TV Review: Innocent (Series 1)

A strong cast make the first series of Innocent highly watchable, even if the storytelling never quite catches fire

“Do you still think he did it?”

Matthew Arlidge and Chris Lang’s Innocent passed me by when it premiered on ITV in 2018 but with the arrival of a second series and an unavoidable publicity push, I thought I’d go back and visit the first, not least because Lang’s stock has never been higher as the creator of Unforgotten. And before the review proper starts, a mildly silly note about names in dramas. I went to school with a David Collins so found it highly amusing but to name his brother Phil? And then never reference it…madness I tell you!

The show centres on the case of Collins who has spent seven years in prison, convicted of murdering his wife Tara. When a legal technicality sees him acquitted, he attempts the process of rebuilding his life. But with his sister-in-law now in custody of his two children and a high degree of suspicion still floating around the air as the police reopen the case to try and find out once and for all who killed Tara, that is much easier said than done. Continue reading “TV Review: Innocent (Series 1)”

TV Review: The White Princess

The TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s historical novel restarts a little unsteadily with The White Princess

“The England we once knew has gone”

For whatever reason, it took four years for the Philippa Gregory TV adaptations to restart with The White Princess following on from The White Queen. And it is a series saved by the introduction of Michelle Fairley and Essie Davis as the feuding mothers of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, intent on relitigating the Wars of the Roses even as the marriage of their children was meant to have ended it.

A pre-Killing Eve Jodie Comer and Jacob Collins-Levy take on the roles of the couple forced together in the name of their country. With years of enmity between their houses and any number of horrific, murderous actions committed by them or in their names, it does require a fair bit of remembering your history lessons (or the first series) as so much is carried over. It does make you wonder a little why only one cast member (Caroline Goodall) was carried over from The White Queen. Continue reading “TV Review: The White Princess”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 3

It’s all change at Thames House as Series 3 of Spooks sees the original core team leave the security service one way or another 

“We cannot have another Tom Quinn”

I’d forgotten just monumental this series of Spooks was, as first Matthew MacFadyen’s Tom took his leave after getting a conscience, then Keeley Hawes’ Zoe was shunted off to Chile to evade justice and then David Oyelowo’s Danny shuffled off this mortal coil thanks to bloody Fiona and an annoyed Iraqi terrorist. Rupert Penry-Jones was drafted in as Adam, a friendly MI6 type who fits the Tom mould perfectly, though we could have done without his wife (more of that anon).

But even besides all the personnel shifting, the writing is shit-hot in this season, especially when the focus is on the morality of security service actions. Targeted assassinations on North Sea ferries, honeytrapping members of the Turkish mafia, these are meaty issues with some real consequences for all concerned. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
Now firmly established in the team, attention turns to her trying to get some, in the most Ruth-like possible way, ie stalking someone illegally and sharing a carbonara with a traitorous ex-colleague, this is prime Ruth territory. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 3”

TV Review: Chernobyl

In its exploration of the human stories around the nuclear accident, Craig Mazin’s mini-series Chernobyl is simply superb

“You are dealing with something that has never happened on the planet before”

Yeesh! TV dramas surely don’t have the right to be as good as Chernobyl, particularly when they’re ostensibly about such grimly horrific a topic as this,  But as creator, writer, and executive producer Craig Mazin has adroitly identified, the 1986 nuclear disaster – and the human impact it had on those closest to it – is relatively under-explored, in mainstream Western culture at least. 

Chernobyl seeks to explain what happened on that fateful day, and its terrible aftermath, on two distinct levels. Focusing in on the microlevel, we follow stories such as those of the power station workers, the first responders, the people who watched the fire burn up close. But it also takes a strategic look at the Soviet system at large, tracing the institutional problems that allowed it to happen.

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Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour

No amount of prosthetics can stop this from being my…Darkest Hour

“The deadly danger here is this romantic fantasy of fighting to the end”

Eesh. The world already has too many Churchill films, never mind the fact that two big ones were released in the same year (Brian Cox’s Churchill was the lower profile one here). And for me, there’s nothing here in Joe Wright’s direction or Anthony McCarten’s writing that merits the retread over much-covered ground.

That is not the prevailing opinion obviously, as the film’s seven Oscar nominations testify, but it is what it is. No amount of latex makes Gary Oldman’s performance palatable (and isn’t it odd that he’s getting such acclaim for a role in which he is unrecognisable), and it is a crime in the ways in which the likes of Patsy Ferran and Faye Marsay are under-utilised, nay wasted. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”