Last week’s Safe House opener left me a bit cold. By the end of it I didn’t feel I had much of a connection with either Chris Eccleston’s traumatised ex-copper Robert and his wife Katy (Marsha Thomason) who were running the safe house in the middle of the Lake District, or the grumpy and ungrateful family they were caring for. And then there was the fact that I just didn’t buy it: I didn’t buy the fact that Robert’s wife Katy agreed so readily to turn her home into a refuge for the threatened after she had lived through what had happened to her husband’s last stab at protecting someone, and I didn’t buy Paterson’s Joseph’s copper Mark trying to bring back a man so obviously traumatised back into the fray. What kind of best mate would do that? But it’s never a good idea to give up after a first episode, especially with something that was well made and wasn’t exactly bad. And so it proved…
By the end of this episode it had become clear that this was almost as much as a drama about family than a pure crime drama, which was a good thing because this theme gave it a bit more depth. We had David and Ali, as well as their children Louisa, Joe and Sam (now brought to the safe house after his beating at the end of the first instalment), a fractured family seeing in seemingly rock-solid couple like Katy and Robert exactly what they wanted to be. With secrets exposed and revealed in this episode – Sam dealt drugs at uni and the men who assaulted him were after the money the pair had used to fund their venture and was now missing (thanks to Sam’s mate, who had done a runner); David’s bulging bank balance was because of a loan he received from an inmate at the prison he was working at to give to Sam because he needed a student loan – the family had started to bond. David apologised to his family for his lies and general cumudgeon-like behaviour. He also apologised to Robert and Katy.
Just before his dinner-table apology, Katy had whispered to David that she envied what he had – a family. Which suggested that all was not quite right in the safe house house.
So we had to two families, both wanting what the other had.
In terms of the crime drama element, things were beginning to heat up. David’s assailant and Joe’s kidnapper had been identified as a man called Michael, who had done time in the same prison David worked in over a decade ago. Could that be the connection?
In Manchester, Michael was doing his best to find out where his prey was hiding. He nicked Louisa’s boyfriend’s mobile and tried to make contact with her, and then, more drastically, he murdered Louisa’s friend Gemma. As Gemma’s lifeless body lay slumped in the bath, with her murderer trying to make her death look like a drugs overdose, it was obvious this man meant business and would stop at nothing to find the family.
Even with all this added depth thanks to the dynamic of the two families it was still all fairly predictable – there will be some sort of siege of the safe house when Michael eventually finds out where it is – and the suspense was wrung out for all its was worth.
Louisa spirited her mobile phone out of a locked drawer and texted her boyfriend. DON’T USE THE PHONE LOUISA, we all screamed. When friends Ben and Megan insisted on taking Joe and Louisa out for a sailing lesson, they had to sign their names in the register. DON’T SIGN YOUR NAMES IN THE REGISTER, we all shouted. These little scenes meant nothing at the time, but knowing that Michael is out there trying to find them, we, the audience, knew something they didn’t. The purest definition of suspense.
There was also a another dimension to this episode, and that was Robert’s ongoing recovery of his memory of the night he and the woman who was in his protection – Susan Reynolds – was shot. Pieces began to trickle back to him; A gift she gave him on the night they were both shot; a close relationship; a kiss. As the series goes on we’ll eventually see what actually happened – perhaps it has something to do with the case in the present day. I’m speculating here, but could Michael actually be after Robert?
For our episode one review, go here