TV Review: Messiah (2001)

The first series of Messiah only occasionally shows its age, mostly remaining a powerfully effective serial killer drama and franchise opener  

“Maybe we’re getting too bogged and missed the connection”

Whilst theatre is off the menu, at least to the extent that I used to consume it, I have enjoyed being in of an evening and watching a lot more TV than I have done for a long time. And seeking the comfort of nostalgia, I’ve been delving into some of the shows that I enjoyed in the past – this week’s fun and games is the Messiah series.

Based on Boris Starling’s highly successful debut novel, the first series of Messiah (well, two feature-length episodes) holds up well nearly 20 years after it aired. And you can see the influence it has had on shows like Luther and River to name just a couple, as its gritty realism aligns with this country’s obsession with serial killer serials.

Your gruff detective is Ken Stott’s DCI Red Metcalfe who has flashbacks, a troubled family life and a police department leaking stories to the press, even before he’s landed with a series of puzzling and brutal murders of men with their tongues cut out. The connection, as his team eventually figure out, is that they are being killed in the manner of the twelve apostles and they even figure out a timetable but with little to no clues to go on, the gore levels keep rising.

I remember the show vividly so I could recall whodunnit from the off but there’s something pleasing about still be as entertained by the show with all its twists and turns and copious red herrings. Frances Grey and Jamie Draven are good as the young detectives but Neil Dudgeon is excellent as a broke, gambling addict divorced from Gillian Taylforth who is barely clinging on to his position as DI. And as startling as it is, there’s something authentic about the bluntly homophobic and misogynistic manner of the police force as shown here. Chillingly entertaining.

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