Trigonometry, the BBC polyamory drama, not the mathematical concept, was always going to mean a lot to me regardless of its overall quality. But as surprisingly powerful as representation can be, a show must be more than just the words ‘relationships with more than two people are a thing’ on the screen for 40ish minutes at a time.
Trigonometry lives or dies by how it represents the eventual triad. There’s a negative trope, the “unicorn”, referenced in the show itself, of a usually opposite sex couple being joined by a usually bisexual woman who is treated as secondary to the ‘real’ relationship between the two. Indeed, this show does begin with a soon to be married couple and their new female lodger.
So it’s a credit to the show that it takes its time to flesh out everyone involved and give all three leads a sense of agency in their own stories and their joint relationship. It’s a relationship that feels true to life and so do the reactions of the wider cast. Some conversations hew spookily close to ones I’ve had about my romantic preferences with people close to me.
Fundamentally there’s something lovely about watching three people be awkward, romantic and horny around each other, which balances the shows more serious moments with sweetness and humour. I can see an argument for a show taking its time to establish these sorts of relationships for a general audience that might not be so familiar with polyamory, even though for me it results in a frustratingly slow pace at times, while the central three characters do everything but the obvious thing: talking through how they feel and getting together.
It’s a shame, because when they finally do become official, the show is at its best and becomes so validating to someone like me who isn’t used to this representation. The difficulty is that for a limited eight episode series, not only are we over half way through before we get that satisfaction, but at the same time the show feels the need to introduce new threats to a relationship that’s only just being established.
In the end, Trigonometry is more a show about people getting together than being together. The ending is optimistic though and leaves me hopeful that this story will be continued so it has time to grow into its strengths and make the slow pace of this first series pay off.