The Pact review: Secrets, lies and a body in the woods – 8 burning questions and theories after a gripping first episode

Who sent the blackmail text? Who killed Jack? And what is Adrian Edmondson up to? All the burning questions and theories explained from The Pact episode 1.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 18 May 2021 - 10.22am
BBC Laura Fraser, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Eiry Thomas in The Pact

The Pact sounds on paper like a standard crime drama. Body in the woods. Tick. A group of suspects with a stash of secrets and convenient means and motive.  Tick.

But there were several factors which set this BBC drama series apart from the crowded field of crime dramas in 2021.

Firstly, the cast. Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad), Julie Hesmondhalgh (Broadchurch), Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan), were as you’d expect – brilliant.

But it was the richness of the ensemble (Aneurin Barnard, Adrian Edmondson, Jason Hughes) and less well known faces such as Heledd Gwynn’s straight-talking Cat and Eiry Thomas’ Louie who grabbed our attention.

And secondly, the script from Paul McTighe (Wentworth) is so rich with character, humour and a delightful quirkiness. After only half an episode, it felt like we knew and understood these fully formed character, who felt real and multi-dimensional.

The central mystery revolves around the death of beer brewing boss Jack, played by Aneurin Barnard.

A coke-head, a sex pest, and a vile boss disliked by pretty much all his employees, Jack had plenty of enemies. He’d just unfairly snubbed employees Anna (Laura Fraser) and Tish (Abbie Hearn) for promotions and was caught by his aunt Louie (Eiry Thomas) and Cat (Heledd Gwynn) committing sexual assault on Tish in the car park after a work party.

Off his face on booze and drugs, friends Anna, Louie, Cat and Nancy (Julie Hesmondhalgh) decided to get revenge on their boss by playing a prank on him. They drove their inebriated employer in the boot of the car to the woods, dumped him and took some compromising photos of him.

Aneurin Barnard as Jack in The Pact BBC
Aneurin Barnard as Jack in The Pact

The foursome opted to leave him the woods in the rain, a decision they would come to regret as when they Anna and Nancy later returned, he was dead.

Knowing that they would all be blamed for his death, they made the hasty decision to keep a pact of silence on what happened that evening. At the end of the episode that decision was proving to not be the smartest as they all got a text message blackmailing them for money with the threat: “I know what you did”. Ooh-er.

There are plenty of twists and turns to come across the six episodes, but here are our burning questions and theories after episode 1.

1. Did anyone go back to Jack’s body?

Eiry Thomas, Laura Fraser, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Heledd Gwynn in The Pact BBC

The cause of death has still not been confirmed. They presume Jack overdosed and that his heart packed in after the unhealthy combo of booze, coke and being left in the cold and rain.

But we also know there were plenty of opportunities for one of the four women to have returned to Jack and made his condition even worse and finished him off.

Both Cat and Louie were shown, doubling back, when they returned to their houses from the woods. Did one of them get back to the scene of the crime before Nancy and Anna?

And Nancy was also the last back to the car after a suspiciously long toilet stop when all the women left Jack the first time. Did she really need the loo or had she revisited Jack in the woods?

2. Was anybody else in the woods?

There are plenty of other possible suspects with possible motives for wanting Jack dead. Tish (Abbie Hern) had just been rejected for a job and assaulted by her boss? Did she follow her colleagues into the woods and then finish what they started?

3. Why was Arwel late back for the party?

Eddie Marsan as Arwell in The Pact BBC

Jack’s father Arwel (Eddie Marsan) was much-missed by the women of the brewery, who much preferred his considerate and personable style to his flash and arrogant offspring.

We learned through the episode that Arwel and Jack had an uncomfortable relationship, especially after Arwel got his son checked into rehab.

Although we heard from detective Max (Jason Hughes) that Arwel was distraught at the identification of the body, there was something slightly odd about the father’s reaction. Did he really have a delayed flight that made him miss the party? Or could he have been watching the incident with his son, Tish and the women.

4. Who sent the blackmail text?

Someone knows – or suspects – that these four women are to blame for Jack’s death. They want money and they have the numbers of all four women. There were plenty of people at the party who might have seen them bundle Jack into the boot of the car, but who would have a grudge and be willing to risk blackmailing all of them?

An early suspect has to be Nancy’s husband Richard (Adrian Edmondson)…

5. What is Adrian Edmondson up to?

Let’s just say Nancy’s marriage with Adrian Edmondson didn’t look like it was filled with much joy and laughter. The pair barely exchanged a word, preferring sharp looks and suspicious glances.

Richard skulked around the first episode and has spotted Nancy’s attempt to burn DNA evidence linking her to the scene. Could he have pieced together the crime and text all four women?

6. Why and when did Louie put Mandy’s credit card in the woods?

Sophie Melville as Mandy in The Pact BBC

Poor old Mandy. Nobody likes her. She’s lost her promotion. Everyone keeps telling her to “p*** off”. And now she’s been framed for Jack’s death.

She left her bag at the party, Louie got hold of her purse and decided to use it to throw detectives off their scent. We saw her dumping the rest of Louie’s belongings in the bin and the most logical explanation is that she returned to the scene of the crime and dropped off the credit card to set up Mandy.

But if Mandy has an alibi and can offer the police motives for the other women to the police, this might end up being a decision that Louie regrets.

7. Why is Nancy spending so much time praying and in church?

Julie Hesmondhalgh as Nancy in The Pact BBC

For someone so religious and keen to reach out to God, Nancy was awfully keen to walk away from Jack rather than go directly the police.

It was Nancy who persuaded Anna and the others to make the secret pact and she’s also been pretty hot at playing “Agatha f***ing Christie”, as Cat so elegantly put it, and second guessing the police.

Out of all four women, she’s been the most suspicious so far.

8. What does Cat’s drawing mean?

Cat’s moody and dark artwork that she has plastered all over her walls adds to suspicions around her character.

And if you’d just passed it off as a sign that she was an artistic type, we saw at the end her sketching a picture of Jack. Is she just trying to deal with his death through her art, or does this hint at something more sinister?

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Watch the next episode of The Pact on Tuesday, May 18 on BBC One at 9pm and BBC iPlayer.