In The Dark is another mediocre offering from the BBC 


In The Dark is a TV show that was brand new this year. It follows Detective Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) as she embarks upon two separate case in two two-part stories. I have to be honest and say that I was not overly impressed by this programme. It was only watchable at best, which was quite disappointing considering the amount of talent boasted by the cast.
Before I get into any real slating of the show, I’ll quickly cover the main performance. The obvious place to start is with MyAnna Buring, who was the main draw for me here. I’m a fan of her work due to Ripper Street and the characters she has always seemed to portray – I’ve never been able to accuse her of playing meek women, and that’s why I like her work so much. In that respect, I should’ve been all over her as Helen here, but something just didn’t click for me. I don’t think that’s down to Buring’s performance though. Much of this show was held down by the script, which was very clunky in multiple places, quite often losing rhythm at key points in the story. And, as is often the case, good actors were brought crashing to the ground by it.

In The Dark was adapted from a series of books which just didn’t seem to translate very well to the screen for how many problems this show was laden with. The biggest issue as I’ve pointed out already was the script – it was very unnatural in places. It just seemed knock the pace of the show for six at some of what were supposed to be the biggest points in the two stories. When it makes audiences sort of recoil a bit, I think that’s a sign that something isn’t up to scratch. You just knew that this wasn’t the way people really talk, and it took a huge amount away from the show.

I’m not even entirely sure how to feel about the story. Both seemed to be quite generic plots that could just as easily have been part of any other show crime show. There just wasn’t anything particularly special at all about either tale, and as for the ending to the second case? How about we just ignore the fact that it tried very hard to give us an edgy finish that absolutely did not float my boat? I just don’t understand why you’d try and do that when the majority of the rest of the show up to that point had been something of a shambles.

Anyway, you might have gathered by now that I wasn’t sold on In The Dark. I don’t think it’ll be making a return, but if it does I shan’t be watching it. It was a huge disappointment considering what could have been done with it, and I think I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that I really hate seeing wasted potential in whatever I watch. So much more could’ve been done with this, but in the end, it failed to deliver.

From Ripper Street, with love (and SPOILERS)


London Metropolitan’s H Division turns to solving crimes in the wake of the Jack The Ripper killings.
When Jack The Ripper took to the streets of Whitechapel in the late 1800s, it was up to the men serving a particular police force to hunt the perpetrator down and put the fears of the public to rest. However, while The Ripper may have disappeared seemingly without a trace one day, his crimes were set to haunt London for a long time to come. The trio dealing with the aftermath are Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and police surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), who all have their own personal struggles on top of the work they do by day.   

So, my favourite show, Ripper Street, came to an end this week. The last ever episode of the programme aired on Monday night, and I have to be honest I don’t think there has ever been a more bittersweet ending to a TV show from my point of view. Even now, almost a week after watching the finale, I’m still not entirely sure how to take it.

Ripper Street first came onto our screens back in 2012. The first season introduced us to the three main characters who would quickly grow on viewers. One by one, each character had his secrets revealed, and then developed upon as the seasons progressed. In the driving seat is Matthew MacFadyen as Edmund Reid, the main protagonist of the show. The writer’s of the show really put Reid through the mill, and MacFadyen had to run with these trials and tribulations whilst maintaining his character’s core values, which I think he did very well. What I really liked about MacFadyen’s performance was that he always showed Reid had immense integrity. No matter what state he was in during the show, Reid was always very true to himself; he always did what he believed was the right thing to do for himself at any given time. His actions may not always have been the good thing to do, or, as the show progressed, the lawful thing to do, but for Reid they were always the right thing, and that sort of conviction he had.

After Reid, you have Jerome Flynn as loyal sidekick Bennet Drake, whose promotion in later seasons causes ructions that never really disappear. This character, along with any character in this show who ends up being of any significance, could be talked about for hours if I was to sit next do a full in-depth study of him. I think of the three leads here, Flynn’s character was the most complex, and I personally think that it is he who best personifies the kind of Whitechapel in which this show is set.

Now we move onto one of my favourite characters, Captain Homer Jackson, or Matthew Judge if we are to use his real name. I absolutely loved Adam Rothenberg’s interpretation of Jackson. He was tremendous throughout the whole show, and I believe I can safely say that he had one standout moment in each and every episode. Rothenberg was gifted some of the greatest lines in the script, and followed this up by delivering them perfectly every time. Without a doubt, it was he who gained most of my affection, with his glorious one-liners and sometimes wise words. That and the fact that he was probably the character with the best heart of all of them.

While these three were largely the staples of the entire series, there were also a number of series regulars. MyAnna Buring played Long Susan Hart, or Caitlyn Swift, and was also a favourite of mine because of the kind of woman she portrayed. She was unconventional for the time, a woman elbowing her way into a man’s world, and watching her in each and every episode was wonderful. She possessed all the qualities that made Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman so fantastic, but for a female character such as this to appear in a period piece was an added bonus.

Before I move onto anything else, I must point out that life for these characters was not a bed of roses. This, of course, was caused by numerous villains who cropped up from season to season. Now, while each season had a stand-out antagonist, the series itself did have an overall winner in the bad guy department. This has to be Jedediah Shine, played by the phenomenal Joseph Mawle. This guy made a prolonged appearance in both seasons two and five, and he just got worse and worse as time went by, and for someone like myself who is rather partial to a good villain, this was great to see. The performance put in by Mawle was on another level entirely, and he definitely deserves more recognition for the part than I think he has received. He actually made my skin crawl, and to watch him made me feel a whole range of emotions, which I think is a good sign.

Now we can finally move onto something other than the characters and the actors who played them. Ripper Street is kind of a hybrid of a formula show and those with a continuous narrative for their entire series run. For the most part, there was a new crime to be solved each week, but there were also a number of threads that ran through and connected each episode.I’m a fan of this approach because there is always something to bring you back to the next episode, but each week also has new life injected into it by the latest case the team are set to solve. What I also loved about the story is the fact that Jack The Ripper always seemed to have a presence. Ultimately, it was his crimes that haunted H Division, and gave Reid his motives, and so while the show was not directly about him, despite what the name suggests, The Ripper did have a very important part to play throughout the whole show.

Besides Ripper himself, there were other continuous threads that spanned the length of the series, and as far as I’m aware, none of them had happy endings, which I’m glad about because for life to have worked out to be a bed of roses for all the characters would not have been fitting for the show. Of course, having spent four or five seasons following thee characters, when their time came it was a rough moment in the show. I think these ends were handled very well, and whilst different for each character, every one of them was brutal. For me, this showed perfectly the capabilities of the writers for the show, who clearly knew that they didn’t need to make every character a martyr for the audience to feel the full impact of their demise.

That being said, one thing I do think was butchered was the show’s finale, but even that comes with a caveat (and the story of how this show came to be so significant to me). Ripper Street came to end long before this fifth and final season was in the pipeline. After ratings dropped during season two, the BBC cancelled the show, and there was a huge outcry from the fans, including myself. Petitions were created, and letters were written (still perhaps the finest bit of writing I’ve ever done if I’m honest), and after realising what a major cock-up they had made, BBC looked to continue the show with another network in a co-production deal. Eventually, Amazon took the show on, and split the budget with the BBC, but the episodes released on Amazon had to be trimmed down before they were shown on TV so as to not disrupt the schedules. Ultimately this meant that that there were scenes cut from the version of the show that I’ve seen, which now brings me back to the series finale. According to Amazon subscribers, the final episode was cut to ribbons before being shown on TV, which is potentially why it felt as flat as it did, so I can’t completely attack it for that. However, I can say that had I have been in charge of the writing and had decided to kill off all the other main characters, or take them out of the game in some way, Edmund Reid would also have been dead by the end of it. I wouldn’t have had him murdered, but he would have succumbed to some sort of illness or death by natural causes because come the series’ end, he had nothing left to live for, you know? His life’s work was more or less complete; the only thing left unfinished was the actual Jack The Ripper case, which I personally would have liked to have seen slowly cause him to lose his sanity, or compromise his health in some way that led to him dying. It just didn’t feel right that it finished the way it did, with him sat back at his desk without any of the people closest to him beside him.

Anyway, I think I should probably stop whittling on now, at 1,500 words I’ve taken up enough of your time and hardly scratched the surface of the show. I think I may do individual reviews of each season at some point in the future because there is so much more I’d like to cover, such as the different characters from season to season and the relationships between them all, the different stories that took hold and the wonderful sets and costumes as well. What I’ll say is if you have seen Ripper Street, get in touch and let me know what you think of it, and if you haven’t, please do give it a go. You might think there have been some spoilers here but I really don’t think they’d ruin the show at all. As you can probably see, I cannot recommend Ripper Street enough – it’s a show that grabbed me right at the start and never let go, and I think it is one of those shows that has shown the power of good TV and also the power of the fans too. This was a fantastic show, and I’m sad to see it go, but I’ll never tire of rewatching the box sets, which is a true sign of the magic Ripper Street possesses.

It might be a tad over-ambitious, but Fearless was still a good watch


A human rights lawyer with a reputation for defending lost causes sets out to prove the innocence of a man accused to murdering a 14 year old girl.
When Emma Banville (Helen McCrory) is asked to look into the conviction of Kevin Russell by his partner, she agrees to take on the case due to the huge miscarriage of justice she feels has taken place. As she begins to root around, she not only ruffles the feather of Detective Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku), but she also discovers that Russell’s conviction was part of something far greater. Determined to prove his innocence, Emma goes to every length imaginable, putting a huge strain on her personal life, but also potentially putting herself in danger.

So, the latest big drama offered to us by ITV came in the form of Fearless. The show, starring Helen McCrory as the lead, had a mixed response initially, and start with looked set to be another in a series of shows that promised the world yet failed to deliver it. Thankfully though, I can tell you now that, at least from where I’m standing, this actually turned out to be one of the better shows the station has produced in a while.

While there were a number of high profile British stars in this show, and one face from slightly further afield, there is no denying that this was McCrory’s time to shine. She owned every scene as Emma, and it was always when she was on-screen that this drama was at it’s best. She just had such a presence, and she provided Emma with an air of determination that couldn’t be ignored by the audience or those she was pitted against in the show. Wunmi Mosaku had the same sort of vibe about her in her role, as did Robyn Weigert (also known as Jane from Deadwood). In fact, this was a very female-centric cast and storyline, which we seem to be seeing more and more of. The character of Emma Banville was an excellent part, and the other two were pretty good as well. It’s good to see mainstream British TV making this transition at long last!

As I’ve already mentioned, this seems to be a show that divided viewers. Personally, I wasn’t sold on the first episode at all, but stuck with it anyway. I have to say that I’m glad I did persevere because Fearless really picked up in the second episode. After this point, the story didn’t suffer as many pacing issues, although some did still crop up from time to time, mainly when McCrory was not on-screen. There were a lot of intricacies woven in, and you got a snapshot of Emma’s personal life without it becoming another huge subplot. I think the problem a lot of people had was it was set out much more like an American-made TV show, and so was more slow-burning than other shows you usually get here. Again, British TV is gradually introducing more shows of this nature, but I think it’s going to take audiences a while to get used to it. 

One thing that did cause me some issues however was some of the camera work. It was most noticeable during that first episode that already had it’s issues, but at points later on it reared its head again. It was really unsteady in some shots and was very off-putting. As the show went on, I didn’t take issue with it as much – whether this was because I got used to it or because the story improved, I don’t know. What I do know is to me that didn’t feel like the style of filming that worked for the programme.

On the face of it, Fearless was bit of a mixed bag. It certainly had its share of good and bad points, but I thought that, in the end, it did okay. There’s been better shows, but there has also definitely been a hell of a lot worse. The thing to take from this is how it differed from what is generally shown – how it opted for a narrative over its six episode run as opposed to a more formulaic plot, and how it gave most of its time to female lead characters. There’s plenty to be improved upon, but Fearless definitely took it’s first step in the right direction. Will it return? Who knows? But I wouldn’t be too disappointed if a second season did come my way.

Broken shows us what needs fixing around us whilst also being quality viewing


A priest acts as the glue that holds a broken community together in present-day England.
Father Michael Kerrigan (Sean Bean) is the parish priest for an urban community in the north of England. Week in, week out, he plays the role of confidant and counsellor to his parishioners alongside his mandatory church duties. However what he deals with on a day-to-day basis, alongside the trauma he has struggled with since being abused as an altar boy, leads him to question everything he has always believed in, and whether any of what surrounds him, including himself, can ever really be fixed.

Well, I’ve to be honest here and say that this was a show and a half. Broken is the show that this country needs right now because of what it covered. It highlighted so many of the things that are going wrong at the minute; shed a light on social issues that perhaps not everyone is aware of, or if they are, is not familiar with just how serious a problem they might be. What made this so great though was the fact that despite dealing with some very real issues, the show delivered plenty of laughs along the way. Not bad for a drama with Austerity Britain at the heart of it, eh?

I loved Sean Bean as Father Michael Kerrigan. He was so human and sincere with everything he tried to do, and it was so obvious that he struggled with a number of the church’s policies that are a bit outdated today. Bean really was tremendous in the role, and made me totally forget that I’d ever seen him as any villainous character in the past. He brought a sense of genuine compassion to Michael, and also a hefty amount of personal struggle, and I’m sure that this was helped massively by his own working class upbringing. Bean was also flanked by a number of familiar faces, including Anna Friel, Adrian Dunbar (Ted ‘Fella’ Hastings in Line Of Duty) and also Ray Donovan’s Paula Malcomson, which was nice to see, because it felt like there was a lot of celebrity backing for the social change that needs to take place before too many more people fall through the cracks.

Broken was written by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern, who has brought us some excellent pieces of television on more than one occasion before, and who has also collaborated with Bean before this. Shows that I can recall include Accused and Common, and it’s clear that McGovern has a major talent in bringing us prime time viewing that centres around big contemporary issues, however he also has a knack for not making things too depressing all the time. He well and truly excelled himself here, covering a number of problems faced by the less fortunate in this country right now such as the faults with the welfare system and the lack of provision for mental healthcare on the NHS. McGovern offered so much food for thought with his latest project, and I for one am certainly looking forward to what he brings us next.

That’s it really, I don’t know what more I can add. Broken made a statement on mainstream British TV that was watched by millions at a time when a statement needed to be made. It is essentially a very simple drama done very well, with some very significant people behind it, believing in the message it delivers. I feel as though this review might have done the show a massive injustice, and I can only apologise for that. All I can say is if you haven’t seen Broken yet, whether you live in this country or not, watch it, because I believe it could very well be a reflection of what is going on in many places, and shows exactly why things need to change.

The glorious truth about Big Little Lies

The perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel, resulting in murder.

When Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) moves to Monterey with her son Ziggy to escape her past, she is quickly befriended by Madeleine Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), who introduces her to Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman). Together, the three become a formidable trio amongst the rest of the mums at their kids’ school, especially in the wake of a playground incident after which, Ziggy is witch hunted by the other children and parents. What unfolds is a tale of ex-husbands, second wives and school yard scandals, all in between the little white lies that they all tell to uphold the fronts each of these women present to the world.

I’d heard a lot about Big Little Lies following it’s premier in the U.S. a couple of months ago, and seeing it would be shown soon after on Sky Atlantic, I thought I too would give it a spin, although I hadn’t expected it to be my thing at all. I was, however, proven wrong, and thankfully so, because here I am now sharing what a wonderful show it was with you.

The three lead performances here were tremendous. Woodley, Witherspoon and Kidman were all as brilliant as each other in their own special ways, but I have to say that the latter name mentioned just pipped the other two for the title of best performance in this series. If there is a god, or any sort of higher power in existence, Kidman will be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Celeste Wright. Celeste was such a complex character, and in each of the seven episodes that made up this mini-series more and more was revealed about her. There were so, so many layers to this particular character, and for her alone I was willing to return for the next instalment each week.

The story was very simple, yet also very complex, if that makes any sense at all. If you strip the story back to the very basics, it is essentially a whodunnit, only the thing here is we don’t know a) who the killer is or b) who the victim is, so already it’s a small twist on the traditional. Add then the numerous points of conflict that arise throughout the course of the seven episodes and you struggle to come to a definitive conclusion on what the motive might be as well, which scuppers any chance of you being able to come up with a very shortlist of suspects. It was very refreshing to see the story told in this way, and while I had my guesses at who had ended up dead as a result of the many chains of events shown in the series, I was never exactly sure of who, how or why until the dying moments of the finale.

So, despite my initial scepticism, I have to say that Big Little Lies may very well be one of the best new shows of 2017, if not the best. I am going to be keeping my eye out for the book from which the story was adapted for the screen, because while I was very impressed by this series, I have an inkling that there is even more to be taken from the book, which is the case more often than not. What makes this so intriguing is the way the story is told, but just as important are the performances that deliver us this story. If you’ve not seen Big Little Lies, I would urge you to watch it, as it may very well be one of the greatest things you’ll watch this year.

I’m all for future revivals of Gilmore Girls after seeing A Year In The Life

Set almost a decade after the original series ended, this mini-series follows the Gilmore Girls through four seasons of change.

I’m hoping that you will have read my review of the original Gilmore Girls series so that I don’t have to explain the concept again here. All I really want to do with this is tell you how much enjoyed this revival, and how I felt it measured up compared to the original series.

All of the performances were great once again. It’s amazing how everyone came back into the show after nine years away and managed to channel the characters that they had all worked so hard on for seven years. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel did of course return as the infamous Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore and Scott Patterson as Luke Danes. The revival very much centred around these four characters and how they all interacted with each other now. So much has changed since the show first aired, both in the show and away from it, most notably the passing of Edward Hermann who played Richard Gilmore for the entirety of the original series. I do honestly think that these four especially did a terrific job of not only bringing their roles back to life, but also in paying tribute to those who unfortunately didn’t live to see this reunion happen.

The way the writers incorporated storylines from before into this worked really well. There were a few famous faces from way back in the early 2000s that made short appearances here and again, it was great paying homage to their contributions to the show. What was also really nice about this was the fact that so many people have gone on to big things after starting out here – one name that comes to mind is Jared Padalecki – and that they still found time in their now very busy schedules to come back to film small segments for this. I think that just shows what an impact this show had on everyone who was part of it over the years.

As I was watching the revival, I experienced some really weird feelings. The original series was obviously filmed and aired throughout the very early stages of my life, so everything that happens in those episodes, all the significant events that get mentioned throughout the first seven seasons, I have lived through (granted, quite often this happened without my knowing at the time). Similarly, all the changes that have taken place since then have also been part of my lifetime. Where I’m going with this is it’s strange watching this and looking at everything that has happened in my lifetime, which at only 18 and a half years is a relatively short period of time, and just seeing how much has changed. It was so weird seeing iPads popping up all over the place, and that Luke’s Diner had wifi. However, it was also nice seeing that despite the advancements that had taken place, the people remained largely the same.

I’d also just like to mention how well everyone seems to have aged before I finish this review. Considering I went from an episode that aired in 2007 one night, to something that was filmed last year the next, everyone changed so little! A couple of the cast members have aged particularly well if you ask me, but I won’t go into that too much as I’ve taken enough of your time already.

So, as the Gilmore Girls move into a new chapter of their lives, I have to say that it was really great to see what had gone on since the series finale ten years ago. Finally, Luke and Lorelai are together, and Emily has gotten a bit more bearable. As for Rory, she’s not quite sorted yet, but I’m hoping that future episodes will see her right as well. I know there have been mixed views on Gilmore Girls – A Year In The Life, but I have to admit that I loved it. Everything I enjoyed about the original series was there, plus you got to see how the citizens of Stars Hollow had evolved to deal with the technological advancements that have also taken place over the last decade. I would happily watch this entire show again, but I think what I really want is more episodes – I’ve not had enough yet!

 

The heat was turned up in Fortitude season two


The sub-zero drama returns, picking up weeks after where season one left off, only to reveal that what took place before was just the tip of the iceberg.Anyone who read my review of the pilot season of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude will know that while I thought it was quite an enjoyable show when it premiered, I didn’t think it quite warranted the hype it got a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, I was still rather excited for the drama to return this year. As it turned out, I actually got into the second season a lot more, with the show becoming the highlight of my Thursday evenings for the last ten weeks.

I think it’s fair to say that the show took a more supernatural/horror twist this time around, and with that transition came a couple of brilliant performances, most notably from Richard Dormer, who returned as Sheriff Dan Anderson, but not quite as we knew him last season. Upon returning, it soon became clear that Dan had been a rare survivor of the wasp infestation, however he was far from his old self. Dormer played an absolutely terrific part this season! He gave Dan a real sense of unpredictability – one that left you unsure of what he would do next, or what he was truly capable of. He was brilliant to watch as he descended further into madness with each episode that passed, and is one of the reasons why I’m highly anticipating a third season of Fortitude.

Also worth mentioning is the introduction of Robert Sheehan in the role of Vladic, or The Shaman, whichever of the two you prefer. I thought he was great as the so-called saviour of Fortitude following the infestation. He also added very nicely to the snowy landscapes (if you get what I’m saying), which is always a bonus. His character went head to head with Dormer’s Dan, and there was something that was so tense about the scenes in which the two of them came face to face. They worked really well together in my opinion, really enhancing each other’s work.

I found this season to be far more gripping than the first. It seemed to get going much quicker than the pilot did, perhaps because it just picked up where it had left off, and didn’t need to set the scene from scratch all over again. To start off with, a lot of silly things happened, and while it was fast-paced, a number of things weren’t making a lot of sense. However, the story developed more as it went along, and soon enough everything began to fall into place. When this started happening, the show started to get a lot better, and the week long wait for each new episode got pretty awful. Unfortunately though, things were too good to be true because, as is always the case with big British dramas (although which such a stellar international cast, I don’t quite see how I can call it British all by itself), it ended stupidly. When the last episode finished, I genuinely sat there on the living room floor, staring at the end credits and was like ‘Are you trying to piss me off?’. What a way to end it, you know? This show was on top form for nine and three quarter episodes, and it managed to undo all of that in a ten minute timeframe with an explosion and a handful of bullets. It was the big-budget TV show equivalent of hearing you’ve got five minutes left to finish an exam paper you’re only half-way through, so you just start writing random stuff on the paper and hope for the best. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. All I can say is I hope that season three materialises because that’s the only thing I can think of that will justify such an ending.

Overall, for the large part, season two of Fortitude was way better than the pilot. It was good to return to characters who we were already familiar with in the aftermath of the devastation we witnessed last time around. Some of the actors really proved themselves as things unfolded, and the story, if I can try to put the ending to the back of my mind, was far more gripping than that we had to follow before. I’d recommend the show to you, but just be prepared for an ending that was somewhat half-baked.


Don’t forget – I’m co-hosting a the Play To The Whistle Blogathon throughout June! Get in touch if you’re interested in taking part.