Deadwater Fell episode 4.

Deadwater Fell: what episode 4 teaches us about the realities of IVF

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Jess’s IVF treatment was a sub-plot in Channel 4’s Deadwater Fell, but it was such an important part of the story. Here’s why. (Oh, and beware of spoilers.)

The fourth episode of Deadwater Fell brought the series to a conclusion tonight (Friday 31 January), with the revelation that Tom was the one who killed his family.

But was anyone actually that surprised by this?

As discussed in recaps of the first three episodes, the bearded GP had been looking shifty from the start. And his abusive behaviour towards both Kate and Jess proved that he had an evil streak. Sure, it’s unimaginable that a man could do that to his own wife and children. But, as we learned about his coercive relationship with Kate, he seemed the likeliest suspect. The fact that he thought his wife was having an affair was the final tipping point for a motive to kill.

But although the conclusion was a bit of a let down to what was an otherwise gripping series, there were two women’s subjects that the drama dealt with expertly.

Jess and Steve’s relationship is tested throughout the four episodes, but it’s not just because of the fire tragedy. The couple are going through IVF treatment, which clearly strains their emotions. In the final episode, the pair – who are keen to make amends – finally address the underlying issue. Jess admits to Steve that she sometimes feels like a babysitter for the children he had with his ex-wife. She also asks if he even wants to have another baby, and admits to constantly feeling like a “failure” (which she definitely is not). Steve tells her he just wanted to do what made her happy. They end up deciding not to continue with IVF.

Deadwater Valley on Channel 4.
Deadwater Fell on Channel 4.

Anyone who knows about the financial, physical and emotional challenges that come with fertility treatment – and the difficult conversations that couples avoid having – will relate with the characters. That feeling of failure will also strike a chord with women who can’t conceive.

Once a taboo subject, we’ve started to see conversations about IVF explored in other shows like I Am Hannah and films including Netflix’s Only You.

And that’s not the only women’s issue that we’re starting to see being properly addressed in drama series. Deadwater Fell also dealt with the realities of coercive control, with Tom subtly gaslighting Kate throughout their marriage. He is verbally and physically abusive to her, and even makes her believe that she is the reason he killed their children.

This kind of abusive control was also recently explored in I Am Nicola and Big Little Lies. Again, spotlighting the subtle behaviours of a controlling partner can help people identify similar things in their own relationships and feel comfortable in finding help.

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Images: Channel 4

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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