Collateral is the award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter David Hare’s first venture into episodic television – so it’s initially surprising to find this fiercely political animal venturing into that chronically oversaturated market, the crime thriller.
But as his narrative, which opens with a pizza delivery rider being shot dead in the street, begins to unfold, it quickly becomes clear that Hare has adopted the language of the police procedural to tell a bigger story about the times – and the country – we live in.
The victim, it transpires, was a Syrian refugee, whose terrified family are found sheltering in a dingy garage. There is no paper trail for the police to follow because, as another dispatch rider explains, ‘this isn’t a paperwork kind of place’. He’s talking about the pizza joint but, to Hare, it’s representative of a sprawling, neo-Dickensian underbelly of society – peopled largely by desperate immigrants – operating below the radar on Britain’s booming, unregulated gig economy.
Leading the murder investigation is DI Kip Glaspie, a heavily pregnant former champion pole-vaulter (yes, really) played with a winning mix of compassion and steel by Carey Mulligan, no less. (I’m not sure where the pole vaulting is going to come into it – I guess in a future episode she might propel herself, baby bump and all, over a high wall in pursuit of a fleeing crim, but it doesn’t really seem that sort of show.)
The stellar ensemble cast – what Hare calls, not without justification, a ‘National Theatre of the tube’ – also features Billie Piper as a troubled single mother, Nicola Walker as a gay vicar in love with an illegal alien and (but of course) John Simm as the local Labour MP. Such star wattage shouldn’t blind us, though, from some terrific (and noticeably less white) supporting players, including Nathaniel Martello-White, Vineeta Rishi and Kae Alexander.
It’s not a whodunnit – we already know the assassin is an Army captain, played by Jeany Spark – but Hare’s forensic investigation not just of her motive, but the faultiness it reveals spreading beneath 21st century Britain, promises to be among the year’s most vital television.
Mike ‘Doctor Foster’ Bartlett is fast becoming TV’s go-to writer for arresting but faintly ludicrous revenge tragedies. This one starred John Simm (yes, him again) as a father who, mad with grief, vowed to bring down the surgeon (Adrian Lester) he held responsible for his son’s death. Along the way, it offered some heavy-handed observations on the class divide, which Simm helpfully spelled out in flashing lights for the hard-of-thinking. All very silly.
Earth’s Natural Wonders
The BBC’s Natural History Unit is really spoiling us lately. But while Earth’s Natural Wonders offers more of the stunning visuals familiar from Blue Planet II et al, the animals under the spotlight this time are Homo sapiens – specifically, the hardy folk who build their lives in some of the world’s most extreme (but screensaver-friendly) environments. Jaw-dropper of the week? The granny in the Canadian Arctic foraging for mussels in an eerily water-free cave under the frozen sea.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 15, 2018
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