Posted on 7.3.17 by Danielle Ayres
The Replacement is a three-part psychological thriller about Ellen, a female architect, who shortly after winning her firm a huge £12m contract to build a library (frequently referred to as her ‘baby’), discovers that she is pregnant and faces the reality of having to handover the career-defining project to someone else (aka The Replacement!).
The project is clearly massive for the firm and the announcement of Ellen’s pregnancy comes at a pivotal time in the project for both Ellen and the firm, who both care deeply about its success.
In this case, before Ellen has even had the chance to fully register the fact that she is pregnant, the firm have interviewed and hired her ‘replacement’. Enter Paula.
Paula is not your typical ‘temp’. A seemingly too good to be true prodigy architect, exceptionally qualified and armed with the unwavering support of her stay-at-home husband. It’s clear to viewers that she poses a threat to Ellen on every level.
When we first meet Paula she seems perfect. Talented and confident, she makes an immediate impact on the firm, putting the bosses (Kay and David) minds at ease in terms of finding an adequate replacement to ‘woo’ the client and take over what will be a transformative project for the firm.
Due to the importance of the project, Paula is brought into the office almost immediately and it doesn’t take long before Ellen believes that Paula is overstepping her boundaries. She cuts Ellen out of communications with the client, makes (successful) changes to the library design and effortlessly endears herself to everybody around her.
With emotions running high, it doesn’t take long for Ellen to develop strong insecurities about her future with the firm.
It seems Paula is consistently one step ahead of Ellen, with the excuse that she has Ellen’s health and well-being in mind, and is simply trying to relieve some of the burden of the project for her so she can concentrate on her pregnancy.
Whilst one could argue that Ellen is guilty of being overly resenting and paranoid when it comes to Paula (and sabotaging herself in the process), it’s easy to sympathise with Ellen as she goes from irreplaceable to seemingly irrelevant in a matter of days.
An interesting dynamic in the opening episode was the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine coming from the differing gender perspectives of the married bosses, Kay and David. When Ellen reveals she is pregnant, David is understanding, enthusiastic and comforting towards Ellen, whilst Kay is judgemental, unsympathetic and almost seems disappointed. Kay does offer her congratulations, but with an expression that suggests she is simply delivering a ‘default’ response.
Kay is highly career driven and does not have, nor does she want kids of her own. Once Paula arrives, Ellen’s leaving date is brought forward and Kay immediately shifts her focus to her new protégé.
The show plays on a very real concern to many young professional women in the country today. The conflict between career and motherhood and insecurities about being out of the workplace and the issues that might arise. This is a topic that is not widely covered, but affects a large number of women every year.
Whilst The Replacement went to the extremes, no one can say how different people will react to the news that an employee is pregnant, or how the pregnancy will affect the individual and how both parties will deal with any handover period, or run up to the employee going off on maternity leave. What the show did an excellent job of getting across is that emotions can run high on both sides, with the employer and employee both wanting to do what is right, whilst at the same time trying to protect their own interests.