Most helpful positive review
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A perfect conclusion to the best ever drama
on 12 September 2004
Maintaining the incredibly high standards of the first two series, Tenko 3 is completely unmissable, and comes with the remarkable Tenko Reunion as an added extra.
While series 1 and 2 tell of the war's progress, and its effects on internees in the Japanese camps, series 3 jumps ahead to 1945 and tells of the end of the war, the liberation of the camps, and the survivors' returning to real life.
Beginning with a shot of the camp's graveyard, and a few shocks among the names on the ramshackle grave markers, Tenko 3 is as full of surprises as its predecessors. It's here that I am able to lay the one-and-only criticism at Tenko's door. As time has moved on since the last series, new characters have joined the group. In previous series, Tenko took great pains to provide carefulintroductions and backgrounds to all its characters. Tenko 3 gives us Maggie and Alice, two women who have obviously been imprisoned with "our group" for some time. As the audience is not given a proper introduction to these two, they spring forward into the story with no chance for us to get to know them. Consequently, they are less interesting and less sympathetic than they could have been. This is not a reflection on the acting of either Elizabeth Mickery or Cindy Shelley, but is the only single criticism I am able to lay against the series' producers. To make things worse, Maggie is obviously intended to replace one of Tenko's most memorable characters, given a different name and accent. These two women stick out among the other survivors, and feel rather disposable.
That said, Tenko 3 is no easy ride. Returned to Singapore, our heroines are forced to face all manner of demons. Those who turned to prostitution with the guards in order to get food in the camps are now seen as collaborators. Husbands expect their wives to abandon their friends and forget their experiences, to return to a peaceful life of middle-class domestication. Some of the characters are shocked to find their loved ones have died; others are shocked to find those they wished dead have survived. All are forced to relive the horrors they experienced in order to bring supposed "war criminals" to justice but, as we know from seeing their struggles in internment, such black-and-white definitions are not always easy. Gradually, some of the women begin to realise that their experience in the camps was the only taste of freedom they have ever had.
There's a real lump in the throat as our heroines go their separate ways in the final, emotion-packed, episode. Tenko Reunion sees a return to Singapore in 1950, and ties up all the loose ends perfectly. Tenko reminds us all of how good TV should be! To catch up with this group of friends again, and to see whether their hopes and dreams really did pay off, is a joy. Back in Singapore, they find themselves caught up in an adventure as dangerous as any they faced behind the wire. In typical Tenko style, no-one is left whiter than white, and no-one has it easy, with a sting in the tale and a bitter taste in the mouth.
Please buy these DVDs. Tenko is unforgettable, and reveals so much about human nature in stories of genuine emotional impact. Full of heart-and-soul, and bursting with subtle messages about gender, race, class and society, everyone should see this. Remarkable performances from a great ensemble cast, and beautifully written scripts that allow every character chance to develop and thrive. No easy answers and no cheesy happy endings, this is quite simply the most challenging and powerful television drama ever made.