Episode 2 of 'Southcliffe' took us further into the lives of the residents of this ravaged community, which it transpired was full of grief even before Stephen Norton (Sean Harris) took his first shot.

We had devoted couple, Andrew and Claire Salter (Eddie Marson and Shirley Henderson), sweet, humble and tender, desperate for another child, as they prepared to wave their daughter off on her travels.

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Andrew and Claire Salter are just two of the Southcliffe residents devastated by Stephen Norton's acts

Elsewhere in town, cheeky pub landlord Paul joked with his family, gave his father a formal send-off AND disappeared into the arms of a younger woman. All in the 24 hours before his life was completely and permanently changed.

Director Sean Durkin took us back to view those same events we saw in yesterday's episode from a different perspective, and then jumped back and forth in chronology. This meant that every seemingly innocent remark was couched in significance - we saw Paul happily nip himself shaving, while his little daughter shouted, "Mum, Dad's got blood all over him."

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Paul - his complicated life changed for ever in a day

This elliptical, unsettling way with the narrative had two effects. The first was that we saw just how many tiny separate things could have been the single catalyst that sent loner Chris over the edge - was it being taunted by the military pair? Was it picking his frail mother up from the floor and putting her in her chair? Or was it being called 'Commander' one time too many by a jovial, thoughtless Paul? Sometimes, we know not what we do.

The other was that we saw people, individual characters of the sort that we see every day of our lives, in all their significance. We saw Andrew and Claire's most cherished daughter Anna crossing the road outside her house. On another occasion, we saw her jogging along the coastline. One of these journeys ended in tragedy, the other didn't.

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The line between tragedy and normality is perilously thin

Meanwhile, Paul - whom we'd despised 20 minutes before for his casual cheating ways - suddenly deserved our sympathy as he collapsed under the weight of his loss. But it could equally have been the other way around.

It was all so arbitrary, and that took us to the heart of the matter, in Tony Grisoni's enthralling depiction of a community of people, flawed, fallible and fully drawn, in this haunting subtle study of how only death can reveal truly what it means to be alive.

'Southcliffe' continues next Sunday on Channel 4 at 9pm.

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