Baba Lenga is quite a character. When the unassuming bathroom attendant played by Dipo Ola is first introduced, he’s just trying to get through his thankless shift spraying cologne and handing out towels next to the toilets. He takes his job seriously, but not so seriously that, when push comes to shove, he will let a couple of hard-partying coke-heads snort a few lines. But a switch gets flipped when Baba spots that same couple in the back alley, and the aggro dude is getting a little too forceful with his hired “date.” It’s then that we see Baba’s dark side, and soon after we learn where it came from: This current U.K. bathroom attendant is a former child soldier from the Congo. His past is haunted, his secrets are black as night, and all he wants is to chase the light bursting from this adoring woman standing right in front of him.
Sadly, Baba is but one of four main characters in “We Hunt Together,” and the lack of proper development stemming from his reduced screen time is only made more exasperating by the rather stock players surrounding him. Rather than delve into his scarring formative years, Gaby Hull’s six episode first season merely uses Baba’s past as a shorthand for why he’s so willing to kill again (and without bothering to make us believe in his love at first sight). Acquired by Showtime from UKTV, “We Hunt Together” ends up feeling exactly like what it is: a placeholder, an imitator, and a rushed one at that.
The non-sequential premiere episode introduces our dueling teams of hunters. Our first group of hunters is Baba and his beloved Freddy Lane (Hermione Corfield). Freddy is a very popular phone sex operator, flaunting her in-demand status to come and go as she pleases. Such flexibility helps her make the most of her side hustle: a “Girlfriend Experience”-esque prostitution gig that repeatedly introduces her to very bad men. That’s how she meets Baba — fighting off a client and would-be rapist in the back alley of a nightclub — and that’s also how they start hunting together. Though they don’t exactly run off together on a “Natural Born Killers”-like murder spree, each target crosses them or otherwise makes their aggression almost justifiable.
Hot on their tails are DS Lola Franks (Eve Myles) and Jackson Mendy (Babou Ceesay). They, too, are new partners, with Jackson transferring over from the U.K.’s version of internal affairs and Lola being extra jumpy about it. What could she be hiding? Frankly, it’s hard to care that much given how unstoppably intrusive Jackson makes himself; he’s like the guy at a party who goes in for a hug after you’ve already said, “Excuse me, I’m experiencing flu-like symptoms,” and, “Hey, this isn’t a party — this is my home, please leave.” It’s easy to imagine how annoyed Lola gets given how taxing his constantly cheery demeanor feels for me, a passive viewer, who should really appreciate any glint of joy in this otherwise dour series.
BBC Studios / UKTV / Ludovic Robert
So the cops hunt the killers while the killers hunt their victims, and each couple goes through the very foreseeable growing pains of their new partnerships. After a premiere that slyly contorts time to keep you from immediately knowing how these two pairs will connect, “We Hunt Together” slides into a routine procedural format of new clues, fresh kills, and minimal backstory. If the first half of the season feels somewhat evenly divided between the four main characters, the latter half soon becomes Freddy’s show, and the “Bonnie and Clyde” template morphs from a less vicious, satire-free “Natural Born Killers” into a would-be “Killing Eve.” Yet Freddy lacks the style and depth of Villanelle, not to mention it’s borderline cruel to ask any actor to replicate Jodie Comer’s magnetism. Putting so much on Corfield’s shoulders is tough enough, but she’s got nowhere to go with such a rote, predictable backstory.
Directed by Carl Tibbetts, “We Hunt Together” occasionally pops with ultra-saturated colors and surrealist style. Baba and Freddy’s connection is meant to be hammered home when the two come together under an unreal spotlight, as if their love is too big for words and too long for the time it would take to say them. But these visual shortcuts don’t make time for the necessary development elsewhere. Lola and Jackson never gel, as individuals or partners; his troubled home life is handled like a requirement more than a reality (like there has to be something wrong with this guy), and a late-season choice makes no sense given his core traits.
Worse still, “We Hunt Together” has nothing to say about love, death, or these characters’ over-reliance on both. “Bonnie and Clyde” broke barriers by truthfully presenting an oft-ugly world. “Natural Born Killers” skewered the culture’s idolization of celebrity at a time when a celebrity was literally getting away with murder. “Killing Eve” deconstructs the cat-and-mouse genre as often as it pushes its leads to reexamine their own obsessions. Hull’s six-episode first season simply recycles parts of these stories in the hopes something will stick. Meanwhile, there’s Baba, a reformed killer sucked back into a world he hates by the woman he loves. Perhaps “We Hunt Together” simply needed some more time apart.
“We Hunt Together” premieres Sunday, August 9 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.