WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
It’s got a certain style to it, has ITV1’s newest drama Dark Heart. There’s gloomy lighting, jagged camerawork and subtle, haunting music. But those things, along with the inventively gruesome murders and child abuse plotlines are still relatively familiar tropes of the late night crime drama. Especially on ITV. That said, this new Tom Riley-starring series is extremely effective with what it has and how it goes about things.
One stylistic trait the programme features quite prominently – and quite originally, we think – is the use of soft fade. The technical term for it is ‘vignette’. It’s defined as ‘a small illustration or photograph which fades into its background without a definite border.’ What it basically means in this context is that scenes often have an oddly blurred outer edge.
This use of an Instagram-type filter is entirely intentional, of course. We just can’t quite work out if we think it’s clever and atmospheric or just a wee bit annoying. We’re veering towards the former at this stage, but may have to reserve judgement until later in the series.
We left the previous debut slice of Dark Heart with a killer terrorising freed child sex offenders. The evidence led to a conspiracy among the children’s families to exact revenge on the offenders after the CPS had been forced to drop the charges. A little digging here in episode 2 led the intense figure of DI Will Wagstaffe and his trusty sidekick, DC Josie Chancellor, to suspect someone had been recruited to do the dirty work for them.
This use of an Instagram-type filter is entirely intentional, of course. We just can’t quite work out if we think it’s clever and atmospheric or just a wee bit annoying.
Will isn’t totally highly-strung, though. He can decompress and unwind. His preferred method? Spontaneous lovemaking with his beautiful ex-girlfriend Sylvie (Miranda Raison). It seems the relaxation is useful in more than one way too. During their post-coital chit-chat, Sylvie mentions a friend of hers who was married to one of Will’s superiors, Bob Jessop (Christopher Fulford). He’d left his wife after an affair with a woman working for the Crown Prosecution Service. With that, a few things fell into place and our man had cracked the case. Almost.
Jessop was involved in setting up the vigilante group and hatching the plans, but he wasn’t the blunt instrument doing the grunt work. That, we soon discover (through more of Will’s smart dot-joining detective work) was DS Rick Johnson, one of Will’s charges.
Now, we don’t want to gloat, but we’d picked him out as our suspect straight away. Not just because he was rather unpleasant, but because we had a hunch that the old detective show trick of the most recognisable actor in the show being the culprit might be in play. In this case, DS Johnson was it. Actor Tom Brooke is a familiarly odd face, showing up on dramas like Bodyguard, Sherlock, Preacher and Game of Thrones.
The theme of revenge which looks to run through the spine of the show was evident as the last set piece played out. Rick’s daughter had been abused by his third victim and, as he had an inoperable and fatal brain tumour, that was enough to tip him over the edge. Will, however, wouldn’t stand for it and rather bravely decided to fight his colleague to save the man’s life. Despite Rick wielding a running chainsaw.
With the aid of his two trusty underlings, ‘staffe gets his man and it’s pretty much case closed. Until next week…
It’s a case of so far, so good for Dark Heart as far as we’re concerned. We’re two parts in with a couple more two-parters lined up for the next few Wednesday and Thursday nights. It adds a welcome touch of pulpy grimness and noir to the autumn schedules and in Will Wagstaffe we have a pretty fascinating lead. Fascinating, if seemingly unknowable. Like the entire series, the man has blurred edges. He’s a walking vignette, if you like.
Did you tune in for Dark Heart episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!