Split, The


Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.

Main Cast: Nicola Walker, Stephen Mangan

Creator: Abi Morgan

I am an unapologetic fan of British TV. I think the greatest appeal is that people tend to look like…people. Not supermodels, just regular people. They also have a lot of great female leads, especially in crime dramas. It was a crime drama, Unforgotten, that led me to The Split.

The Split is a three season (18 episodes) drama series starring Nicola Walker (she is who I followed from Unforgotten) as Hannah Stern. Hannah is the eldest daughter in a family of lawyers. Her mother, Ruth Defoe (Deborah Findlay), and sister Nina (Annabel Scholey) run the family firm. Hannah has walked away and is working for a competing firm.

Hannah is married to Nathan (Stephen Mangan) and has three children. She’s also now working with a former boyfriend (Barry Atsma). Nina is single and their youngest sister, Rose (Fiona Button) is engaged to be married.

The Split follows the Defoe family through personal and professional celebrations and crises. Though Hannah is certainly the main character, the heart of the series is the bond between the three sisters. They are a tightly knit, generally dysfunctional unit weathering the storms of lawyer life in London.

The series looks hard at the difficulties of marriage, family, children, and careers. The Defoe women are at distinctly different stages of life, allowing the writers to explore more territory. Each season features one main case that serves to highlight the struggles happening within various factions of the larger family.

The single best element of The Split is the performance by Nicola Walker. Hannah is complex woman with a past that lingers in the periphery. She is compassionate but flawed and Walker wrings every bit of emotion out of her scenes.

The series also has superbly written characters and dilemmas. Nobody is always right, nobody is always wrong. They resemble real people in more than just appearance. They make mistakes and have regrets and let each other down without losing our (or their) empathy. Their world is our world, complicated and messy.

The Split originally aired on the BBC One in 2018, with the second season coming in 2020, and the third in 2022. It will be returning for a two episode special sometime in late 2024 or 2025. The original three seasons don’t really need that special – the end was absolutely satisfying – but I will be delighted to catch up with the Defoes.

I watched all three seasons of The Split on Hulu.

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