Steven Moffat gets a starry cast along for the ride in Inside Man but indulges in a little too much preposterous plotting
“How does anyone ever get murdered? There’s so much admin”
Hmmm. With just a few tweaks, you feel that Inside Man could easily have become a camp classic, trashily enjoyable in its lurid silliness. But everyone is taking it so seriously, that instead you can’t help but focus on how increasingly ridiculous it all is, which isn’t really what anyone wants.
This four-part drama is split across two key strands. Somewhere in the US, Jefferson Grieff is on death row for the murder of his wife but has been allowed to develop a side-hustle as a Sherlock-like savant solving all manner of cases from prison. And somewhere in the UK, Harry Watling is an everyday vicar, managing the travails of his congregation with the banalities of family life, including dealing with his teenage son’s math tutor.
How the devil are these two connected? Well I’m going to try and avoid spoilers here… There’s definite enjoyment in the unravelling of the transatlantic threads, to begin with at least, and the way that cliffhangers are employed is certainly well done, leaving us hungry for more details. And the way that violence creeps up unexpectedly has a horribly convincing ring to it, the ramifications of a bad decision the impetus for so much tragedy.
It is one thing to make *a* bad decision though. So much of what ensues in the UK portion of the story necessitates suspension of disbelief like never before, so many scarcely believable and baffling choices being made, purely in service of a narrative supposition rather than anything one can really connect with. Thus it becomes silly rather than serious, folly rather than fate, which undermines so much of its dramatic heft.
It is cast to the hilt. David Tennant, Lyndsey Marshal and Dolly Wells play well for the most part in the vicarage and Stanley Tucci and Atkins Estimond swelter effectively in the Texan heat. But it is hard to feel much for these characters, or even to remain that engaged with them, as we switch between impossibly clever deduction and frustratingly stupid decision-making.