Review: From Darkness (S1 E3/4), Sunday 18th October, BBC1

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Programme Name: From Darkness - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Claire Church (ANNE-MARIE DUFF), John Hind (JOHNNY HARRIS) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall

(C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall

It was time for episode three of this head-scratcher of a crime drama. Good cast, interesting-sounding story, but ultimately badly put together, which is a shame when you consider its pedigree in front of and behind the camera. However, with only four episodes I had decided to carry on with it, battle through some of those baffling scenes and find out whodnunit. Or at least whydunit.

Claire had received a phone call from the woman who had sent her the ‘you lied’ package, telling her that her family were in danger. So the hunt was on for this woman, as it was for Claire who was feeling like she was now the one being hunted. Escaping back to the Western Isles for what she thought was respite, she was shrouded in a typhoon of paranoia.

It didn’t take her long to get back to Manchester.

One of the main devices for narrative propulsion throughout this series has seemed to be ‘oh, I left a message on your phone, didn’t you get it?’, and then a quick recap of what either Hind or Claire has missed. This time a key piece of heavy-handed exposition surmised that a student had been attacked the same night of the Mimi Fenton murder was uncovered this way. Harding faked his alibi, Hind told Claire. I tried calling you. He was there that night.

Here’s a sample from the dialogue where Hind and Claire extrapolated Lucy Maxley’s name, seemingly out of thin air.

Claire: “What if it wasn’t a prostitute? A student. There was student accomodation all around the red light district. Look, I kept a copy of every file where the abuse profile fitted with Agota’s injuries. Initially I was only interested in sex workers, but… there was one other. Chemical Births [is that what she said]. See?”

Hind: “Lucy Maxley… We had a call from a man who studied at Manchester in the 1990s. His ex-girlfriend at the time said she was attacked in the redlight district.”

Claire: “Was it Lucy Maxley?”

Hind: [Looking chastened] “I’ll give you Boyce. You can follow this up as a potential witness statement, but that’s all this is.”

I know it’s unfair to take dialogue out of context, but that little snippet does illustrate how things lurch from one marker to the next in this story.

Things went from bad to worse when Claire and Hind interviewed the boyfriend of the student, where the dialogue was so stilted and by-the-numbers it was almost laughable.

 

This student was Lucy Maxley, and it was her who had murdered Agota in a copycat fashion. But why? That’s what I wasn’t getting. Why would a victim of an attack subject another innocent young woman to the same fate she had witnessed 20 years ago? It just doesn’t add up. She told Claire she’s just another ‘fucking whore like the rest of them’, so does Lucy Maxley believe the original victims had it coming to them because they were prostitutes?

There was one creepy scene where Claire was in her swish flat, taking a bath, when she her had heard a banging noise downstairs. Someone was in the flat. Rushing down to investigate the scene, she received a phone call – from Lucy – who told Claire that if he they didn’t catch the killer she would zero in on her family.

Now feeling the threat to her family, Claire pushed the idea that she and Hind should go to Harding’s daughter’s wedding. When they got there Claire wasted no time in necking champers like it was going out of fashion. With the weight of Lucy’s threat hanging around her neck, she steamed into a confrontation with the suspect, throwing all her ammunition at him (the botched alibi, the bracelet, the land etc). She also saw his computer, with the photograph of Claire on his desktop. Just then his wife walks in, and tells them that he had faked the video because he was attending rehab and didn’t anyone to know. So that puts Harding out of the frame. Sort of.

And the final scene, where Hind and Claire almost played hide the sausage (at the wedding!) and Claire broke down, drunk, telling him that when she was pregnant she tried to kill herself, thus killing the baby inside of her… it was all very fraught and heavy and, somehow, somehow, somehow, I just didn’t care. It was a painful, awful thing for someone to have to had gone through, but by this stage I cared so little about the characters that this poleaxing news only impacted off the surface.

Why? The dialogue, the strange, jerkily assembled scenes, the overwrought and overplayed danger music, the way each of the deaths seemed to merge into one – Sally Fisher, Mimi Fenton, Trudy Mills… who? why? what? – it was a story that was disappearing in on itself even though some pretty heavy themes of loss, guilt and shame were at its core. It’s a horrible thing to say, and of course this review is entirely subjective and Katie Baxendale is a talented writer judging by her previous works, but From Darkness just isn’t doing it for me.

 

Paul Hirons
@Son_Of_Ray

For our episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here

5 thoughts on “Review: From Darkness (S1 E3/4), Sunday 18th October, BBC1

  1. Barbara Larder

    I couldn’t agree more – what a dirge. When you do not care about the characters, it is pointless. Frankly I would like to see Norrie and Julie get together and drop their angst-ridden, current partners. So many silent scenes with nothing happening, boring, but I guess I need to see the outcome next week. This is the most disappointing effort from BBC drama for some time.

    Like

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