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Series / Glue

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Hills. Horses. Murder.

"We all got fucked and now he's dead."
Tina Fallon

Glue is a British 8-part crime drama shown on E4, commonly described as "Skins meets Broadchurch" (understandably, since it was created and written by Skins writer Jack Thorne). The plot revolves around a tight-knit farming community shaken by the brutal murder of local Romani teenager Cal Bray. The investigation to find the killer reveals his friends' dark and dirty secrets, hidden behind the picture-perfect English countryside.

Unrelated to Irvine Welsh book Glue.

The series contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Much like on Skins, the parents in Glue are either absent, emotionally distant, dead, or outright abusive. The only character who has a stable relationship with his parent(s) is Dominic.
  • Accidental Murder: Ruth deduces that Janine's attacker never intended to harm her that bad. Later it's revealed that Cal's murder was also accidental.
  • Alone with the Psycho: James in the finale.
    • Thwarted Escape: Makes two attempts to flee during the ordeal, both equally unsuccessful.
  • Arcadia: The show is set among the seemingly peaceful rolling hills of the English countryside.
  • Better as Friends: Tina and Rob break it off but decide to remain friends.
  • Betty and Veronica: Tina is torn between careless goofball Rob and noble loner Eli. Rob's the Betty since Eli is a serial killer by the series' end.
  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end, Tina, Rob and Ruth arrive just in time to save James from being ganked.
  • Big Secret / Dark Secret: most characters have one. The first two to come out are Rob cheating on Tina and Janine being an identity thief and drug dealer.
  • Binge Montage: The series starts with a night of drugged debauchery - at a grain silo of all places.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The culprit is arrested, but it's Eli Bray, who Tina is helplessly in love with by that point; Cal is still dead, and so is Janine.
    • Ruth is accepted back into the Romani community and into her friends' circle, but she's out of a job since she's quit the police.
  • Blackmail: Rob receives videos of his sex tryst with Janine from an unknown source. Turns out it's a Romani girl whose sister he seduced years before, and she just wanted an apology.
  • Break the Cutie: This happens to the cast with their friend(s) murdered. Special mention goes to James who was Cal's boyfriend, and who gets put in jail at one point and later kidnapped (and almost killed) by Cal's murderer.
  • British Brevity: Only 8 episodes long.
  • Bury Your Gays: Two of the three deaths in the series - Cal and Ian - fall into this category, with one more such murder narrowly averted.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Several instances of this (Rob and Tina, James and Cal, Tina and Eli), which makes sense since everyone has known each other since forever.
  • Close-Knit Community: The small farming village of Overton is a seemingly idyllic place whose inhabitants all know each other.
  • Cool Horse: Blackout, the horse belonging to James's family and the Brays, that Tina rides when racing.
    • Crowley, Eli's horse, is pretty cool as well. As Eli says, he "never complains".
  • Corrupt the Cutie: In-universe, Cal and James joke that the latter was a good boy before Cal got to him. On a darker note, Eli believes that Cal got corrupted by his experience in foster care - and, sadly, he's probably right.
  • Country Matters: How Cal describes his mum - which tips Eli over the edge and causes him to accidentally kill his brother.
  • Crowd Surfing: Done in episode 2 to James and Rob at a woodland rave, to the former's discomfort and the latter's glee.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: How Cal was killed, apparently. James also does this to Rob in episode 5 after getting fed up with the latter's behavior; and Eli does this to James in the finale.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Both James and Eli have one with Cal at different points in the story. See Helpful Hallucination below.
  • Death of a Child: Since the series is about the death of a minor... averted with Ruth's daughter.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Janine Riley is actually Elizabeth Marshall - a girl who failed vet school and took on the identity of her dead, and more successful, classmate.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Eli rips the Moon Horse necklace off James's neck, claiming the latter has no right to a keepsake that was only about Eli and Cal. James defiantly spits out that Cal had felt differently.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Specifically everyone in Cal's group of friends, although several supporting characters notably Sgt Ian Salter come into suspicion as well.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Cal is foolish (doing drugs, getting in trouble with the law, etc.) whereas Eli is responsible (trying to make a life for the two of them). Turned on its head when it's revealed that Cal was meticulously planning to start a new life with James, while Eli is a killer unable to control his fits of rage.
  • Foreshadowing: This line of dialogue:
    DCI Simpson: Do you think if you love someone you don't hurt them?
    • James and Cal's Secret Relationship, revealed in episode 5, is heavily foreshadowed early on: out of all Cal's friends James is the most shaken by the death, behaving in an erratic fashion consistent with heavy grief; the two have matching pendants, with James wearing his covertly under his clothes; etc..
  • Helpful Hallucination: While tripping on acid James hallucinates Cal, who tells him where to find the contract for Blackout.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Annie and Tina; Rob and James (the latter two even have a break-up episode).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Cal andf Chris were blowing men for money, yet it doesn't take anything away from their genuinely good nature.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Like on Skins, the episodes are named after the characters (two per each, e.g. Episode 4 is "Tina/Dominic"). The first and last episodes are both titled "Everyone".
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Cal is the only minor in his group of friends (except James, who turns 18 during the course of the series). It never seems weird since everyone grew up together and Cal is wise beyond his years.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Rob drugs James in order to get the latter to confess to blackmail. Played for drama rather than laughs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the characters fit under this trope, but Rob best of all - he's cocksure and careless, and among other things cheated on his girlfriend and drugged his best friend, but he also shows a more considerate side such as when he works hard to get James out of jail. Moreover, he's in general seen trying to cheer his friends up in various (somewhat awkward) ways.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: James, Eli, Cal and Rob, though not at the same time.
  • Manly Tears: James, at a frequency of about once per episode (occasionally crossing into Inelegant Blubbering). To be fair, he usually has a reason.
  • Memento Macguffin: The night of his murder, Cal is wearing a necklace which is later missing from the body. James is seen in possession of a similar necklace which he promptly throws out. James recovers his, Cal's is found in his shirt pocket, and Eli also has a matching trinket - all three feature the Moon Horse, a local nature phenomenon. Eli and Cal's are to remember their mum whose ashes were scattered there, and James received his from Cal as a token of affection.
  • Never One Murder: The series ends with a body count of three, with one more murder barely avoided.
  • One-Word Title: As a Pun-Based Title / Stealth Pun. "Glue" refers to what horses end up as, as well as to the ties binding the main characters together.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Eli and Cal's mum left the family - and a week later was found to have committed suicide.
    • Ruth's mum leaves her and Cassie for a couple of episodes, though not without warning.
    • Annie's parents are... where exactly?
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Cal is found dead the morning after the grain silo party; his murder jumpstarts the plot.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Rob and Annie. Annie is a straighter example in that she lacks a character arc.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Glue" refers to what horses end up as, as well as to the ties binding the main characters together.
  • Queer Romance: James and Cal, whose relationship is treated as an epic, albeit tragic, love story - and in fact turns out to be the catalyst of the series' events.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Eli goes on a murder spree in order to harm those who, in his opinion, contributed to Cal's sucky life.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Eli was younger, his mother made him choose between leaving with her or staying with Cal. Eli chose Cal and his mother killed herself.
  • Scary Surprise Party: Happens to James in episode 2, complete with a kidnapping.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • James and Cal. Unusually for this trope, nobody else knew about it while they dated.
    • Ruth and Dominic, in a more straight (ha-ha) example, seeing as everybody knew about them sleeping together.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Ruth never told anyone that her daughter's father is Tina's dad, and the reasons for her ostracization were never understood by anyone but Tina.
  • Stealth Pun: "Glue" refers to what horses end up as, as well as to the ties binding the main characters together.
  • The Stoner: Most of the characters get high once in a while, but Rob's the standout example. In fact, the last we see of him in the series is him rolling a joint.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Both the Bray brothers, although in different ways: Eli is a brooding loner while Cal is basically a rentboy.
  • Token Minority: Rob (half-black), the Romani characters (Eli, Ruth) and James (gay).
  • Their First Time: Eli loses his virginity to Tina.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The promotional stills of the characters show Cal and James wearing matching Moon Horse pendants, hinting at the closeness of the characters.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The entirety of Cal's character. He's a 14-year-old doing drugs with his older friends, planning on running away to Argentina with his older boyfriend, prostituting himself and continuously getting in trouble with the law (albeit for minor crimes). Some of this is due to him having a messy home life and a very harsh upbringing.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Cal - Romani and gay.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Goody-two-shoes James fell for Troubled, but Cute Cal.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ruth used to be friends with the rest of the main cast, but was ostracized for reasons revealed later in the series.
  • Wild Teen Party: The one at the grain silo in episode 1, as well as the rave in the woods that Rob throws in James' honor.