TV Review: Fearless, ITV

“I learned a long time ago not to trust what people tell me”

I did want to love Fearless, I really did. Any series with Helen McCrory in its leading role has to be worthy of consideration and ITV have been upping their drama game (qv Unforgotten) recently. But despite an intriguing opener, the six episodes of Fearless increasingly tested the patience as Patrick Harbinson’s script failed to deliver on its twistily complex promise, instead giving us a fairly run-of-the-mill thriller that ultimately proved less than thrilling.

With a playbook that threw out major themes with regularity – miscarriages of justice, the Syrian refugee crisis, institutional corruption, the war in Iraq, the ethics of the surveillance state, just to name a few – it was inevitable that some would fall by the wayside. But with the amount of personal backstory for McCrory’s Emma also shoehorned in there, the narrative was both painfully overstuffed and sadly inconsequential – it was increasingly hard to know what we were meant to care about.

The adoption storyline with a sorely miscast John Bishop as her lover was tough work, the stuff from her past poorly integrated given its importance, the grand conspiracy surprisingly small in focus in the end (and more than a little far-fetched). Even something as relatively (you’d’ve thought) simple as concentrating on the thrust of the main plot (of assuring client Kevin’s innocence) got hopelessly tangled up in the competition for airtime.

Which all meant, as I said, that it was sadly rather hard to care about it all. McCrory delivered her usual sterling level of performance, but to little avail (an electrifying scene with Michael Gambon’s grizzled old sort aside). Wunmi Mosaku’s dedicated cop Olivia was a highlight, balancing notions of duty with justice in an engaging way but Robin Weigert’s US spook Heather was saddled with a ridiculous part that rarely felt dramatically convincing as her meddling made life difficult for everyone concerned, the audience included.

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