WARNING: spoilers below
BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst has brought us some pretty mean television in his career. He’s the man behind programmes such as Ordinary Lies and the David Morrissey-starring crimer The Driver, and learned his trade writing for shows like Clocking Off and Shameless. He’s a man that understands ‘gritty’. And if you’re a fan of his work, so will you.
Brocklehurst’s latest creation for the BBC is an adaptation of Mark Billingham’s novel – a work which earned Billingham the title ‘The British Dennis Lehane’ from one literary critic. We’re big Billingham fans and have high hopes for the series, so let’s hope the Beeb can do it justice.
In the Dark is a four-part series, split into two distinct parts. A dark and complicated pair of interwoven tales, each follows Greater Manchester Police’s Detective Inspector Helen Weeks as she juggles pregnancy with taking down some pretty vicious criminals. Weeks is played to perfection by the ever-excellent Swedish actress, the feline-looking MyAnna Buring (Ripper Street, The Twilight Saga, Kill List). She lends the character some believably moody cynicism and lo-fi gloom that’s as realistic as it is relatable.
It opens with a frenetic chase. DI Weeks and a PC are chasing and cornering a female drug dealer down a back street. The assailant eventually gets away after sucker punching the senior policewoman in the stomach. No big deal, you might think. But we soon learn of Weeks’ pregnancy, and that she shouldn’t be on active duty because of it. So she takes a little leave. Only to find herself immediately embroiled in a particularly tricky case of kidnapping and murder in the small Derbyshire town that she grew up in.
Joining her on her trip back home is her partner and fellow DI Paul Hopwood (Ben Batt), an altogether more chipper, but similarly no-nonsense copper type. The expectant Helen and Paul are dropping in on her former best friend from school, a woman called Linda Bates, whose husband has just been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of a young local girl.
Things are, naturally, not exactly what they appear to be in the town of Polsford and there are soon plenty of suspicious characters coming out of the woodwork in true Broadchurch style. It quickly becomes clear to Helen that Stephen Bates might not be the man responsible for the murder of Abigail Tom and the kidnapping of her and another as-yet-undiscovered youngster, Poppy Johnstone.
The local police are remarkably patient and hospitable to the two visiting DIs, as they poke their noses in all over the place. That is until they start asking some particularly awkward questions of the man running the case, a senior officer from Helen and Paul’s past played with smug aplomb by Top Boy actor Ashley Walters. Is he looking to shut the case down to quell the media storm and get an easy win? It certainly looks like it.
Now, In the Dark just wouldn’t be a modern-day TV crime drama without its female protagonist being weighed down by a traumatic incident from her past, would it? Quite. Helen seems keen to return to her hometown to help her old friend. But why? Well, it seems to be connected to some shameful secret from the girls’ past.
This opening episode was promising and has some impressive performances by its committed cast members. It starts a little slow and the script is a little unrealistic and clunky at times, but we’re encouraged enough to stick with it. Not least of all because of the surprising appearance of Peep Show’s Super Hans himself, Matt King, as a dapper and flamboyant pathologist.
We may still be a little ‘in the dark’ after the debut episode, but we’re certain that next week will shed some light on what’s really going on in Polsford…
Did you tune in for In The Dark episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!