Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Two

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 21st March 1986

Ant’s run away from home.  This was apparently on his mind after Mr Bronson vetoed his options, but as so often this year it’s a piece of information we learn after the event.  Mr Jones is naturally distraught and therefore gives Mr Bronson short shrift when he expresses his sympathy.

One interesting point.  Outside Mrs McClusky’s office is a poster which reads “Education – Cuts Don’t Heal”.  It can be seen several times during the year, although it’s never commented upon.

The school magazine has been quiet for a while, but now it cranks back into action with a campaign to save Miss Partridge.  It’s all been done without the consent of the staff obviously, and so it seems reasonable that it’s going to create a little strife.  But Mrs McClusky doesn’t mind – to the contrary it underlines just how much Miss Partridge is valued – it’s Miss Partridge herself who is somewhat irked to find her personal life a matter of public debate ….

Mr Glover and Mr Baxter have an entertaining confrontation.  Mr Glover is upset that Julia, against his wishes, has had her ears pierced.  Mr Baxter’s somewhat perplexed as to exactly what he was supposed to have done about it (especially since it happened during the lunchtime).

Mrs McClusky stands in for the departed Mr King and, against everybody’s expectations, apparently turns out to be a more than decent maths teacher (making the lesson come alive for N2).

But this episode mainly revolves around Zammo.  Once again he appears to be clean – telling Jackie that’s he’s finally kicked the habit.  He also opens up and explains why he started in the first place.  “It’s like, you hang around with a certain crowd, they’re all doing something, making a big deal out of it. One comes up to you and says ‘I dare ya’ but in a way they’re daring you not to, so you have a go and you hate it. But you keep on because you show them you can do it. But when you can do it, well that thing don’t matter anymore, all that matters is the next smoke”.

During this monologue the camera slowly closes on Zammo’s face and by the end he seems to have convinced Jackie, especially when he produces what appears to be his last wrap of heroin and flushes it down the sink.  It’s easily Lee Macdonald’s best scene this year (especially when you learn later than once again Zammo is lying).  Jackie’s tears of joy help to make it a touching moment, but the attentive viewer should by now be primed to expect a later reversal.

Zammo’s speech does leave a few unanswered questions (if, of course, it was anywhere near the truth).  The most obvious is why he fell in with this particular crowd in the first place.  A bunch of drug addicts would hardly seem to be the ideal friends for him – so what pushed him in their direction?

His apparently honest outpouring convinces Jackie to leave him alone, but we later learn that he’s stolen his mother’s cashcard (which had been well hidden) and is out somewhere on the streets.  The action then switches to a typically rundown block of flats (babies crying in the distance) where he views the devastation wrought on Howard’s front door with alarm.  With Howard picked up by the police, Zammo needs a new supplier (although it was never clear before that Howard performed this function) and luckily the fairly well-dressed Shane (David Fenwick) looks set to fill the void.  It’s reasonable to assume that Shane is happy to sell the drugs but not stupid enough to take them.

The last few minutes have to be amongst the series’ most iconic moments – certainly it has to be GH’s most repeated scene.  For the final time Zammo’s lies find him out as Jackie discovers a stash of heroin hidden in his calculator.  As he and Kevin clash, Jackie tears the bag and scatters the powder on the floor.  As Zammo, by this stage functioning on instinct alone, desperately tries to scoop it up, the police arrive to take him away.

With a sobbing Jackie in the background and the non-diegetic sound of police sirens on the soundtrack, it closes the episode in a highly dramatic fashion as we freeze-frame on Zammo’s face.

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One thought on “Grange Hill – Series Nine, Episode Twenty Two

  1. I came to Grange Hill a few years later and so only really knew Zammo and this storyline from one of the paperback books that was found in a little remainder store – I forget the title but it was about what various characters got up to one evening including Zammo’s latest attempt to raise money and the consequences. Yet somehow I already knew about this storyline but I’m not sure how – maybe I’d read something in passing in coverage of Chrissy’s pregnancy (THE big controversial storyline for our generation of viewers). And then I’ve seen the clip of the end of the episode a few times over the years but watching the episode (and indeed the series) in full is an eye opener given just how much is going on all at once.

    Zammo fighting with Jackie is, I think, the first time the series has shown a man physically aggressive with a woman (Ziggy’s war on Imelda has been distinctly non-contact) and is as shocking now as it must have been at the time. Though watching the episode in full the speed with which the police arrive (and the same two constables) is astounding. Were they permanently stationed in a car parked outside the school?

    Looking at other plot strands there’s a fear that Mrs McClusky will be E2’s form tutor permanently as “every class is supposed to have the same form tutor throughout their time at Grange Hill.” I’m not sure that’s been the case when staff have remained. Just for starters in this series we have a fifth form class that was tutored last year by Mr Bronson who is now tutoring the previously unseen third form class who presumably had another tutor last year. Similarly in previous years Mr Hopwood wasn’t tutoring Alan et al’s in the fifth year and instead was tutoring what had previously been Miss Mooney’s form. (And jumping ahead but if the wiki list is accurate then Mrs Monroe tutored Becky, Jacko at al’s form for the first four years before jumping to tutor Justine’s form for their final year.)

    It’s one of those ideas that sounds good in theory to provide continuity of overview and pastoral care but in practice requires advanced certainty the teacher will not only be around for five/seven years (not easy with Grange Hill’s staff turnover) but also able to take on all the form duties for years ahead given the number of times we’ve seen a form tutor in a lesson or on a trip well outside their expertise. My prep (middle) school did attempt a mix by running a nominal house system for the senior school (last three years) with a separate tutor to provide continuity but due to a mid year departure and the scramble to replace them I wound up with as many tutors as form masters/mistresses which pretty much defeated the aim.

    Another school stated policy that doesn’t match the onscreen evidence is the ban on earrings. Numerous girls and some boys have been seen wearing them in school including in this very episode yet Mr Baxter calmly states the school doesn’t allow it.

    And the scene where Miss Booth chats to Danny behind the bins has terrible audio.


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