Monday nights on ITV have turned into Michael Crompton night. For the past two weeks I really enjoyed his adaptation of true story Code Of A Killer, but now the writer turns his attention to an entirely fictional four-parter. Starring Christopher Eccleston and Marsha Thomason, it’s the story of an ex-copper and his wife trying to rebuild their lives at a Lake District bolthole after a severe trauma. But it’s not long before he – and his wife – are dragged back into the fray again.
The opening shots of Safe House saw Eccleston’s character, Robert, wild swimming in the lake that overlooks their new house. It was the perfect metaphor for his mental state. After narrowly escaping with his life after botched protection duty – where a woman, Susan Reynolds, was fatally shot (as we’re shown in developing flashbacks throughout the episode) – he’s now enveloping himself in the cool, peaceful, membranous waters of the Lake District. Water blocks out all sound, all noise, all thought, all guilt. It plunges the swimmer into an almost pre-birth, amniotic state. It’s the perfect place to hide.
This hiding place is rudely interrupted by a birthday party, one in which Robert’s old boss Mark (Patterson Joseph) attends. He’s worried about his old friend; worried that he’s wasting his life away. Robert’s wife Katy looks on when Mark suggests that their secluded hideaway would be the perfect location for a safe house, to help hide and shield other people who have experienced trauma.
Why did he suggest this? Because back in the real world, a family was being hounded by a Mysterious Bearded Man. He had tried to kidnap the son, Joe, at a fairground and beat up the dad, David, to within an inch of his life. Suddenly the family is plunged into a nightmare, with their assailant reckoned to be after them for no apparent reason (or one is yet to be revealed). Every time The Mysterious Bearded Man came onto screen, mostly behind the wheel of his car, scary music slithered out of the screen. Yes, he was evil and the music told us he was.
Despite David’s protestations, the family was moved to Robert and Katy’s new safe house (this made me scratch my head. We were told Katy wanted a baby, and their new Lake District idyll represented a new start for them both. But there was hardly any resistance to the safe house idea. It just sort of happened). Soon the family were trying to get to grips with no contact with the outside world, no mobile phones or internet. The dynamic changed, the house looming out of the trees with its many rooms, hiding places and nooks all becoming more significant. We were into one location territory.
The final shots of the episode saw David’s step-son, inexplicably sleeping in his car, was attacked by The Mysterious Bearded Man and his cohorts. Yes, he has cohorts.
And that was it. There were some interesting moments that developed between the son, Joe, and Robert who had seemed to bond, but thing’s for sure – when the grumpy, suspicious and taciturn David, out of hospital, this dynamic will change again. And you can bet that The Mysterious Bearded Man will find the house and cause all kinds of havoc and for Robert, and this will probably be a rite-of-passage story of redemption for him.
If I don’t sound interested you’d be right. It’s always great to see Eccleston and Thomason on screen, but there seemed to be something cloddy and muddy about the storytelling. The premise, too, is something we’ve seen before in movies and even though the idea that the world suddenly shrinks when you start to focus in on one house (the thriller equivalent of an Agatha Christie, one-location murder mystery) is an interesting one, I struggled to sustain any interest in the family who needed the safe house, and the traumatised people already there.
Everything seemed to be signposted, too, from the villainous musical motifs that accompanied The Mysterious Bearded Man to the way Robert and Katy had NO TIME to install proper surveillance equipment, thus leaving them wide open to attack.
Bit of a disappointment, to be honest.
For our Christopher Eccleston interview, go here