WARNING: spoilers for In the Dark episode 1 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!
WARNING: spoilers for In the Dark episode 2 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
“It’s what I do. I sabotage my life.” That’s what Greater Manchester Detective Inspector Helen Weeks tells DI Adam Perrin, the colleague she’s been having an affair with, at the beginning of the second episode of BBC One’s new Mark Billingham adaptation, In the Dark.
But what’s behind it all? Why does she subconsciously fight against her own happiness? What’s eating away at her? Why is she so prone to bouts of erratic behaviour and violent outbursts? Well, in the closer to this first two-parter starring MyAnna Buring as troubled detective Weeks, we finally found out…
Helen has been holding on to a secret for almost two decades. It’s what made her leave her hometown of Polsford and never return – until the murder of a young girl and a friend in need drew her back, that is. It turns out that for years, she and her school friend were sexually abused by a friend of her father, a local councillor.
While an investigation into a murdered teenager might not exactly be cause for celebration – on the surface of things – Weeks should be happy. She’s got a devoted partner, DI Paul Hopkins, and she’s expecting a baby. But the trauma she suffered as a child in the town she’s had to revisit keeps reopening wounds which refuse to heal. Her memories seem to feed an impulsiveness which might just have led to her infidelity in the first place. And now there’s a question mark over who the father of her unborn child is – something which looks like it will tear Helen and Paul apart.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. This week’s episode saw a lot more of Matt King’s idiosyncratic pathologist character, which injects just the right amount of comic relief while helping push the plot on a little too. He even gets in a bit of rough and tumble at one point.
The plot hinges around a young local who can provide the lead suspect, Stephen Bates, with a rock solid alibi. Sixteen-year-old Aurora was with him on the night of the murder and she can prove it. This vindicates Weeks’ theory that her friend’s husband is innocent. The question now is, who’s guilty? As it turns out, the killer was hiding in plain sight all along.
Despite a blazing row in which Helen reveals to Paul her history of abuse and affair (and MyAnna Buring shows off her not inconsiderable acting chops), the two team up to chase the culprit down to a nearby pumping station where Poppy, the kidnapped girl, is being held – a mission which sees the killer meet a very sticky end indeed.
It’s like the old saying goes, ‘Nothing bonds a warring couple like solving a murder, saving a kidnapped girl and killing a man.’
Did you tune in for In the Dark episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers for In the Dark episode 3 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
DI Helen Weeks and her partner DI Paul Hopwood are back from their rather stressful murder-solving trip away and settling back into life in Manchester. Slowly but surely they’re recovering from the trauma of what happened in Polesford and getting used to the idea that Helen’s baby is probably not Paul’s.
It might not be the ideal situation, but the pair are healing their wounds and looking to the future. But that future is cruelly snatched away from them as a shocking incident sees Paul die and a devastated Helen forced to expose herself to the dangerous world of organised crime. A world that, it seems, her now late partner might well have been caught up in…
It’s a bold move killing off a major character so unexpectedly just ten minutes into a programme during the middle of its run. Sometimes such a move can look contrived or desperate – but done right, it can be a shockingly effective plot development that leaves an audience stunned (think Ned Stark in series one of Game of Thrones or Jimmy Darmody in series two of Boardwalk Empire). And it works brilliantly here. Credit must go to screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst (of Ordinary Lies and Shameless fame) who’s adapted the programme so shrewdly from Mark Billingham’s bestselling novels.
Grieving, emotionally tattered and now almost full term, Helen conducts her own investigation into Paul’s bizarre death. An investigation which leads her not only to a menacing Manchester crime boss, but to the drug-running gangs of a nearby sink estate.
As with the first two-parter of BBC One’s In the Dark, this second double header is all about the emotional strength of a pregnant detective when faced with tremendous grief, trauma and some seriously nasty characters. And, as with the two previous episodes, it’s elevated from decent police procedural to classy examination of the human condition by the subtlety of MyAnna Buring’s central performance.
A lot of dramas would have injected multiple scenes of Helen crying or looking at photos of her dead partner and mooning. But we know the inner strength of the character. She’ll cry later.
Her first instinct is to get out there and knock on doors. Even if those doors open up into the intimidating lairs of big shot gangsters like Frank Linnell – played with suitable menace by Edge of Darkness and National Treasure’s Tim McInnerny. A lair that, weirdly, looks almost exactly the same as the Dragon’s Den. But Helen’s not there to negotiate investment – she wants to know about Paul’s involvement with the shady crime boss.
Paul’s death, at the shaking hands of reluctant gangster Theo – played sensitively, if ever-so-slightly unconvincingly by Fisayo Akinade – was entirely accidental. But the retribution is swift and violent. The gang Theo’s been tempted into begins feeling some serious – and murderous – heat. Is Frank behind it…?
This week we were robbed of the brilliantly offbeat figure of Peep Show’s Matt King channeling Quentin Crisp by way of Russell Brand as the rakish pathologist. But, given the rather serious tone of proceedings, that was probably for the best. However enjoyable King has been so far, comic relief would have been more than a little jarring here.
In the Dark episode 3 further plunges Helen into danger and continues to make us confront the rather odd dichotomy of a woman who is both a vulnerable, damaged and broken soul and yet a strong and unstoppable force of nature at the same time.
We’ve seen female badasses on the small screen plenty of times in the past – particularly in crime dramas – but there’s something about the unique and realistic portrayal of a flawed but resilient and iron-willed woman here that really stands out.
Far be it for us to tell BAFTA what to do with their awards, but MyAnna Buring really does take In the Dark into the light.
Did you tune in for In the Dark episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
WARNING: spoilers for In the Dark episode 4 below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
Adapting two of Mark Billingham’s novels across just four episodes of the BBC series In the Dark was a brave call by the programme’s screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst. Fitting such a huge amount of plot and characterisations into just under four hours of television was risky. But it paid off. As this fourth and final hour came to an end, we can look back at a relatively short series that was jam-packed with action and fraught with high emotion.
In the Dark hinges around its central character like no other TV crime drama of late. Line of Duty has a range of protagonists; Broadchurch explores the lives of dozens of people. But here, it’s all about Detective Inspector Helen Weeks. Every inch of the story revolves around her in some way or another. And so Helen has to be a strong, well-formed character. One who’s realised in a multi-layered performance. And thanks to Billingham, Brocklehurst and MyAnna Buring, that’s exactly what we get.
Episode four begins with Helen being cornered by a local criminal. Kevin Sherwood is a money launderer with the police in his pocket and connections up the hoo-ha. He warns her to stop digging into the bizarre death of her partner Paul. It’s not the first time a gangster’s told her to stop her investigation – and it won’t be the last. But our Helen’s not really one to be told what to do…
She soon finds out some rather shocking information about Paul and whether or not he was a corrupt cop. And it’s a revelation that puts Helen on a path with Manchester crime boss Frank Linnell once again. As well as some teenage gang members on a nearby estate. And even some far from pleasant bent coppers from her own department.
Helen, and us by extension, learn that there was a lot more than met the eye to Paul’s ‘accident’…
As with the three episodes leading up to this finale, the supporting cast does a fine job – but it’s all about Buring here. There is a real deft subtlety to her performance that belies the stereotype of a bereaved and damaged woman. She manages to present DI Weeks as a sarcastic, fearless and wily operator at the same time as showing the vulnerable, grieving, scared and nine months pregnant Helen at exactly the same time.
We end with Helen giving birth and, still mourning the loss of Paul, it’s about as emotional and upsetting a labour scene as you’re likely to ever see on British television. It’s dark, but not in that superficial way that many crime dramas are. There’s no stylised moodiness or lingering shots of a woods at dusk. The darkness comes from very real human emotions which are wrought to life stunningly by MyAnna Buring.
Alright, alright. We’ll stop saying how good she is in this. We’re sure you’ve got the idea by now.
Will In the Dark return for a second run? Who knows. We’d love to see DI Weeks back, juggling her newly-found parenthood with the rigours of police work. And there’s more source material to draw from. Mark Billingham’s book Good as Dead could make for a good adaptation. The novel features his main character DI Tom Thorne too, so could work as a bit of a crossover (David Morrisey played him on Sky One’s Thorne back in 2010). But maybe that’s just wishful thinking on our part, as crime fiction lovers.
Whatever happens, we love DI Weeks. Let’s just hope it isn’t years before we see her again.
Did you tune in for In the Dark episode 4? What did you think of the series? Let us know in the comments below!