ITV’s newest crime drama Hollington Drive arrives on our screens at something of an appropriate juncture. The first of its four episodes popped up in our living rooms on what was probably the briskest, most frigid day of the year so far. We don’t know about you, but Wednesday night was the first time the heating’s been on in our house since February.
How is it appropriate timing exactly? Well, this new suburban noir has a decidedly cool, even icy feel to it. Every scene whooshes past leaving a real chill in the air. There’s something cold about the characters and style of the thing. Whether that’s intentional or not is slightly tricky to assert just yet.
Hollington Drive itself is a cul-de-sac in an unnamed town, somewhere in England’s ‘central counties’. Shades of Line of Duty and their vague Midlands geography, there. Those shades are coloured darker yet when we’re introduced to the domestic thriller’s main character, a woman named Theresa. She’s played with a fitting frostiness by Anna Maxwell Martin, Line of Duty’s domineering ice queen DCS Patricia Carmichael.
Theresa and partner Fraser (Rhashan Stone, The Smoke, Keeping Faith) live in a huge and really rather snazzy house on an impressively expensive-looking dead end street. Next door is Theresa’s stern sister Helen (Rachael Stirling, Tipping the Velvet, The Bletchley Circle) and her seemingly rather dull husband David (Peter McDonald, Dublin Murders). It’s all very idyllic, with abodes you just know Phil and Kirsty would highly approve of. Now, this being television, this suburban dream can’t last, can it…?
And it doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t even stretch to the first ad break. Just a few scenes in and the basis for the plot is laid out: a neighbour’s child goes missing. Quite possibly the last people to see the kid are Theresa’s son Ben and his cousin, Helen’s daughter Eva. It soon becomes clear that Ben may have been involved in some bullying that the now-missing boy Alex was having to deal with. A nervous and traumatised woman, Theresa rather quickly becomes suspicious of her son. Later in the episode, we learn the rather shocking reason why that is. Suffice to say, her trauma is more than warranted.
On paper, this is fairly standard midweek ITV crime drama stuff: missing kids, affairs, more than meets the eye domestic intrigue headed up by a strong female-led cast. With, say, Katherine Kelly in the lead role, we’d carry on watching, certainly. But we’d also feel like we have a fairly good handle on things, we’d know what to expect from the next three weeks. As it is, with Anna Maxwell Martin heading things up, we’re not so certain. Add in the unsettling but atmospheric tone and we may well be in for something a little different here. We’ll see.
As ever, this opening episode is here to show us around the place. We meet the characters, get drip fed the plot and find out a little background. From next Wednesday we expect things to warm up a little bit. Only on the telly, though. We’ll still probably need to stick the heating on.
Did you tune in for Hollington Drive episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Spoilers for Hollington Drive episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
How far would you go to protect your children…? Would you:
Don’t worry, these questions are all entirely rhetorical. We don’t want you to answer them in the comments section or anything. They’re some of the posers put to us by ITV’s latest dead-children-found-in-a-wood crime drama, the eerie domestic thriller Hollington Drive.
Theresa (Line of Duty ice queen Anna Maxwell-Martin) and her somehow even icier sister Helen (Rachael Stirling, Tipping the Velvet) are the ones facing the dilemmas. In their case, they both seem quite prepared to do whatever needs to be done in order to keep their kids out of trouble.
With local lad Alex missing and the siblings’ offspring Ben (Fraser Holmes) and Eva (Amelie Bea Smith) tied to the scene with something of a motive, Theresa started this second episode understandably concerned that her son may have been involved. Her theory was quickly proven right here when Ben admits that he and his cousin found little Alex dead, attempted CPR on him, panicked and dragged him into some water to hide him. Then both lied about it for fear of being implicated.
To verify his story, a fraught Theresa headed to the woods to look for the submerged boy, only to be spotted and quizzed by a suspicious detective – played by Horrible Histories star and Peep Show’s Gerard, Jim Howick – putting her very much in the police’s thoughts. Which isn’t a great place to be when you’re possibly planning to cover up the murder of a child.
And it is murder. Alex’s body is soon found and we later learn that the boy was killed some time before Ben and Eva discovered him, seemingly putting them in the clear. But not before Theresa found herself claiming to have seen a suspect in the woods in a genuinely – and rather unexpectedly – funny scene where she finds herself having to lie to an e-fit artist. The move soon backfired when the imaginary generic old perv avatar tallied up with a known character, the local newspaper photographer. A man known for ‘destroying his hard drives’.
Has Theresa inadvertently framed an innocent man? Or accidentally fingered the real murderer? We’ll find out. The former is possible, the latter seems unlikely. The real killer will be someone far more innocuous, no doubt. C’mon… We’ve all seen enough TV crime dramas by now, haven’t we?
Stirling’s breathy headmistress with the Cleopatra hairdo floats around again here, an enigmatic figure. Carrying on with the victim’s father, she’s got secrets, for sure. Not least of all the tampering of evidence. Deleting her daughter’s input in a bullying group chat on Alex’s iPad isn’t something she’ll want the police to find out.
The kids now – apparently – in the clear, the third episode will need to shift focus. So the second half of Hollington Drive will likely take something of a new direction. It looks like we’ll be firmly in whodunit territory for the next fortnight. It’s familiar enough ground, but there’s something about the stylised nature of the thing and the slightly odd tone that promises a conclusion of some novelty. That’s the hope, anyway.
So far, it’s been fairly average stuff, elevated only really by the rich, cinematic cinematography and Anna Maxwell Martin – an actress who couldn’t give a bad performance if she tried.
Did you tune in for Hollington Drive episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Still catching up on Hollington Drive episode 3? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
‘Creepy suburban drama’. ‘Eerie domestic thriller’. We’ve called ITV’s latest Wednesday night crimer a fair few things over these past couple of weeks. As we enter the final lap of the series where everyone’s houses ARE ALL JUST SO WONDERFULLY CLEAN AND TIDY ALL OF THE TIME, there’s no real other word for it now but ‘whodunit’. As is so often the case with our favourite genre of TV production, it all comes down to one question… ‘who’s the killer?‘
Three episodes down of the allotted four and, while more than watchable, Hollington Drive continues to promise ever so slightly more than it delivers. It’s creeping along nicely and has built an engaging – if somewhat familiar – story over these past few weeks. There’s just something a little missing. That edge-of-your-seat feeling. Don’t get us wrong, we’re quite enjoying the thing. We’re just enjoying it while being fully reclined on the sofa, hearts beating at a regular pace.
It looks beautiful. The direction is classy and clever, with only the cinematography trumping it. Imaginative, creative and lush; each scene is a work of art. An improved script with a few fresher ideas and ITV could have really been onto something here.
To that eternal poser, then. Who is responsible for little Alex’s death? Thankfully, episode 3 introduced no new suspects, so it seems unlikely that we’ll be subjected to a grand rug pull next week with some Johnny-Kill-Lately chucked in as the murderer. Three-quarters of the way through the series and we’re left wondering if, in fact, Helen (Rachael Stirling) is The Bad Gal. Okay, she comes across a little cold, but surely she doesn’t have antifreeze running through her veins, does she?
In the battle of the sibling fringes, Helen’s severe Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction ‘do easily beats her sister Theresa’s wispier Michelle Fowler-like bangs. And in the war of who’s more unlikeable, she probably just about wins over Anna Maxwell Martin’s character.
A conniving sort, Helen’s certainly covering something up, with her incessant desire to stop people talking to the police. The thing is, we know it’s not Helen who killed the boy, don’t we? TV crime dramas operate in a parallel universe where Occam’s razor needs some serious sharpening. The simplest and most obvious explanation is rarely the best one.
Next Wednesday evening’s fourth and final instalment of Hollington Drive has a fair amount of lifting to do after this third part. Slightly more of a mood piece this week, it was all furtive glances and suspicious, furrowed brows. The televisual equivalent of a game of pass the parcel. The conclusive chapter will no doubt see that present unwrapped and the killer revealed. Let’s just hope that the big unveiling justifies the time invested over the past month. And that the wrapping paper is quickly shoved into the recycling bin and doesn’t make a mess of any of the WEIRDLY CONSTANTLY SPOTLESS ROOMS.
What did you think of Hollington Drive episode 3? Let us know your thoughts on the crime drama in the comments below!
Spoilers for Hollington Drive episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
We’d normally approach the final review of any series with a little caution. While it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to read a review of a show you’ve not yet seen if you’re wary of spoilers, we’re always conscious of not wanting to ruin any big reveals for anyone. That said, we’re going to break with tradition a little here and drop a rather hefty spoiler here in this look back at the fourth and final Hollington Drive. So look away now if you don’t want to know the score…
Why are we breaking with our usual protocol? Well, in the nicest possible way, we’re fairly sure we’re not going to upset too many folk. Only for all its style, slick direction and pretty cinematography, ITV’s latest Wednesday night offering hasn’t attracted all that much of a following. In fact, track the show’s hashtag on Twitter and it reveals some quite fervent distaste, at least among those live tweeting along with it, anyway.
The episode opened with Helen (Rachael Stirling) and her husband (Peter McDonald) in the aftermath of his suicide attempt. Was it provoked by the discovery of Helen’s affair with Alex’s dad, Gareth? Or due to the burden of some much darker knowledge? As it transpired, it was the former. That didn’t put Theresa’s sister in the clear in terms of little Alex’s murder, though. We were to soon find out that it was indeed Stirling’s character who ended the child’s life. Albeit by accident.
Theresa worked this out after her sibling intentionally stacked the car she was driving the pair around in – an odd move in and of itself. When the penny dropped, all became clear. Whodunit wrapped up, there was – at least – a neat tying up of the plot. And the conclusion, with its impressive crash sequence, was mildly thrilling.
Without wanting to sound overly patronising, you can see what the writers were gunning for here with this series. The eeriness of the domestic settings were no coincidence; the sterile houses, well-manicured lawns and uniformly designed and built houses were all intentional. Homogenisation is rarely a good thing for humans and suburbia can be something of a prison. Middle class aspirations aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. Keeping Up Appearances may have been a funny sitcom, but keeping up appearances in real life can be exhausting. And, in this case, deadly.
That’s what, seemingly, lead writer Sophie Petzal (Blood) was aiming for. It was, however, a bit of a swing and a miss. What we ended up with was a slightly bland and forgettable four weeks of disjointed, familiar plotlines, staccato pacing, odd overacting and far too much BLOODY WHISPERING.
It’s so commonplace to almost be cliche now, but why? WHY?! Why do so many TV dramas encourage their cast to mumble, mutter and murmur their lines? Are they taking a kickback from the subtitling companies…?
Few viewers will regard Hollington Drive as a classic and there’s little reason to think it’ll return to our screens in any shape in the future. It wasn’t a disaster by any stretch and had its plus points – after all, Anna Maxwell Martin never disappoints. But don’t expect to see this four-parter troubling too many people’s Best of 2021 lists come the end of the year.
Did you catch Hollington Drive episode 4? What were your thoughts on the series? Let us know your opinions in the comments below…