(Series 10, ep.1) There are always a lot of new faces at the start of a new term in Waterloo Road, and it’s sometimes hard to remember who’s who at first. They’ve made it stunningly easy this time, as every new character belonged to the same extended family.
New head teacher Vaughan Fitzgerald (Neil Pearson) is living with art teacher Allie Westbrook (Nicola Stephenson) and her two children, Floyd and Tiffany (Leo Flanagan and Sammy Oliver). They’ve only been at Waterloo Road for five minutes when Mrs Fitzgerald turns up and dumps the Fitzgerald sons, Leo and Justin (Zebb Dempster and Max Bowden) on their father before heading off to a medical facility in Edinburgh to have a breakdown in peace.
Leo, who barely speaks, seems fairly content to adapt to Waterloo Road life, but his brother Justin has a pierced ear, a sneer and anger management issues. By the end of the episode he was pretending to be trying to adapt to life in Waterloo Road and the Fitzgerald/Westbrook family, but he is definitely positioned as this term’s Bad Boy.
It’s traditional to start the term with a big shock, and this time it was the sad and lonely death of Darren’s mum. Despite knowing that his mum was a heroin addict and prostitute, Maggie the caring former dinner lady didn’t think of letting anyone know that Darren was sleeping on Lenny’s floor in the school house rather than going home. Alarm bells should have been ringing, but there you go. It was left to Christine Mulgrew to sort everything out, including going after Darren when he went after the man he thought was to blame for his mum’s death.
Christine faces down crowbar-wielding schoolboys without a second thought, because she’s proper leadership material. The jury is still out on Vaughan Fitzgerald, who seems to be a bit of a pompous front with no substance. “He’s trendy,” complained George Windsor, though I think the “trendy teacher” crown still firmly belongs on the curly head of Simon Twinkle-Spark. Following what happened to Darren, Vaughan proposed some new initiatives to stop That Sort of Thing ever happening again. He was a bit vague about what this might involve, but Simon’s eyes had already lit up with excitement and he started gabbling initiative-speak while everyone else’s eyes glazed over.
It was all entertaining enough (and I was thrilled to see the giant statue of broccoli is still in place above the canteen door), but I’m a bit concerned by the lack of interesting characters. Leo might have hidden depths once he starts speaking, but there’s nobody to really fill the Barry gap (Kacey and Carol appeared briefly, but I badly missed Dynasty). Still, I’ll reserve judgement till next week, when Simon’s new initiative kicks in and Kevin Chalk might even master his crutches long enough to summon the enthusiasm to start a chant.