The BEST Episodes of Silk

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Network: BBC One

Maxine Peake is Martha Costello, in her thirties, single, passionate and a defence barrister applying for silk. Innocent until proven guilty are four words she lives by. But how does this fundamental principle stand up to examination by clients who are sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes evil? Martha is faced with challenging cases and surprising clients. Her beliefs and prejudices, her conscience and her faith in the criminal justice system are tested to the limit over the course of the series. Joining Martha is Clive Reader, played by Rupert Penry-Jones. He's funny, gifted and dangerous. The same age as Martha, they're called to the bar together. Both are applying for silk – how they perform in court is vital to this process and Clive knows how to play the game. Neil Stuke plays Billy, the senior clerk at Martha's chambers. He is dedicated to Martha, even if secretly he believes that she hasn't got a chance of being made a QC. Nick Slade, played by Tom Hughes is Martha's pupil. Niamh Cranitch (Natalie Dormer) is assigned to Clive. Both are thrown in at the deep end and, as "baby barristers", must sink or swim. Only one pupil will be taken on as a member of chambers at the end of the series. Who will it be and why? And how will Martha and Clive influence the outcome?

The Real McCoy (Part 2)

#1 - The Real McCoy (Part 2)

Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired Mar 31, 2014

Martha is becoming increasingly isolated as she fights to defend ex-boyfriend Sean against overwhelming evidence. Determined to ignore an angry Clive, who attempts to force her to confront the holes in her client's story, Martha begins to wonder if she's cut out for this world. As she begins to uncover further lies Sean has told, Martha is shocked when she has to rely on an old enemy if she is to have any hope of clearing his name. As chambers begin to worry for her emotional stability, Martha's campaign to lead Shoe Lane into a new future begins to suffer. The shocking truth about the case is finally revealed, and after the jury return their verdict a shattered Martha is forced to confront her actions and their effect on the case. Can she move forward from this? Billy's harassment tribunal comes to a head and, when Shoe Lane votes on the silk to guide them into an uncertain future, Martha must decide what really matters.

star 8.81
109 votes
Touch and Go

#2 - Touch and Go

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Mar 15, 2011

Martha is forced to defend a police officer accused of racism at the police tribunal, at the same time as trying to get bail for another client. In the meantime, pressure increases on the pupils as the tenancy deadline draws near. And Clive receives some astonishing news which could change not only his personal life, but life at chambers for everyone.

star 8.68
72 votes
Shooting Blanks (Part 1)

#3 - Shooting Blanks (Part 1)

Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired Jun 12, 2012

At the Supreme Court, Martha is representing Jackson Henderson in a death row case. Against a ticking clock and with Billy breathing down her neck, Martha faces the toughest legal argument of her career. Clive increasingly feels that he is not the right barrister for Fatima Ali and, at the risk of losing George, persuades Martha to take the brief, conveniently leaving him free to prosecute Jody Farr. Martha knows unless Fatima speaks up for herself, the truth will not surface. Just as she thinks the case is lost, Martha is offered a deal with the devil in return for Fatima's freedom.

star 8.66
128 votes
Heavy Metal

#4 - Heavy Metal

Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Mar 10, 2014

Battle lines are drawn when Martha and Clive find themselves on opposing sides in a high-profile case of assisted suicide. A mother is accused of helping her severely paralysed daughter to die and Martha must fight to defend her client in a test case amidst the moral arguments that surround such a contentious subject. As Clive and Martha represent either side of this fractured family, tensions between them rise to the surface that threatens their own relationship. Elsewhere in Shoe Lane, with the resignation of the head of chambers, an opportunity for one of the Silks to lead the march into the future arises. Meanwhile, Billy's position becomes ever more compromised when a misinterpreted action causes confusion and upset amongst one of Shoe Lane's newest members.

star 8.59
108 votes
The Real McCoy (Part 1)

#5 - The Real McCoy (Part 1)

Season 3 - Episode 5 - Aired Mar 24, 2014

Martha has to put her personal feelings aside when she is asked to defend a close friend from her past. Is she strong enough to ask him the tough questions in order to do her job properly? The evidence against him in the case of a gangland execution is overwhelming. Fingerprints and CCTV put Martha's friend firmly at the scene of the crime, but is it all too convenient? With Clive at her side and CW prosecuting, the stakes are high for everyone. How close were Martha and Sean when they were young, and what are their feelings for each other now? Billy is shocked when a corrupt solicitor turned supergrass from Shoe Lane's past appears to ask for redemption. Meanwhile, battle lines are drawn in chambers as they gear up to an internal tribunal that polarises opinion and Martha begs Billy to tell the truth.

star 8.49
115 votes
Big Fish, Small Pond

#6 - Big Fish, Small Pond

Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 3, 2014

Delving into the murky world of professional football, Martha must put her feelings aside to defend a footballer accused of a pitch assault on another player. With the incident witnessed by tens of thousands of football fans, it seems Martha is facing an impossible task. With her client reluctant to co-operate and help his defence, Martha must gain his trust to discover a secret he is determined to keep hidden from the football world. Up against Clive in court, can Martha convince her client to help himself? Meanwhile, a resignation shocks chambers and Billy begins to take steps to ensure the future of Shoe Lane - with or without him.

star 8.48
112 votes
Shooting Blanks (Part 2)

#7 - Shooting Blanks (Part 2)

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Jun 20, 2012

Reluctantly representing Jody Farr, Martha vows to do her job, but she will not allow him or Micky to get under her skin. Fighting shifting power plays and an untenable defence, she begins to feel that Jody is not getting a fair trial and suspects foul play. Setting a dangerous trap, can Martha uncover the unbelievable truth? With the date of his tribunal looming, Clive focuses all his efforts on prosecuting Jody Farr, despite the apparent lack of support from CW. In the face of an uncertain future, Billy finds himself trapped by Micky Joy and loyalties are stretched to breaking point.

star 8.37
95 votes
The Bitter End

#8 - The Bitter End

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Feb 22, 2011

Having just won an important case, Martha is given two new cases for the next day, with a chance of getting a good reference for her Silk application. Under huge time pressure, Martha has to prepare overnight. But will she be able to satisfy both the personal and the professional demands placed on her? Or will she be forced to sacrifice one case in order to win the other?

star 8.23
92 votes
The House of Ill Repute

#9 - The House of Ill Repute

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired May 22, 2012

Martha represents Captain Ed Ryan in a court-martial. He is accused of disobeying an order, resulting in the death of a 19-year-old private. Under the watchful eyes of a distraught family who want answers, Martha navigates the army's legal system with the help of Captain Cassidy, Ryan's unit defence officer. Doggedly seeking the truth, Martha slowly peels back the layers of past and present wounds, revealing the shocking reality of modern combat. Meanwhile, temptation is never far away for Clive, who is warned by Billy to keep his relationship with George Duggan purely professional.

star 8.19
93 votes
Directors: Peter Hoar
Writers: Peter Moffat
All Plain Sailing

#10 - All Plain Sailing

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Mar 22, 2011

Martha prosecutes a teacher accused of assaulting a pupil, but believes he is on too serious a charge and is not being properly defended by her colleague, Noah. Meanwhile, Nick takes on his first major case, and both Martha and Clive have their Silk interviews. Will Martha be able to ensure a fair trial for the teacher at the same time as succeeding in her interview?

star 8.17
64 votes
High and Dry

#11 - High and Dry

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 1, 2011

In an effort to boost her Silk application, Martha accepts a rape case, against her better judgement. Even worse, Clive is prosecuting her client and delights in riling Martha. As the case draws to a close, Martha begins to realise that things are not always black and white, especially when she makes a startling discovery.

star 8.15
87 votes
The Goodbye Kid

#12 - The Goodbye Kid

Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired Feb 24, 2014

Feelings run high when a murder trial close to home sends shockwaves through Shoe Lane Chambers. Clive has finally become a silk, but his celebration party is dramatically cut short when news of the arrest of the son of the head of chambers for killing a police officer reaches the celebrations. Martha must step in to defend the young man despite the overwhelming evidence. Can Clive help Martha ask the tough questions needed, and can Martha uncover the truth about what happened in time? Meanwhile, Billy is struggling to cope with his secret and a new practice manager sends ripples through the clerks room.

star 8.08
114 votes
Mother Country

#13 - Mother Country

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired Mar 17, 2014

When an anxious solicitor turns up on the doorstep of Shoe Lane, Billy knows just who he needs. Dani's nephew is fighting extradition to the US on charges of terrorism and despite Clive's warnings Martha cannot let the system swallow up a young man without any firm evidence. Up against the might of the US government, Martha must use all her skills to save Rashid; even if he seems reluctant to help himself. Is Rashid as innocent as she believes and what are the US and UK security services determined to keep hidden? When Clive accepts a privileged position in the case his fears for Martha increase and their loyalties and beliefs are put to the test. Martha cannot forgive him for his involvement which threatens to leave both their professional and personal relationship in tatters. Elsewhere, Amy struggles to cope, CW finds herself out of her depth in court and Martha is shocked when a figure from her past arrives in Shoe Lane.

star 8.07
109 votes
Close Quarters

#14 - Close Quarters

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Mar 8, 2011

Martha defends a vulnerable teenager and the pupils are given their first opportunity to stand up in court, taking on a low-level magistrates' court case. However, as the cases progress, both Martha and Nick find themselves in challenging positions. Can Martha save her client without endangering not only her silk application, but also her career?

star 8.05
76 votes
Wooden Overcoat

#15 - Wooden Overcoat

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Jun 5, 2012

Martha finds herself in a David and Goliath battle when she represents the driver of a high security prison van. When some of his prisoners escaped, Michael Ward opened the doors of his van to find another dead. With Ward and the security firm accused of causing the prisoner's death, Martha fights to make Ward stand up for himself, lest he becomes the fall guy. Chambers take on a new pupil, Daniel Lomas, who helps Martha unlock her client. Meanwhile Clive is struggling to get through to Fatima Ali, and Billy, still feeling the pressure from Micky, starts to uncover hidden truths about CW

star 8.01
101 votes
Directors: Alice Troughton
Writers: Debbie O'Malley
Three Sheets to the Wind

#16 - Three Sheets to the Wind

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Mar 29, 2011

Martha takes on the biggest case of her life, defending Mark Draper, a repeat offender on a murder charge at the Old Bailey. However, when the case starts to fall apart, Martha must try to remain focused on the trial as both personal and private pressures escalate. Meanwhile, it is decision time for the pupils, and the fate of chambers hangs in the balance.

star 7.97
66 votes
Famous Last Words

#17 - Famous Last Words

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired May 15, 2012

Martha Costello is now a QC, but she learns fast that it can be lonely at the top. At Shoe Lane Chambers times are tough, and senior clerk Billy struggles to keep things afloat while Clive Reader tries to be stoic about his unsuccessful silk application. Martha is defending Brendan Kay, a member of one of London's biggest crime outfits. He is accused of blinding a man, who allegedly disrespected their 'number two'. Martha's job is made harder because Brendan's solicitor, Micky Joy, is an old school player of the system who walks both sides of the line. Also up against a notorious QC, Caroline Warwick, nicknamed Lady MacBeth for her uncompromising approach in court, Martha feels herself pulled by the various political forces around her, and realises to win she will need an all or nothing defence. Meanwhile, Clive takes on a sensitive case with a new solicitor, George Duggan.

star 7.96
104 votes
Directors: Peter Hoar
Writers: Peter Moffat
In the Family Way

#18 - In the Family Way

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired May 29, 2012

Clive is in Oxford, prosecuting three students accused of sexually assaulting a waitress. Up against an intimidating defence counsel, Clive begins to waver, but a chance encounter with an old friend helps him discover a passion for prosecuting he did not know he had. When the case is in danger of collapsing, Clive is faced with one of the biggest decisions of his career. Meanwhile, Martha is defending Ricky Armitage, who trashed his local mini-mart and attacked the shopkeeper. His level of violence and lack of remorse is astounding, yet Martha tries to divert the self-destructive path that Ricky was fated to walk.

star 7.94
95 votes
Directors: Alice Troughton
Writers: Peter Moffat