It has been a surreal thrill ride of intrigue and mystery, but in this fifth episode, it all ends here… or does it? In this conclusion, Sarah becomes Sophie once again as she cashes out on Cohen’s digital estate while her real world trail starts to really hot up. Both John and Frances uncover the awful truth, and John makes the ultimate decision.
This whole first season of Portal has been pretty much Chelsea Edge’s show, playing two contrasting sides of one individual. For most of the series, she has been the character of the lost and lonely Sarah, but in this episode, we get to see the return of her idealised avatar Sophie, and like in the first episode, Chelsea gives a very sexy and sultry performance. It’s full of allure and enticement, and in those fleeting moments where she almost breaks the fourth wall by staring at the camera, it’s almost as if she wants us to enter her world, which is scary considering the stuff she does in this instalment. There is one quite shocking, gory moment, and Chelsea’s calm and cold reactions are disturbing, yet brilliantly portrayed. If this whole season was only a tease as to what she can do, God knows what she’ll do in the next series.
Victoria Connett gets her moment to shine during her emotional confrontation with John; Connett perfectly portrays the betrayal and the confliction Frances is experiencing, which is a contrast from Clay Whitter’s cut-off, impenetrable performance as the calculating John. Craig Porter’s cinematography in this episode is sublime, and like before, his portrait of the dreamscape world of Portal is visually arresting and vibrant with many neon colours and oversaturated palettes of red, purple and blue. It immediately catches your eye, and complements Sam Highfield’s subtle visual effects work, and looking at the series as a whole, it’s evident that the people involved have gone through a lot of trouble to get the visuals right, and they clearly have an artistic sensibility about them.
The decision to end it all on a cliffhanger might divide audiences, with some being left excited about what could happen next with series 2 (if it does happen), yet some might complain about the lack of an ending or any closure for the story. This can be a traditional problem with any series, yet this series will be turned into a slightly extended feature film version in the near future, so if it ends the same way as this final episode did, then that will become more of an evident problem for some.
Overall, this first season of Portal has been perfectly solid all the way through, never losing its momentum, nor its sense of mystery and intrigue. It has interesting ideas at its heart, yet grounds them in a realistic, gritty, northern world. The cinematography is stylish and the actors are giving it their all, particularly Chelsea Edge who's very much the star of the show. Whether a second series is possible remains to be seen, but Mark Ashmore and his team at Future Artists in Manchester deserve plaudits for creating what is a surreal, mind-provoking drama, and pulling it all off in a credible style.