REVIEW: The Cry (S1 E2/4)

Twists are a funny thing.

They’re de rigueur in psychological thrillers on the page – so-called domestic noirs – where each one seems to try and out-twist the next. There was no doubt a major twist(s) was going to come in The Cry, the BBC One adaptation of Helen FitzGerald’s novel (more of her on The Killing Times later this week), but I was interested to see whether it would come at the expense of the human stories being told. Twists can be so outlandish, far-fetched even, that they tend to overshadow the characterisation. It has often seemed to me that The Twist is everything in the domestic noir sub-genre, to the extent that the striving for such a jump-out-of-your-seat, adrenaline-hit moment can overshadow everything else.

And this would have been a shame if this happened in The Cry because that first episode built up a convincing portrait of a new mother on the edge. By the end of that opening installment, you had huge sympathy for Joanna (Jenna Coleman) even though the structure of the piece – with all its narrative jumps backwards and forwards – made her out to be something of an enigma: ultimately we had no idea if she was a wrong ‘un or not.

So to this second episode. The SOMETHING BAD WAS GOING TO HAPPEN© happened. Little Noah had disappeared from the back of the car (although, as many have pointed out, what Joanna was doing leaving a baby on its own in the back of a car beggared belief a little bit).

This episode focused on the emotional fall-out from the kidnapping. Alistair’s ex-wife Alex was being fitted up good and proper – especially when Noah’s DNA was found in her daughter’s bedroom and her movements before the kidnapping were being called into question – but it was at Alistair’s mother’s home where the real action was developing. Jenna Coleman’s performance as a woman in shock – so disorientated, helpless and shattered – was pretty incredible for the first half an hour or so. It was heartbreaking to see her go to pieces, clinging on to every small thing that kept her close to her son (including a little bib she lifted from the holiday apartment, which was now sealed off by the police). She was going through the mill, but such is the modern world and her desperation for information, she found a mobile phone, stole a charger from a shop and created a false profile so she could see what people were saying on social media.

They brought to life the voices from the ether very well, I thought – as Jo was reading the ‘the mother did it’ and ‘I feel so bad for that poor child’ posts, the posters appeared in the room with her, like apparitions. Strangers but friends or foes, which is social media in a nutshell. FitzGerald has, in her recent novels, shown a canny knack of mixing contemporary technology and news ways of communication in with her complex whodunits (check out Viral, for instance), and is obviously keen to explore human interaction in the 21st century. We’ve seen the depths humanity goes to – the strange fascination and subsequent lather people get into – when a high-profile child kidnapping takes place in the real world: people are quick to judge, quick to comment, quick to argue their case. Social media in these circumstances becomes an online equivalent of gossiping over the garden fence to your neighbour.

The glare of the global media and social media were taking their toll on Jo and Alistair. But Alistair – remember, his job back in Scotland is a highfalutin PR who specialises in crisis management – got to work on presenting he and his wife as victims for the throng. He coached her expertly in the lead up to the press conference (“They need to see a good mother crushed, not a bad mother hiding”), knowing that if they could get the public onside they… well, what? Look good? Gain sympathy? Or something else.

Something else.

The Twist.

Two minutes to go.

Jo told Alistair “the rules need to change”. The rules? What rules? He carted her off to the garden to a private spot where no one could hear. He told her to follow the plan. They had a plan. The police were clever, he said, (the female police officer, by the way, was excellent in this episode), and they needed to stick to it.


A flashback: there was no baby in the car. Jo counted as if her life depended on it while Alistair went into the supermarket. She had a mark to hit. Once she had counted to the correct number, she was to follow him inside. There was no baby in the car.

They had planned it all.

But why? My initial feeling is that they had set it all up so that they could fit up Alex, get her out of the way and take Chloe back without a fight. It was ingenious, but also perverse and extremely risky.

But what of baby Noah? Had they hidden him somewhere? Had they… killed him?

We’re half-way through the series, and it was a bold move to go twisty-twisty this early. This tells me there may be more to come, and with the odd flashback to the court case, I do wonder if their devious plan will come back to haunt them.

We’ll see, but for now, the twist was expertly delivered and didn’t get in the way of the human, emotional impact. Except now we have to reframe the way we look at Joanna, and certainly Alistair.

It’s good stuff.

Paul Hirons


REVIEW: Mystery Road (S1 E5&6/6)


Our journey through Mystery Road concluded this week and while the final destination ended up being a little underwhelming, the overall experience has been of a superior serial with something interesting to say about the Australian mentality. The main theme in these concluding episodes was around legacies – those we inherit, those we live out and those we leave behind. Writ large within that theme was the dichotomy of this experience between the indigenous people of this country, and it’s colonialists – and the impact it has that still resonates throughout generations.

It felt like we lost some momentum leading into the final portion of the story this week, and there were some odd directorial choices to get us there – with a needless array of pop-music montages, flashbacks and side stories seemingly mixed in to fill time on what would have otherwise been a fairly straight path to a good old-fashioned showdown. The first thing to go was any spark of tension between Jay and Emma after he tried to terrify Marley into confessing in the previous episode – thanks to his efforts in recovering Reese of the Many Names from Black Springs it seemed his frankly unlawful transgressions were presumably forgiven off-screen. From the initial episodes I had been hoping for Emma to have been a sparkier antagonist to Jay’s quasi-legal methods, but it never really transpired in the dialogue longer than the occasional aside.

With Marley booked for murder and bailed out under home detention, Jay gets his groove back and looks to wrap up Tyson’s involvement with the case. It turns out he used to work as a boar runner just like Marley – and he overheard the boys on the day of their disappearance talking about their planned journey into the outback. A quick visit to state prison to see the drug boss/security guard doesn’t yield any answers, but on his way back to town Jay happens to stop off at a petrol station whose CCTV footage places Tyson and three other passengers driving through the night of the teenagers’ disappearance – along with a dirt-bike that looks similar to the one involved in the crash near the abduction site.

As time ticks away for Jay and Emma to get the truth from Marley on what really happened, they elect to drive him themselves to state prison. Unfortunately for Marley, before he can say anything, Jay’s truck is sidelined by the vehicle from the CCTV footage – and a shotgun drive-by ensues to try and silence the teenager forever. Quite why these assailants don’t double back to finish the job is unknown – but it’s enough to get Marley to talk, and we rewind to the beginning of the show to see the incident that started everything from his perspective. The boys did argue and fight – but not over drugs. Instead, Shevorne had told Reese the real identity of her rapist – and Reese was working on some scheme to get back at him. Marley was simply frustrated that Reese wouldn’t tell him who it was. As they were returning from their work task, Tyson and his gang confronted the pair in the outback and abducted both of them – only for Marley to escape and the dirt-bike rider who pursued him being hit and killed by a passing truck (those trucks really are lethal).

Without the final component to the story on what happened to Reese, Jay turns to the only person he can trust and calls Mary to pick up Marley and keep him safe for the time being. It seems an odd step down from the incendiary scenes both actors shared in the previous episode, and the conciliatory line “She’s family” seems to mean more to Mary than any grandiose speech would, but this is the last we see of her – a shame as she was one of the strongest characters that deserved further exploration.

Elsewhere, Emma tries to bring Reese/Johnathan’s mother and Shevorne together in their grief, but the suggestion of a memorial at Black Springs causes consternation among Shevorne’s relatives. It’s a bad place in their history – but they won’t say why. A large part of the final episodes is then taken up with Emma’s side-investigation into her own family’s history with the place – a once sacred space for the Aboriginal people that her own great-grandfather desecrated by poisoning the water and killing five indigenous children. It’s a heinous crime admitted by his own hand in old diaries she discovers – a crime wholly forgotten by her own people but still a living, breathing curse on those that remember.

This whole storyline, while valuable in its own dramatic context, felt oddly out of place in the narrative this late on. While it was foreshadowed that Black Springs was something unnatural in the earlier episodes, the nature of the crime did not have a bearing on the current case other than to explore Emma’s guilt at the discovery and her attempts to rectify the injustice by going into partnership with the Aboriginal Council so they would not be defrauded by her brother Tony (who it transpires I was wrong about – guilty of greed maybe, but not murder). This story also crucially sidelined Emma from much of the action of the remaining episodes, which felt like a misstep. Isolated, the Black Springs murders were a compelling tale of the twin histories of Australia – but it also felt in hindsight like a little comfortable bedding for the final set-up of the show in implicating an indigenous man as the main villain.

And so to Keith Groves. For me this is where it all slightly fell apart – not in the sense of him being a person of interest from the start, but more for how once his part in proceedings was revealed, it was very hard to imagine an entire town – with some very tough inhabitants – being deathly afraid of this key-swinging councilman. Think back to all the people throughout the show that had been too terrified to speak – including tough guy Tyson – and it made no sense. The show hadn’t spent enough time with him to build his role out correctly, instead relying on the ‘ta-da!’ element of a traditional whodunnit – when by process of elimination there weren’t that many suspects left in the running anyway.

Another path through the narrative might have been to eschew that last-reel reveal of his nature in lieu of an earlier building of his sinister character to better effect, but as it stood Keith was put on the ropes as Jay stalked down his co-conspirators one by one when Shevorne revealed it was actually him that raped her and not Larry. Reese’s plan had been to have Tyson and his crew rough up Keith, but the council leader had turned the tables on him. Reese was shot by a panicked Chris, Keith’s business partner, as he tried to escape. It all felt very weak in conclusion, not least in the murder of Reese but also Keith’s reasons for implicating Larry in the first place – but to avoid any lengthy legal issues for the plot’s sake, we were reduced to a shootout in a scrapyard with Emma delivering the fatal bullet to conclude the story.

The story wrapped in yet another trite montage and I was left with more questions than answers. Shevorne had been at the epicentre of everything, a true survivor considering the amount of pain and heartache she had endured. It felt asinine to reduce her to the trope of ‘damsel in distress’ in that final segment, and a bit of a backhanded betrayal to the good work the writers had done in building her up previously to be a believable, three-dimensional female character.

Likewise the conclusion of Crystal’s story felt flat considering the work that had gone into establishing her character – a cursory reconciliation with her father over snacks and CCTV footage still didn’t compel her to tell him that just the previous day she’d nearly been kidnapped by hoodlums who were still at large – instead her problems were kept silent as Jay continued to barge around town with his focus elsewhere. But at least she got some dialogue – her mother was treated even harsher.

There were also the smattering of off-screen plot points that went nowhere (“Homicide are coming!” “I’ve called Homicide off!!”), last-minute character switches (Muller is a mole! Oh wait, no he’s not – he’s just a prick), convenient plot wraps (Spud Jackson’s blood identification, Chris and Vince’s confessions etc) or plot holes (is Jaz still waiting for a bus in the middle of nowhere? Is Larry totally cool with being locked up for ten years then shot in the gut now he smiled at Emma? Is Kerry fine with Shevorne after she nearly got one of her sons killed, the other as a baby daddy as well as fitting up her brother?).

That all aside you can forgive the more absurd elements for what was a beautifully-shot drama with two stand-out performances in its leads – and one which mercifully didn’t outstay its welcome with a brisk six episodes (ITV take note). While the story that leads us into this community wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped in the end, spending time there was – and it would be great to revisit if the second season allows.

Andy D

For our review of Episodes 1&2, click HERE

For our review of Epsiodes 3&4, click HERE

The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 8th – Sunday 14th October)

It’s business as usual this week, with excellent episodes of Killing Eve and The Deuce. Elsewhere, series three of Netflix’s Riverdale starts up and then there’s the return of Trapped. No, not series two, but a repeat of series one on the BBC’s iPlayer. It’s releasing episodes every week, which means – hopefully – that it might, just might, be with us soon. Ish. Maybe. Let’s hope so – whenever the BBC shows a previous series on iPlayer it usually means the next series is incoming.

S1 E5/8
Having survived a terrifying close call with Villanelle, Eve and the team now have the mole retrieved and ensconced in a safe house, offering the chance to uncover information that could lead them not only to Villanelle, but also to whoever is calling the shots behind her. However, with the cold-blooded and unpredictable assassin still very much at large, are any of them actually safe until she is caught? 
Saturday 13th October, 9.25pm, BBC One

S2 E5/9
Tuesday 9th October, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

3 Trapped *REPEAT*
S1 E1&2/10
In a small Icelandic fishing port, a ferry docks. That same day a dismembered body is found in the river, sparking an investigation and a call to Reykjavik for detective reinforcements to assist the small local police force. With the ferry held in dock and a bad snowstorm threatening to cut off the town, chief of police Andri is under pressure to deliver results quickly.
BBC iPlayer

S1 E3/4
The police investigation begins to focus on Joanna and Alistair, as Peter gets a warrant to search their house and belongings. The couple look back over the day they first arrived in Australia in a desperate effort to work out what happened to their missing child, and agree to a television interview in the hope of sharing their side of the story with the world. However, as Joanna’s behaviour grows increasingly unstable, a rattled Alistair goes to the police station, determined to find out what they know.
Sunday 14th October, 9pm, BBC One

S1 E4/10
Primo and Leonardo mobilise the local community. Elsewhere, Little Paul and Angelo try to agree on their next steps.
Wednesday 10th September, 9pm, BBC Two

S1 E4/8
Borne out of a sense of necessity, British professor Jonah Mulray goes undercover to find out once and for all whether David Chen is connected to his wife Megan’s death – and along the way he must confront a known killer who is a member of a Triad, a Chinese organised crime gang.
Monday 8th October, 9pm, ITV

S3 E5/6
Caroline McCoy’s political reign leads to chaos on the streets of Manchester, and catapults the hardline, no-nonsense DCI Terry Taylor into the Friday Street station to bring the police in line with her agenda. Despite his interference, Vic and her team focus their attention on Bonnie and Dennis to expose Caroline and finally bring in Beckett. But just when it seems they are finally getting somewhere, a bomb-strapped regimental goat and a face-to-face encounter with the man himself leads to tragedy.
Thursday 11th October, 9pm, Channel 4

S6 E21/21
Holmes and Watson face their greatest challenge to date when a murder investigation threatens their partnership.
Monday 8th October, 9pm, Sky Witness

S3 E1-10
as the jury begins deliberations in his murder trial, Archie (KJ Apa) makes a surprising request about how he wants to spend his final days of summer. Betty (Lili Reinhart) is forced to deal with her problems head-on after a heated confrontation with Alice (Madchen Amick) and Polly (guest star Tiera Skovbye) brings up some dark secrets she’s kept hidden. Veronica (Camila Mendes) pleads with Hiram (Mark Consuelos) to step in and help Archie before a verdict is announced.
From Thursday 11th October, Netflix

10 The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S1 E6/10
Marcus continues his search for clues as to what happened to Nola back in 1975, as his mentor’s freedom hangs in the balance.
Tuesday 9th October, 10pm, Sky Witness