That new Chiwetel Ejiofor BBC serial noir thriller centered on a murder of a drug baron made its TV debut on BBC 2, in the UK, last night! So, did any of our readers across the pond watch episode 1? And if so, care to share your thoughts on it? I, like a lot of others around here, are definitely curious.
I searched the web earlier today for reviews of the program, to get an idea of how it was being received over there, and, below, I’ve clipped portions of some of those write-ups I found, as a kind of summary of what some thought of it. The not-so good news is that, reviews are mixed thus far! Of all 4 I read, only 1 was decisively positive. I wouldn’t say that the other 3 ourtright hated it, but they certainly don’t love it.
A quick refresher, if you’re just joining us… the new series is called The Shadow Line, and in it Ejiofor stars as Detective Inspector Jonah Gabriel, who, as the BBC’s breakdown puts it, is “a cop with a bullet in his brain, whose amnesia leaves him doubtful of his own moral compass.; and further… Gabriel is on his first case, since being shot during a botched police operation that left his partner dead. He’s now been assigned to investigate the murder of a drug baron, and has to follow an increasingly complicated line of investigation, all the while wondering whether he can trust anyone, or even himself.
From The Telegraph: “… To you and me, this may sound like the makings of a moderately promising thriller. To Blick, though, it clearly represents something much more significant – which is why the writing and directing apparently need to be laden down with such deep portentousness. Almost all the characters speak to each other in solemn little aphorisms. “Truth’s like lightning,” said the older of the cops in hairnets at the start, “it always finds the line of least resistance.” “Even if you drew your last breath on the Titanic,” Gabriel’s boss told a rather baffled press conference, “you still woke up that morning to a beautiful day. As for the direction, that tends to emphasise the profound importance of what we’re seeing by providing telling close-ups of, say, people’s feet coming out of car doors – as if nobody had thought of doing that before. Or by reminding us of the title by regularly filming people silhouetted against white backgrounds. Or simply by making. Things. Happen. Very. Slowly.“
From The Dabbler: “The cast is mixed. Rafe Spall is absurdly mannered and unconvincing as a psycho gangster, but Christopher Ecclestone is good, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Inspector Jonah Gabriel (pity about the thudding Bible-reference name), who is assigned the case despite having a bullet in his head which has erased crucial chunks of his memory, does his best with a script that screams “Look at me! I’m a clever script!”, and a direction that demands everyone act as slowly and gnomically as possible. ‘Pinter-esque’ is the obvious comparison. I don’t like Pinter, but if you do, you might get more than me out of The Shadow Line. Stephen Rea and Antony Sher haven’t even appeared yet, so it’ll still be worth giving them a chance to rescue it over coming episodes, and the no doubt highly-twisty plot might well entangle us yet. I don’t want to hammer this too much because the BBC has done what it’s so often accused of failing to do: taken a bold risk on an auteur. But then the problem with bold risk-taking is that you’re just as likely to end up with a turkey as an award-winner, especially if making a big, portentous drama and allowing one clever artiste to script, direct and produce.”
From The Arts Desk: “Everyone thus far seems inclined to talk knowingly, even metatextually, as if channelling some deeper awareness of their reincarnated roles in some crime commedia dell’arte… The created world feels somehow so familiar, the dialogue spoken so winkingly, that I half expected Danny Dyer to walk into shot clutching a copy of early Pinter… Yet at the heart of the drama are two performances of carefully contrived stillness and it’s on these more than any other that the camera will be keeping an eye. Eccleston’s angular northern mug, so often given over to lashings of angry passion, has found an intriguing new use for itself as a poker face. You wouldn’t have him down as a villain, which is of course the point. As for Ejiofor, who carries the sorrow of the world in his eyes, he looks a bit too sensitive for police work at this stage.“
And finally, the best review I could find, from Cult Box: “Appropriately, given that it begins with the discovery of a body, the opening episode of The Shadow Line moves at a pace that’s almost funereal, although that isn’t to say it’s boring. It’s simply slow – methodical, even – the plot unfolding so gradually that the movement is barely palpable. It’s something refreshingly rare in British-made police dramas: the story has room to breathe. Despite its gentle pacing, and the familiar hierarchical structure of the principal police officers… this is no ordinary cop drama. It’s brutal, unflinching and actually rather nasty in a way that British police shows rarely are. In fact, with its washed-out, almost monochromatic visuals and its protracted length – seven episodes – it’s more in keeping with imported European shows such as The Killing or Spiral. If it builds on the promise of this first episode, its place in such exalted company will be assured.“
That’s it! So far anyway… Like I said, mixed.
The 7-episode series is written, produced and directed by Hugo Blick.
Not sure about a stateside release. But it sounds sufficiently gripping on paper, and the talent involved is stellar, so, I’m definitely intrigued. Maybe, it’ll follow Luther’s path.
There’s a video preview on BBC Two’s website, but it’s only viewable for UK audiences; if any of you in the UK have the tools to extract the clip and upload to YouTube, or some other video sharing site, holla! :D