The Nest episodes 1 and 2: The perils of glass houses

The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international_Ep. 1
The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international_Ep. 1 /

The Nest is both thriller and exploration of human fragility.

The interesting thing about The Nest is how the Acorn TV drama is so brutally emotional and thought-provoking simultaneously—fitting for a series that often pits heart against head.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the opening two episodes of The Nest, both streaming now on Acorn TV.

If you explained the premise of this series to someone, without mentioning who it was from or who’s in it, it would sound like a melodramatic Lifetime movie. Probably with the word “Psycho” in the title. A teenager with a vague past inserts herself into the lives of a happy couple and proceeds to tear everything to shreds.

We’ve seen this before, and a whole lot worse, which is what makes Nicole Taylor’s (Three Girls) miniseries all the more remarkable.

You think you have a sense of where this is going, and you do, but the subtleties in the writing and a very game cast drive the project to another level. By the end of the first two episodes, “Chance Encounter” and “High Life,” you’re already thinking about far more than the baby. That’s because when so many shows promise more underneath the surface, The Nest actually delivers.

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Dan Docherty (Martin Compston, who’s turned things up a notch even on top of his fine work in Line of Duty) is a great character to dig into. Part of that is due to Compston’s brilliant performance, and the other part is that you can’t help but feel for him caught in the crossfire.

Let’s be honest: on any other show, and played by any other actor, Dan’s someone that you might want to punch in the face. He’s a wildly successful property developer who drives a Bentley, also operates a successful restaurant, and is well-connected to all the right people. But Compston has a natural likeability—the same quality that serves him well as the idealistic Steve Arnott in Line of Duty—that prevents him from coming across as a jerk.

And The Nest positions Dan as the voice of reason in an increasingly irrational situation. Dan is in full control of his life and doesn’t make a single move without calculating it. He doesn’t like solving for the unknown, and Kaya (Mirren Mack) is the ultimate unknown.

Dan is the first to point out how convenient it is that Kaya volunteers to be his and Emily’s (Sophie Rundle) surrogate after she stumbles into their lives, and how ill-advised it is for them to entrust an immature teenager they don’t know with the most important thing they have. He asks all of the rational questions that need to be answered for The Nest to make any sense. And Taylor’s script is smart enough to show why Dan is eventually persuaded to do this ridiculous thing: he doesn’t have a real choice.

You have to feel for Dan in the moment where he realizes that Emily is going ahead with the surrogacy despite being denied permission by the local clinic. She tells him that she’s doing it “with or without you.” He’s forced to risk everything he has—or risk losing the woman he loves more than anything in the world. It’s a lose-lose situation, Dan knows it, and Compston is so good at portraying Dan’s heartbreak without saying a word.

What must it be like to know that your wife would rather have a baby than you? And even if he wants to say fine, to hell with it and walk away, there’s a moral obligation to not let her go through this all alone—because she’s certainly not looking out for herself.

What follows is The Nest starting the emotional unraveling of Dan Docherty. It’s not long before Kaya’s presence in their lives is causing Dan to lie to his sister and business partner, and creating a scandal (due to the one cliche part of the show, a nosy reporter). He’s losing control of his world, which prompts him to lose control of himself, and Compston’s last scene in Episode 2 is painfully beautiful because the viewer can see the honest terror in his eyes.

Dan realizes the magnitude of what he let into his home—and for perhaps the first time, he doesn’t have a clue what to do. He’s completely vulnerable.

(One must also admire Martin Compston’s ability to use the F-word with authority in these two episodes. Usually, that gets old after a while, but every time he does it you feel that Dan is actually seriously losing it.)

light. More. 3 reasons to watch The Nest on Acorn TV


Sophie Rundle got a ton of emotional material playing Vicky Budd in Bodyguard, and she’s got it again in The Nest, as Emily Docherty’s emotions drive her to make a decision that she can never take back. It’s kind of a thankless part, because it would be easy to dismiss Emily as another overly emotional—and therefore stupidly naive—character. Especially because The Nest has to tell, not show, the years of infertility struggles that Emily and Dan have been through before this.

But Emily gives voice to many of the common themes that come with the issue of infertility. It’s not just that she wants to start a family; as the show points out, they could just adopt if that were the only case. It’s about wanting the child to be theirs, and the blame she puts on herself because she’s the one who’s medically incapable. She also feels guilt for hitting Kaya with her car, and she finds a kind of redemption in thinking they could change the girl’s life with the money that they’re paying her to carry their baby.

She means well—she’s just not thinking clearly, and Rundle plays it spot-on, where she doesn’t shy away from the fact that Emily is out on a limb. It also helps that The Nest makes clear that the struggle is something both Emily and Dan have gone through, and doesn’t make Emily the only one who’s allowed to feel that pain. Ironically, it seems that as Dan goes to pieces in these episodes, Emily is pulling herself back together. Dan’s sister Hilary (Fiona Bell) comments on how long it’s been since she’s seen Emily happy.

However, will she realize the toll this is taking on her husband and reach out to help him the way he stood by her? And at what point will she listen to her husband’s criticisms and wise up to things that she doesn’t (or doesn’t want to) know?


Kaya McDermott gets the most short shrift in The Nest‘s debut episodes, because she comes off like a stroppy teenager that makes Emily and Dan crazy (hey, just like parenting!). She storms off from an initial meeting because Dan won’t give her enough money. She sneaks out to a club and gets dangerously drunk. There is very little to like about her initially, other than the fact that she might help Dan and Emily achieve the last piece of their happily ever after.

It’s up to the remaining scripts to flesh Kaya out beyond her temper tantrums (and a flirtation with Dan’s nephew Jack doesn’t count). Despite Mirren Mack’s best efforts, the only time Kaya comes off as sincere is when she’s mourning the death of her shady neighbor, who conveniently turns up dead shortly after he threatens Dan.

It seems like Kaya is on the path to cleaning herself up and finding a sense of purpose, but what’s the story behind this murder charge? As Martin Compston pointed out in our interview, she has a bit in common with Dan; he’s got his own criminal record, but he was able to admit his failings and mature. Kaya is not there yet. That doesn’t mean she couldn’t have a compelling story of growth, but when compared to the character development we’re already seeing as Dan comes apart and Emily starts to find herself again, Kaya is behind the curve.

(And if the fact that the Dochertys live in a house that’s got a living room full of floor-to-ceiling glass windows isn’t a metaphor, nothing is. Let’s see if any of those windows break by the time The Nest is over.)

Martin Compston discusses The Nest. dark. Next

The Nest is streaming Mondays exclusively on Acorn TV. Watch now with a 7-day free trial.