disliked Martin for the whole episode and don’t know what to do with all these feelings. To be fair, these are messy emotional conversations that need to be had, but

This is the One Where: Martin is called to Louisa’s house after she has a dizzy spell. He urges her to slow down and stop working, and the two of them have a nasty spat about babies and parenting and whether she should be working outside the home. Martin refuses an elderly couple who want to apply for a disabled parking badge, implies that the wheelchair bound patient is faking his paralysis, and stabs him in the hand with a needle. Just another week in Portwenn. 

Martin and Lousia’s Awkward Shouting Match. Joan calls Martin to come see Louisa after she has a dizzy spell while moving furniture around. Martin checks her out and pronounces her fine, insisting that she has to take things slower now because she’s pregnant. He asks her how much she’s working and proceeds to basically act like a huge jerk when Louisa announces that she’s not only full-time at the school she’s applying to take over officially as head teacher.

Martin – who has certainly had his fair share of Most Unlikeable Person in the World moments before – reaches new and baffling heights of horribleness when he pronounces Louisa’s attitude toward pregnancy abnormal, asserts that she lives in a hovel and even offhandedly calls her crazy for wanting a life outside of caring for a child. The bit where he says she’ll have to care for that baby she’s having after the academic year through the next term and the following eighteen years, even longer if the baby is disabled in some way was just.  Well, let’s just say I had to rewind it a couple of times to make sure I’d actually heard it all correctly and that was before Martin implied Louisa might have a miscarriage from the bacteria in her house.  

That it was a difficult scene to watch is obvious, that it was so unexpected is probably what’s so interesting about it. In some ways, it’s understandable that Martin can’t figure out how Louisa plans to take care of a child and work full time as well; however, it’s equally obvious that many women manage it every day. And, I suppose, as viewers that we shouldn’t be surprised when Martin acts like a jerk to someone, however it is a great deal harder to take when his cruelty is directed at Louisa. 

Yet again, I am left wishing that Doc Martin was a bit more clear in letting us see specific perspectives from specific characters, because I honestly don’t know what to do this entire scene or what we’re meant to think about Martin’s ridiculously over-the-top rant. Is it meant to show his concern for Louisa’s health? His concern for the baby’s future? His residual resentment over Louisa’s continued insistence that she can raise the baby without him? It’s understandable that a lot of his treatment of Louisa is this opening scene probably stems from internalized worry or fear that something was really wrong with her and/or the baby. Therefore he treats so horribly here because all of that penned up and internalized emotion - and probably frustration over the fact that Louisa keeps insisting she doesn’t want or need him in the child’s life – which, to be fair, is not very fair of her for lots of other reasons. But, it would be a great deal easier to stomach moments like this, where Martin is being so much more awful than usual, if we could have a bit more evidence onscreen of his emotional perspective and what he may or may not be going through internally.

What on Earth, Martin’s Attitude. Martin is tapped to help out with the interview process to determine the Portwenn school’s new head teacher. He chats with Mr. McKenzie, who I assume is the equivalent of, say, the PTA president, they discuss the candidates for roughly 2.3 seconds, and Martin announces that he won’t vote for Louisa because she’s pregnant. McKenzie reminds him that discriminating against her in that way is entirely wrong and illegal, but Martin’s all whatever, he’s not hiding his opinions. I want to kick Martin really hard. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling about this subplot or why Martin, who on all previous occasions has seem very equal opportunity in terms of his treatment and opinions of people (or at the very least an equal opportunity jerk to them?) is suddenly spouting off opinions that would fit right in with Don Draper and the men at Sterling Cooper.

That Said, I’m Oddly Glad That Martin and Louisa are Fighting. Not so glad about the actual substance of their fight – as ranted through above I think Martin is completely in the wrong here, not to mention overstepping himself quite a bit in this situation, so Louisa has every right to be furious at him, for both the things he’s said to her and what he’s said to others about her. But, in some ways, the fact that they’re battling so heatedly is kind of a good thing – first of all, simply because it proves that they do still have some sort of unresolved feelings for one another – you don’t fight that viciously with or get that hurt by someone you don’t care for – and secondly because the two of them have been long overdue for some sort of knock-down drag out about the way that Martin behaves, the way Louisa enables and/or apologizes for his behavior, and how the two of them treat each other generally.

Because the two of the went so quickly from “Admitting we’re both romantically interested in one another” to “Let’s get married in a few weeks,” they never really had that sort of couples adjustment phase that all long-term relationships go through where both partners establish boundaries as to what they both expect and are willing to tolerate from the other. They never really fought before, because they never really talked either. Not that it wasn’t obvious that the two of them weren’t mad for each other, mind, but because they spent so much time trying to get together or thinking they couldn’t be together for whatever reason that they never seemed to work out being together. So as distasteful as the subject matter of this particular battle is to watch (and it is), for the two of them to ever get back together, they not only have to work through this particular issues (on which I am totally Team Louisa) but they have to somehow negotiate what each of them needs emotionally from one another, which is the big elephant in the room they never managed to talk about before.  Oddly, their breakup now makes that conversation a necessity, at some point, which will probably be better for them in the long run, no matter how frustrating the progression toward it may be.

From the Shallow End: Mrs. Tishell’s ongoing strange little crush she has on Martin is one of my favorite little continuity bits about this show.

That Said, Part Two: Shut Up Martin. While it’s certainly not easy to forgive Martin for the horrible things he says to Louisa about being pregnant and wanting to work, it's at least possible to read several motivating emotional factors into why he may be behaving the way he is toward her, specifically. The fact that he’s now apparently sharing this opinion with random PTA members on street corners that “very few women have the mental and physical capacity to work full time while raising a small child” is just…horrifying. It’s so wrong of him to be openly campaigning against Louisa’s application for the head teachership, and it’s so petty for him to be expressing his own frustration and resentment (if that is in fact what’s motivating this behavior) in this way. As I said, this moment, when Louisa has to overhear him telling a stranger that she’s incapable of doing her job and being a mother, it’s the first time I’ve ever really disliked Martin that much. Mostly because he seems to display zero understanding about why his pronouncements on this issue are inappropriate or why they would hurt Louisa.

Bright side, the fall out from this IS that Louisa appears to have gotten a lot better about standing up for herself and what she wants, so that is a tiny ray of sunshine, I suppose.

Al is the Best Boyfriend! Al tries to borrow money from Bert for a mysterious and unnamed reason. When his dad says he doesn’t have any to spare, Al takes on a side plumbing job fixing the multitude of things that are wrong with Louisa’s rental house. He isn’t exactly forthcoming to Pauline about the fact that he’s taken on an extra job – and actually lies to her about what he’s doing in his spare time. Pauline immediately assumes the worst and actually accuses Al of having an affair with Louisa (hilarious!).  It’s all sort of sweet and very adorable, especially when Al reveals that he wanted the money to buy Pauline a new scooter to replace the one she had that got repossessed. It’s nice that this episode at least has one light-hearted storyline in it, which after the Martin/Louisa A-plot, is much needed.

Future Plot Point? Aunt Joan is Broke. Aunt Joan gets in a car accident and lies to PC Penhale that the incident was her fault so that she doesn’t have to report the incident to the insurance company, because she hasn’t been able to afford to renew her policy. This, to me, has the air of a plot point we’re going to hear about again – because how can she afford to keep the farm and her business going if she doesn’t have any money? Possibly this is a completely wild conjecture on my part, but it felt like this subplot was going somewhere.

I do love that this show is actually realistic about money and money troubles. Al has to work a side job to get the money to replace Pauline’s repossessed scooter, Aunt Joan and the Large’s restaurant both struggle with paying the bills. It’s refreshing, actually.

From the Shallow End, Part Two: I love Aunt Joan’s dog. I think its name is Buddy, is that right? Whatever it’s called, it’s completely adorable, and I kind of want one, and I’m not even a dog person.

Plot Roadblock: The Totally Disgusting Edition. Ugh, Edith. Seriously, why is she necessary? There are obviously a boatload of issues that Martin and Louisa need to work through right now, both separately and together, and Edith’s presence as Plot Roadblock and Possibly Horrifying Love Interest is just so unnecessary. She is not as obviously grating when it can at least be argued that her presence is giving viewers a more complete picture of Martin’s character (like last week), but this week when her sole purpose is to be weirdly clingy, kiss Martin awkwardly and ratchet up the tension with Louisa, I just don’t see the point to having her around. None of us think an Edith/Martin romance is going anywhere anyway, even if they did kiss this week (or rather, she kissed him – he certainly didn’t look that into it?) And her character has no independent storyline or, to be frank, redeemable qualities whatsoever, so it’s hard to see the point to her being here. Unless it’s to drive me insane, which is looking more and more likely. 

This is a lot to say that I get that Martin and Louisa have a tremendous amount of issues right now. They’re practically toxic for one another. And that is the storyline I want to see – them working through their problems, coming together amicably at least for their baby’s sake, maybe dealing with the several thousand issues they both have about and because of their tangled connection with one another. Inserting Edith into the situation just muddies all those waters and allows the plot to move into more traditional love triangle fare. The intricacies of how the two of them have to renegotiate and redefine their relationship is just so much more interesting and layered than whether Edith’s managing to weasel her way back into Martin’s life. Sigh.

Someone tell me she’s at least gone by the end of this season? Please?