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Heart of Gold/Heart of Glass: An Advance Review of Season Four of Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Over the course of the last three seasons, we've gotten to know the, uh, intimate secrets and details of the double life of Hannah/Belle (Billie Piper), the working girl attempting to life her life and figure out just what she wants out of it.

Tonight marks the launch of the fourth and final season of the frothy and fun Secret Diary of a Call Girl and we see Belle standing at the edge of a precipice: Will she allow herself the chance to be happy with Ben (Iddo Goldberg)? Can she ever be happy or hope to settle down, given her line of work? Will she choose between personal fulfillment, professional success, or something that blends the two?

As Season Four--which launches tonight on Showtime--begins, Belle finds herself grappling with a series of transformative changes in her life. She's back in London after a luxurious gig that took her far away from her life and from Ben, of whom she's still sure of what the future holds. Returning to the city, she's now a proud homeowner with her own front door (something all London girls dream of, according to Belle) and, no sooner than she's set foot in her new place, Ben has shown up and is making her heart ache with the possibilities of whether or not they can and should be together.

But fate has other surprises for Belle. Her frenemy and former boss Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) has been sent to prison and she has two favors--or curses--for Belle, asking her to take over the business for her while she's in the big house (only for a few weeks, she promises) and keep an eye on her naive and innocent daughter Poppy (Lily James). Belle's empty house is suddenly overfull and bursting with life, including the call girls on her books that she must keep happy, including icy Charlotte (Gemma Chan), who wants the business for herself.

It appears as though Belle wasn't the only one with a double life, as we learn here. Stephanie told her daughter that she was a corporate headhunter, and it's up to Belle to uphold that impression and conceal the fact that Poppy's mother is in prison and not on a business trip. While Belle has had to deal with naive girls under her wing (i.e., Bambi) in previous seasons, she's now being forced to walk that fine line between honesty and deception in her own home. While Hannah has managed to conceal her line of work from her family--despite some close calls in the past--she's now wearing a mask around the clock, trying to keep Poppy in the dark, keep Stephanie's business alive, keep her girls happy, and justify her career while approaching a full-blown romantic relationship with Ben.

It's enough to make a girl exhausted, really.

Elsewhere, there's a producer who wants to option Belle's book and turn it into a movie. While Belle can see dollar signs, it's also a possible escape hatch from the, uh, damage that occurs in her life. And then there's that crooked copper lurking around on the periphery, one with a certain interest in Belle that goes way beyond professionalism and a loyalty to Stephanie...

The first four episodes of Season Four, provided to press for review, show the blend of playfulness and vulnerability that we've come to expect from Secret Diary of a Call Girl, along with a healthy dose of sexuality and a never-ending parade of male foibles in the form of Belle's clients: a member of Queen's Council with a reliance on performance-enhancing drugs, a virginal young man, and that copper who has quite an active imagination and requires some very specific details to enact his happiness.

I don't want to spoil too much of the plot but these installments are in keeping with both the characters we've come to know and love and some new situations and tensions for them as well. There's a deftness and a wink-and-a-smile cleverness to the subtext here and the consideration of Belle's line of work and how it affects her personal life, how that hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold trope we've seen so many times might or might not apply here and that Belle might be far stronger or far more scared than any of those other working girls.

At times dark, jubilant, and hysterical, we're seeing the pieces fall into place for Belle as a major decision looms before her in the final season of Secret Diary. Pushed into the role of girlfriend, mother, career girl, the future might be Belle's oyster, but it's also about to clamp down right around her...

The fourth and final season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl begins tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.

Comments

Melissa said…
So excited for Belle's return. I love this show because it works on many levels, is more than soft core porn and Piper is a lovely little revelation. I'm glad it's not going on and on, and can't wait to see how the story concludes. I mean I know about the real Belle, but I'm not sure if the story will follow the same path as the real story.
Taezar said…
I usually agree with you Jace, but this season continued on the same let down phase as last season for me. It lacked that gleeful approach that season 1 had.

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