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The Delicate Relationship Between a Couple and Their Surrogate in the Newest Drama, 'The Nest,' on Acorn
July 13, 2020  | By David Hinckley

The new British series The Nest offers something a little different: a sometimes-creepy psycho-thriller built around the fragile world of surrogate parenting.

The Nest, which turned into a big U.K. hit back in March, arrives Monday (July 13) in the U.S. on Acorn TV. It runs for five hour-long episodes.

In a lot of ways, it’s a three-character drama, though other folks often figure in the storyline.

Our central figures are Dan and Emily Docherty (Martin Compston and Sophie Rundle, both at top), a married couple who have everything but a baby. He’s a TV star, among other things, and she seems to do things like conduct student orchestras, which she loves. They live in a lovely house on a lake, where they can sip evening cocktails while surveying their stunning view and whispering endearments to each other.

They have been trying to conceive a child forever, though, and nothing has worked despite their unlimited budget. Some couples turn to adoption, but Emily and Dan want “a piece of ourselves” to be entered into the human chain.

Dan’s devoted sister Hilary (Fiona Bell), who already has two children of her own, somewhat reluctantly agreed to try to carry their embryo. But as the story opens, she has miscarried, leaving Emily and Dan on the brink of surrender.

Enter Kaya (Mirren Mack), one of the most enigmatic 18-year-old characters to show up on TV in recent years – and that’s a high bar to clear.

Emily runs into Kaya, quite literally, and this sets in motion a chain of marginally plausible events and coincidences through which Kaya learns of the couple’s pregnancy dilemma.

She offers to become their surrogate, which on the surface, seems like a potential win all around. The Dochertys get a healthy, agreeable surrogate, and Kaya gets to escape from what appears to have been a pretty rough and sparse life that has brought her to a state-run residential program for kids with problems.

Mack does a splendid job transmitting mixed signals from Kaya. She can be perceptive one moment, delusional the next. She can be rational about her life, and she can construct castles in the sky. She has moments when she’s caring and other moments when she seems wholly calculating.

This isn’t lost on the Dochertys, who like her and need her, but also recognize that she has, as we say, issues. Of course, their main concern is that those issues will surface in a way that could affect Kaya’s ongoing attitude toward surrogacy.

Nor is Kaya’s psyche the only obstacle. Emily and Dan are desperate and hopeful enough to maneuver through a few shortcuts in the whole surrogacy process.

Surrogacy is legal, but the law tries to keep a very close eye on the process, and in this case, it doesn’t always like what it sees.

As we tiptoe along this path, some of Kaya’s issues surface, and they’re instructive if not always heartening. The Dochertys have a few issues, too, and The Nest underscores all of this by inserting a regular stream of ominous background music.

While none of them does everything right, we mostly think we like them and want things to work out. Whether they can at no point in The Nest is a gimme.

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