Following on from the first episode, the 2nd part to Mark Ashmore’s Portal sees John’s past life coming back to haunt him, an insight as to how Portal affects its users, and Sarah having a bad day at work.
In this episode, it’s clear that the filmmakers are drawing a lot of parallels to drug addiction and rehabilitation and almost combing the two, despite how majorly contrasting both are. The sequence where we witness a support group session reflects all of this with people desperate to escape their mundane and tragic lives, yet still can’t escape the addiction and fantasy that Portal provides. All this seems to suggest that this series isn’t really about Portal itself, but about finding life and connection in a somewhat lifeless, disconnected world.
This also gives us a deeper insight into Victoria Connett’s character, revealing a more caring nature to her personality. Even though she took part in creating something that could be perceived as right or wrong, she still regards it as both her passion and her baby, which also seems to suggest that she has a conflicted ideology and morality to her. But we also start to see signs of a possible connection between her and Clay Whitter’s John, and she provides an emotional counterpoint to his solemn gritty manner. Whitter’s character has so far been pretty much a closed door, but it’s through her that we find him engaging, and that’s down to Connett’s nuanced performance.
Also, during the episode, we see Chelsea Edge in a completely different light after episode 1. Here, we now see her as a completely drained, isolated individual, working in a miserable environment, run down by her slimy boss and living rough. This is a complete juxtaposition from the enigmatic, sultry vixen we saw in the first episode, and Chelsea still manages to impress in the few scenes she has, playing her character with sadness and pathos. It may be early to tell yet, but like the first episode, we do get the sense that there are bigger things to come for her character.
There may not be much going here in this episode, being shorter than the first, and the cliffhanger issue is still apparent here, but Portal still manages to maintain its mystery and appeal. Craig Porter’s desaturated view of modern England is still brilliantly shot as before, Mark Ashmore keeps everything precise and contained, and despite its small budget, it still manages to be surreal and stylish enough to be intriguing and fascinating to watch.