Based on the novel Suffer The Children by Adam Creed and adapted by Unforgotten’s Chris Lang, a feature-length version appeared a few years back on the now defunct ITV Encore.
Now Dark Heart reappears, this time extended into a six-part series, two episodes a week for the next three weeks.
That feature-length story has been broken up into two parts, the first of which was tonight.
Still with me?
So we have Tom Riley playing DI Will Wagstaffe, an attractive man who more than fills a brief we’ve grown to know so well over the years – the tortured detective. He’s angry, he’s myopic and brilliant, and respected by his colleagues. He’s also tormented by the murder of his parents and is prone to fits of anger. Like he asked his on/off girlfriend (played by Miranda Raison) deep into the story, what if this is it for him? What if he’s defined by the murder of his parents for the rest of his life? The fact that the date where he’s lived longer without his parents than he lived with him If that makes sense) has now come and gone is weighing especially on his mind. His sister (played by Charlotte Riley) and young son have come to stay. She says she thought he was on holiday. He thinks differently – she has a boyfriend who is ‘the nicest man in the world if he’s not had a drink’. You get the inference there.
But there is a case to solve, and it’s a grisly one. A man arrested but subsequently not convicted for child sexual offences has been taken out, well and truly. He’s been tied to a table, force fed a bottle of whiskey and had his genitals lopped off. Later in the episode, another accused but not convicted sex offender is also found gruesomely murdered.
An avenging angel is at work.
Underpinning this fairly straightforward police story is Lang’s uncanny knack for teasing out the human emotions of victims of crime – whether it be Wagstaffe’s own anger and grief, to the wife of the first murder victim, or the survivors of sexual abuse. He really is an empathetic writer.
This may not be his finest work, but it’s watchable, atmospheric and, of course, there’s a central mystery to solve.