I have chosen to analyse certain clips from the BBC1 hospital drama Holby City because of the developing abusive relationship between two of the main characters, Dom and Isaac. Currently the storyline arc between the two characters has shown signs of emotional abuse and manipulation however it has been shown that physical abuse will also be a part of it in the upcoming episodes which air on Tuesdays. This storyline is interesting to me because I was able to guess at where it was going before it was announced, something I think my research has helped me with this as I have been able to easily recognise the signs of manipulation and control which I hope my short film will be able to do for others as I want to use it to raise awareness of the subject. I will be analysing clips with the build up to the start of the abuse and how it continued as well as the trailer[1] for the upcoming episodes which show scenes of the abuse Dom has suffered. I will also be analysing the new episodes as they come out, making this part of my ongoing research until I begin filming.

Storyline between Dom and Issac.

Characters Dr. Dominic Copeland (David Ames) and Dr. Isaac Mayfield (Marc Elliott) first meet in episode 37 of series 18 called The Lone Ranger[1]. In this episode it is Dom’s first day back at Holby City after the death of his best friend and colleague Arthur. From the way he acts we can tell that Dom is still grieving for Arthur however he is a happy and outgoing person with a quick wit and uses sarcasm to joke with his work friends.

Looking at how the character acts in the beginning is important as their behaviour and characteristics can be compared to those at a later time, when they are suffering from the abuse inflicted on them. Looking at how the characters first interact with each other and how they develop a relationship is important as it shows how the storyline has developed and may include signs of abuse in different ways, such as: the two characters acting differently around each other, a facial expression or movement of a character and the dialogue between the two characters.

Before the characters meet is it explained that Dom and Isaac met the night before and have slept together, with Dom’s facial expression falling as he recognises Isaac in the hospital, who addresses him by saying “hello again.” At this point we do not know much about Isaac except that he seems friendly and is obviously working at Holby City. The shot types used when the characters meet are both medium close ups of their faces and chests, giving the audience a clear view of the characters facial expressions and the emotions shown through them.

The rest of the episode focuses on the medical side of the show although Dom and Isaac are still the main focus as they are working together. Both seem friendly towards each other, however Dom seems to be reluctant about working with or seeing Isaac whereas Isaac is friendly and attempts to joke around with Dom.

By episode 40[2], it is clear that some kind of relationship has started as a close up shot shows Isaac pulling Dom into a side room to kiss during work. A wide shot then shows them talking and it is clear that Dom is more friendly and affectionate towards Isaac.

The end of the clip, which uses medium close ups shows Isaac making a speech about caring for Dom to his superior, Dr. Griffin. Isaac seems assertive and acts as if he is in control of the conversation, despite only having worked their for a short time. This is shown especially when he says “You can trust me. You should trust me.”

Spring 2017 Trailer:

The trailer shows a montage of how far the abuse inflicted on Dom, by boyfriend Isaac, has gone. It is the main focus of the trailer and will be a main storyline in the upcoming Spring episodes. The song playing throughout is Skin by Rag’n’Bone Man and has lyrics that relate to the theme of domestic violence. The melody is dark and slow, parallel to the shots used.

The first shot is a mid shot and shows Zosia, a friend and colleague of the victim (Dom), looking into the locker room through half – open blinds. Her facial expression shows she is shocked.

The next shot is a mid shot of Dom looking at his injuries in a mirror, it is from Zosia’s point of view as the blinds in the locker room are obstructing her view however it is clear that Dom is injured and his facial expression shows he is in pain. Presumably this is how Zosia finds out about the physical abuse.

These two shots are profile shots and show the contrast of the relationship as in the first one Isaac seems to grip Dom aggressively by his shirt and stethoscope whereas in the next they are kissing. This could show anger or passion depending on how you look at it, however I think that Isaac looks intimidating from the way he is standing and his facial expression and that he is trying to have control over Dom through his actions as he does not have the advantage of height. This shot is the opposite to one I want to use in my short film as my couple will start happy and then the man will snap and become aggressive with the woman, however I do want my male character to be intimidating towards the woman so the stance Isaac takes and his facial expression in the first shot will be used in my film.

The next shot is a close up and doesn’t show what is happening in the scene however it appears to be a conversation between Isaac and Dom as he says “when I met you you were broken, I fixed you.” It is as if he is trying to convince Dom that he is good for him.

The next two shots show Isaac inflicting physical abuse on Dom in the hospital (which is where they both work.) The first shot is a close up and shows Isaac pushing Dom by the shoulder, from Dom’s facial expression I can tell he is afraid of Isaac. The second shot is a wide shot and shows they are in the stairway of the hospital. Although Holby City rarely shows scenes outside the hospital it is also an indication of Isaac’s confidence as he doesn’t seem to be afraid of getting caught hurting Dom in a public place.

The next shot is a mid shot and shows Zosia and Essie confronting Dom about the abuse. They both look worried about him, however he tries to make excuses for Isaac by saying “it’s intense” (referring to the relationship) and Zosia replies “it’s abuse!” as she has seen evidence and sees through his lies.

The conversation carries over into the next shot through a voiceover as Zosia says “it’s control.” It is a close up of Dom applying makeup to hide a bruise under his eye. Again this shows he is afraid of Isaac and embarrassed about the situation as he is trying to hide it. Often people in abusive relationships will hide their injuries to protect their abuser and avoid detection.

In the next shot, a mid shot of Zosia tending to Dom’s injuries the voiceover is Dom saying “it’s passion!” He is again trying to defend Isaac’s actions. From the gentle way Zosia is touching Dom it is clear he is in pain which may mean the bruises are recent. In my film the abuse will stay between the couple until the end, where my female character lashes out at a stranger as she confuses him for her abuser in the midst of a flashback.

The next shot is a mid shot of Isaac walking past the room where Zosia is examining Dom. Isaac is the focus of the shot whilst the other characters are out of focus in the foreground. Isaac’s facial expression shows anger, and perhaps fear that he has been found out. What happens next is unclear as this is the last shot and ends with a voiceover of Isaac saying “I love you Dom.” The storyline can then go two ways: either Isaac is confronted by Zosia and Essie and they tell their boss, who fires or arrests Isaac or Isaac takes control of the situation and ‘punishes’ Dom for letting other people find out. I think that it may go the second way as Isaac has easily manipulated Dom and other characters in the past.

The first episode after the Spring trailer showing the abusive storyline is episode 25 from series 19 [2] and is an example of Isaac using manipulation techniques, as in this episode he persuades Dom to convince a patient to take a diferent, more dangerous treatment. However Dom sees through Isaac’s manipulation techniques and gives the patient the original treatment which angers Isaac. This clip is interesting to me because the abusice character in my film will be manipulative towards the victim character in the third flashback. 

At the end of the episode, Isaac and Dom are at home, which is shown by using a wide shot. Dom is sitting on the sofa and is clearly uncomfortable although this is supposed to be his home, this implies that he is scared and tense. 

Isaac appears to be relaxed, although he is snarky towards Dom, showing that he is upset over the day’s events. A mid shot is used to show Dom flinching away from Isaac as he places his hand on his leg, showing that he is afraid of Isaac.

Isaac sits next to Dom and accuses him of making him (Isaac) look like a fool infront of their boss, he sees Dom has placed his suitcase near the door and becomes angry, this is shown through his facial expression and tone of voice which gets lower and quieter, a technique used by abusive people to make their victims feel uncertain as they could start shouting at any time. This creates tension between the characters and leaves the audience wondering what will happen. 

As Dom gets up to leave, a two shot is used to show Isaac placing his hand on Dom’s shoulder as if he is comforting him. Instead, Isaac uses his other hand to punch Dom in the stomach, who falls to the floor and is then kicked repeatedly while Isaac berates Dom for multiple failures. 

I like the idea of using a shot to mislead the audience into thinking a characters actions mean one thing when they do another as it creates suspense and tension. Using a close two shot adds to the misdirection as the audience is unable to see what Isaac’s other hand, and the rest of his body is doing until he moves. In this scene his fist could have been clenched and ready to swing forward, but as the audience cannot see this they may assume Isaac is comforting Dom until the plot twist. I am going to experiment with this idea in my film. 

After the assault, a mid shot is used to show Dom sitting down on the sofa again, this time touching his chest to show he is in pain. Isaac is apologising and says “you know I love you, you have to forgive me.” The act of begging for forgiveness after inflicting physical violence upon someone is a common occurs in domestically abusive relationships as the abuser wants the victim to feel bad for them and therefore stay with them. The abuser may even try to justify the abuse, and the apology by saying things such as ‘I wasn’t in the right mind’ and ‘that wasn’t really me’ etc. As my character will be emotionally and physically abusive I would like to include a scene like this in my film. 

As the episode ends, Isaac is again reaching out to Dom, who is looking away, his expression is sad and thoughtful, however I think that he looks resigned – as if he knows he cannot leave Isaac and the now abusive situation. 

In both shots Isaac is out of focus slighlty, which puts the audience’s focus on Dom and his facial expressions, allowing the audience to determine how he is feeling. 

The next episode I chose to analyse is episode 27 from season 19 [3] because it is the end of the abuse storyline between Dom and Isaac. 

The first shot I have chosen to analyse is at the beginning of the episode and shows Dom putting on makeup to cover a bruise left from Isaac. The first shot is a mid shot and shows Dom staring at his reflecting in a hand mirror. The next shot is also a mid shot and shows Dom putting on makeup. I looked at this shot because it is similar to my idea for my second flashback scene, using a mid shot or a close up would draw attention to the character’s facial expression which would convey their emotions to the audience. 

The next scene I have chosen to look at is at the end of the episode and is the climax of the storyline. In the scene Isaac is confronted by a badly injured Dom, (due to an incident of physical violence from Isaac in the hospital staircase) Dom’s colleagues Sorcha and Essie, the head of the hospital and the police after Dom has admitted what has been happening. The first shot is a close up of Isaac, who is standing alone and talking at Dom. He is still arrogant and confident in what he is saying even though he has been found out, this could mean that he doesn’t think he has done anything wrong, or that he is confident that he will get away with it through support from Dom. 

The next shot is a close up of Dom’s face which is badly bruised, it shows the extent of the damage inflicted upon him. 

The shot then goes back to the close up of Isaac, who says: 

“When I met you, you were broken. I fixed you.”

Dom has finally stopped making excuses for Isaac and surrounded by his friends, stands up for himself by saying: 

“No, you targeted me and wore me down. You’re the broken one Isaac.”

A wide shot then shows Dom being wheeled away by his colleagues / friends as Isaac is arrested. The ending is anticlimactic for a drama series, however the storyline ran for a number of episodes and included lots of dramatic scenes throughout.


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