Dark Heart episode 1 review

Dark Heart episode 1 review

From the hard-working creator of Unforgotten and Innocent comes another heavy-hitting crime drama on ITV, the mean and moody Dark Heart. Based on the Will Wagstaffe books by novelist Adam Creed, some viewers might remember having seen a version of this opening episode some two years ago in what was a feature-length pilot shown on the now-defunct ITV channel Encore.

Since then – after a positive audience response to it – a six-part series has been commissioned and shot, with that pilot episode recut to form the first two parts. So that’s two oldies (this episode and its follow-up) and four brand new unaired instalments in this new six-part series.

Revenge, it’s often said, is a dish best served cold. And it seems that if you’re DI Will Wagstaffe in ITV’s newest crime drama, cold is fine. As is hot. Or even slightly undercooked. Only he’s a man that seems to survive solely on a diet of vengeance. Well, vengeance and lager.

‘Staffe’ has a love/hate relationship with the concept of vigilantism, it would appear. At his core, he’s seemingly driven by it. We learn later on that his general demeanour, quick temper and propensity for blank-eyed mooning comes from the murder of his parents. An act that seemingly motivated him to join the police force. Their killer was never caught, so there’s a deeper drive within him to right that wrong. Surely that’s something that will rear its head later on in the series…

On a more day-to-day level, a little retribution is dished out to his sister’s boyfriend after he spots a mark on her face suggesting he’d hit her – a few canalside sucker-punches scratching that particular itch.

But when it comes to work, he firmly believes that it’s the law of the land that should deal with offenders, not keyed-up and violent members of the public. He makes that patently abundant to his team during a rather forthright meeting following the torture-murder of a suspected child sex offender. Will makes it more than a little clear that the case is not to be taken lightly.

There’s no denying that the handsome figure of Tom Riley cuts quite the dash and seems to hint at a fascinating character with real depth

DI Will Wagstaffe is an interesting character, if a little too brooding and ‘troubled’. The brilliant but damaged detective with a penchant for alcohol and violent outbursts trope is as well-worn as most beat bobbies’ brogues, so here’s hoping Dark Heart doesn’t go overboard with Will over the coming weeks. There’s no denying that the handsome figure of Tom Riley cuts quite the dash and seems to hint at a fascinating character with real depth, though.

Peaky Blinders’ Charlotte Riley impresses as Will’s sister Juliette and there’s able support from two actors that fans of Bodyguard will recognise – Anjli Mohindra as DC Josie Chancellor (who played Nadia) and Tom Brooke as DS Rick Johnson (Sergeant Budd’s army friend and sniper Andy).

As for the plot, well, another suspected child molester – a QC – gets tortured and left for dead, but survives, though is put into an induced coma. The episode closes with someone leaving court a free man, despite heavy suggestion of his involvement in a child sex crime. As the first part draws to a close and the smug chap strolls out of court, we see our masked vigilante practising his chainsaw skills. Our third victim is lined up.

The first two episodes of Dark Heart adapt Creed’s book Suffer the Children and, on first evidence, appear to suggest we’ve a solid and thoroughly watchable series to enjoy over the coming weeks. There’s a whiff of the formulaic about this opener, with no huge risks taken. But there’s more than enough hinted at to keep us intrigued over the next five parts.

Its maiden episode now shown (kind of again), part two is being televised on Thursday evening, with the remaining (entirely new) parts coming to Wednesday and Thursday nights on ITV1 at 9pm.

We’ve got to say, based on this evidence alone, we’re pretty pleased to welcome Dark Heart to our newly dark weeknights.

Did you tune in for Dark Heart episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.

Buy Suffer the Children by Adam Creed
Suffer the Children by Adam Creed
Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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