TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)

With its third instalment The Promise, Messiah loses its way a little bit given the high standards of the first two serials

“I wasn’t alone, other people were there”

The problem with doing things so damn well, is that you then have to live up to those standards. Messiah found itself in such a position after a first and second series that helped to redefine the serial killer genre and with  2004’s The Promise, it struggled to meet that bar. Written again by Lizzie Mickery, it suffers from the unnecessary compulsion to cleave to the template of prior series rather than having the boldness to step outside.

So with Ken Stott’s Red and Neil Dudgeon’s Duncan pasts having figured so heavily in the last two series, it isn’t hard to work out that it is Frances Grey’s Kate to have a go through the emotional wringer. It starts sooner than you might think with a daring opening sequence set in a prison that is highly effective. And as deaths of people involved start to mount up, long buried secrets prove the key to finding the killer and saving the day.

There’s some pretty gruesome deaths (I’d take a moment before going in an MRI machine…) and an impressive death rate, but the main thread ends up feeling a little tired, particularly with the flashbacks to Kate’s past which just feels like a retread of Red’s from Series 1. I had forgotten whodunnit though, so it was fun to be in the dark for a good while and to see how a elegantly plotted twist finds quite a profound note to finish on. 

The ensemble here is fun too. The show opens on baby Sam Troughton and Leo Bill, Catherine Russell and Michael Maloney deliver strong work as an anguished pair of doctors and Lucifer’s Tom Ellis is particularly impressive. And Messiah at 75% is still good value for money, it just can’t match what has past and what is yet to come in Messiah: The Harrowing, ie the arrival of Helen McCrory and Maxine Peake!

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