REVIEW Vigil (S1 E2/6)

Yesterday we saw the first episode of BBC One’s latest, high-concept, primetime thriller, Vigil.

Essentially a locked-room murder mystery we’ve seen countless times before, things were given a neat twist because of its setting, onboard a nuclear submarine with a very uptight crew.

We left things last night in a precarious situation – there was an unexpected reactor shutdown (is it me or does the vernacular and vocabulary sound very Star Trek as people shout at each other?), and Captain Newsome once again displayed an almost Ahabian stubbornness to not do the intuitive thing. The right thing, in this instance, was to return to the surface, chill for a bit and take stock. However, because of the paranoia that another (enemy) sub was tailing them he decided to stay put and run on back-up batteries.

As for the investigation staged by DCI Amy Silva, the reactor shutdown made things doubly difficult. She got word from Longacre on land that Burke had previous with his cabin-mate, Gary Walsh. Walsh’s brother was a heroin addict who had been investigated for bullying, reported by Burke. Walsh and Burke then had an altercation in a pub before the current mission.

Like all good procedurals, suspects were beginning to be built up and then processed, and in this episode it wasn’t just Gary Walsh – XO Mark Prentice was involved, too. He was really taking the hump with Silva’s investigation, and soon his gaskets blew. He threw Silva into a random cabin and locked the door, which provoked an extreme reaction triggered by her accident.

Now, whenever we see an accident or trauma in flashback, we only see the full story of what happened in the final episode (see the recent Yr Amgueddfa on S4C), but here, unusually, the full story of Silva’s trauma was revealed very early in the story.

We saw her as a passenger in a car as her partner – the driver – was about to propose to her, his daughter in the back seat. When he took his eyes off the road, he careered off a road-edge and into a loch. Silva managed to save the young girl, but could not save her partner.

No wonder she was freaking out in yet another confined space.

However, she was rescued by Glover – who seemed to be everywhere and nowhere all at once; I have my eyes on him – and she confessed the reason for her unsteadiness. This seemed to engender sympathy from him and he then went into overdrive trying to help her out. Newsome, too, seemed to change his tune, especially when Silva dramatically arrested Prentice on the bridge in front of the whole crew.

And then it all came out – how Prentice had reprimanded Burke, punched him in self defence and saw him die in his arms when he went to visit him in his cabin to apologise.

However, after Glover found Burke’s discarded green fleece (handy that), they found traces of poison. And with the crew member who gave Burke mouth-to-mouth displaying some odd symptoms, it was clear Prentice did not kill Burke.

Back on land, Longacre had endured a violent attack from intruders looking for the memory stick, which, by the end of the episode, had been unlocked thanks to Burke’s girlfirend and activist, Jade.

We have all kinds of things going on in Vigil, we really do. As I said last night, it has all the ingredients to make it into a goodie – conspiracy, cover-up and a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. Very good fun so far.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.

REVIEW Vigil (S1 E1/6)

You know it’s the new season of TV when the BBC rolls out the first of its big hitters for the autumn and winter.

And starting a Bank Holiday double bill, Vigil is most certainly a big hitter.

Made by the same production company that made Line of Duty, and starring the likes of Suranne Jones, Martin Compston, Endeavour’s Shaun Evans, Rose Leslie and Paterson Joseph, it has all the ingredients of an extremely grabby, tense and engrossing whodunit.

It starts in breakneck fashion. At sea (presumably the North Sea or somewhere off the coast of the north of Scotland), a trawler’s fishing line is caught up in a submarine below. It’s a brilliant, well-staged sequence, the sheer size of of the sub compared to the trawler showcased for the first time. It’s like that very first scene in Star Wars when an Imperial Star Destroyer dwarfs the rebel ship.

Onboard the sub, the radar people (it’s new, I’ll learn the proper names as we go on) spot something, especially Craig Burke (Compston). The sub’s captain Newsome (Joseph) does not want to break cover for fear of detection and lets the trawlermen perish. Burke is furious and tells him so, and soon he’s banished to his bunk for subordination.

Soon after Burke is found dead in his cabin of a suspected heroin overdose (a short and sharp job for Compston, this).

On land, DCI Amy Silver is tasked with going onboard HMS Vigil to find out what happened by a wonderfully taciturn Rear Admiral Shaw (Stephen Dillane). There are caveats, of course.

Because Vigil is a nuclear sub, Silva is not allowed to make contact with anyone on-land, and she has only three days to conclude her investigation after which she will be winched out and go home.

These parameters – and the submarine itself – give Vigil almost a puzzle element to it straight away, and it does a great job of transposing the locked-room mystery to somewhere fresh and interesting.

And HMS Vigil is certainly interesting.

Coxon Glover (Evans) is Silva’s main point of contact, but as she gets to work (I mean, she doesn’t mess around and gets to work immediately) her spider senses detect foul play. And, of course, Newsome and his top table do not want to know. They don’t want any scandal, and want her to do her job and leave as quickly as possible, which obviously raises Silva’s suspicions as well as ours even more.

As Silva is shown around the vessel, we as an audience become aware of how disorienting everything is – from the claustrophobic sleeping quarters to the tight corridors and low-lying pipes and general rabbit-warren nature of it. Silva’s own disorientation is heightened thanks to flashbacks of a family who, it seems, were killed by drowning in a car accident. She’s asked at the start: “Are you ok with confined spaces”. Silva says yes, but she was patently lying.

Silva is quite obviously on to something as she carries out her own close-quarters investigation when Newsome confides in her that the trawlermen were not pulled down by Vigil, but a sub that had been tailing them.

Working parallel to Silva’s investigation was her partner (in every sense) Kirsten Longacre on dry land. She had interviewed Burke’s girlfriend (and anti-nuclear activist) who told her that her partner was not an addict. This prompted Longacre to send a few sanctioned, coded messages to Silva on the sub, and investigate further. In Burke’s digs at the navy base she found a memory stick, on which there was a confessional video featuring the deceased. He knew things, he said.

So we have conspiracy, a potential cover-up, a whodunit and intrigue involving a potential hostile action from an enemy power. Add in a detective with a past and a locked-room scenario, and Vigil has the hallmarks of an addictive, entertaining series.

All the building blocks have been laid in this opening episode, and tantalisingly teased a twisty-turny ride. Let’s see how deep it really goes.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 30th August – Sunday 5th September)

It’s a big week in crime drama land, not least because we have our unfeasibly large autumn/winter preview coming next week. But there’s plenty of new stuff happening. Vigil on BBC One, new Nordic Noir on BBC Four, Stephen on ITV and a new series of Grantchester on ITV. Enjoy!

S1 E2&3/6

The submarine is left exposed by a reactor shutdown, and the crew races to repair the fault. Kirsten uncovers a feud on board the Vigil, leading Amy to question whether her investigation has been deliberately obstructed. A hard-won breakthrough leads Amy to believe she finally has the killer in her sights, only for surprising new evidence to cast doubt on her theory. On land, Kirsten’s investigation leads to tragedy.
Monday 30th August and Sunday the September, 9pm, BBC One

2 The Hunt For A Killer *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES*
S1 E1&2/6

Swedish crime drama, based on the real-life disappearance and subsequent murder of a 10-year-old girl in 1989. Five months after the murder, a body is found in a lay-by, leading to suspicions the same killer is responsible for both murders.
Saturday 4th September, 9pm, BBC Four

S1 E1/3

Thirteen years after their son’s racially motivated murder in 1993, Doreen and Neville Lawrence continue their fight for justice. Meanwhile, DCI Clive Driscoll finds Stephen’s files and is convinced the cold case can be solved, despite opposition from within the police.
Monday 30th August, 9pm, ITV

S11 E2/4

DCI Vera Stanhope is called to the scene when the body of addiction support worker Angela Konan is found hidden among the bleak woodlands of Northumberland National Park. Vera and her team must peel back the layers of the introverted victim ‘s life to uncover her closely guarded secrets and surprising depths. as It appears an increasingly erratic Angela clashed with two clients in the week before she died.
Sunday 5th September, 8pm, ITV

S1 E4/4
Colin Stagg is awaiting trial for the murder of Rachel Nickell, but while he is on remand in prison, another attack occurs in south London. Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter have been brutally murdered in their basement flat. Having already played a major role in the case against Stagg, psychologist Paul Britton is called in to assist with the new case
Friday 3rd Septmeber, 9pm, Channel 4

S5 Part 1

When Rio is captured, a distraught Tokyo turns to the Professor for help. Armed with a bold new plan, they reunite the team in order to rescue him.
Friday 3rd September, Netflix

S1 E3/6

When the body of a scientist is found in Loch Katrine, Annika is reminded of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. But with so many wanting him dead, which one did he push over the edge?
Tuesday 31st August, 9pm, Alibi

8 The Crimson Rivers *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S2 E4/8

Camille is looking for her son Leo, who has run away from his home. At the same time, a 17-year-old in a pitiful condition arrives at the Monferville estate.
Friday 3rd September, 9pm, More4

S6 E1/6

It’s 1958 in Grantchester, and the vicarage family and the Keatings are on a much-needed summer break at Merries Holiday Camp – only for it to turn into something of a busman’s holiday for Will and Geordie, when the camp’s owner Roy Reeves is found dead in suspicious circumstances. Between unhappily married guests, frustrated entertainment staff and Roy’s put-upon wife, Will and Geordie discover almost everyone had a grudge against Roy. Behind the smiles and jolly holiday façade of Merries lays a much less wholesome reality.
Friday 3rd September, 9pm, ITV

S2 E13/13

Martin teams up with Malcolm to help him try to take down a serial killer known as the Woodsman, a search that might help the NYPD find one of its own.
Wednesday 1st September, 9pm, Sky One

REVIEW Deceit (S1 E2/4)

In last week’s opening episode of this Channel 4 series, we were introduced to undercover operative Lizzie/Sadie (Niamh Algar) who was tasked with bringing down Colin Stagg – prime suspect in the awful (real-life) murder of Rachel Nickell.

Stagg fits the psychological profile constructed by Paul Britton (Eddie Marsan), a slightly salacious, creepy dude who seems to take almost pleasure in reading out Stagg’s explicit letters. And now the case against him is pushed harder, with Sadie really immersing herself into the Lizzie alter-ego..

For the police’s part, they’re convinced Stagg is their man, especially when a search of his house finds all kinds of odd stuff – a knife, some kinky stuff and some symbols scrawled onto the walls.

All of these procedural details are fine, but it goes along with what I was saying last week – we know the outcome of this story, so finding an interesting edge is extremely important to hold our attention. And I’m pleased to say that the episode really did manage to do that in large parts, to the point where I’d completely forgotton about Stagg and the crime itself.

This episode was very much at its best when it focused on Lizzie/Sadie, who became more and more obsessed with her new undercover assignment. And, I think, this is the angle that Deceit works best with – exploring the emotional impact of not only being an undercover agent, but also the moral implications of honeytrapping.

Lizzie/Sadie is constantly being asked how far is she willing to go to snag Stagg, and everything builds up to their first meeting, right at the end of the episode. In between, we see her – lit with garish, Hitchcockesque neon – begin to fall down the rabbithole until even her friends become concerned for her mental welfare.

We also see Stagg in grainy interview sequences. A loner, yes. A bit of an oddball, yes. But a murderer? We know that answer to that.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.


NORDIC NOIR BBC Four confirms transmission date for The Hunt For A Killer

Stand by your beds – we’re getting some new Nordic Noir on BBC Four on Saturday nights.

BBC Four announced it had acquired The Hunt For A Killer (Jakten på en mördare), based on a real-life crime.

The six-part series is set in the Swedish region of Skåne in the late 1980s and revolves around the real-life disappearance and subsequent murder of a 10-year-old girl. It follows the 16-year investigation into the murder and the determination of the local police force to solve the case.

Based on a book by Tobias Barkman, it stars Per-Åke Åkesson and will play out in customary BBC Four fashion – double-bills for every Saturday night.

The Hunt For A Killer: Saturday 4th September, 9pm, BBC Four

Sky announces new thriller Then You Run

Sky has announced new thriller Then You Run (formerly announced as You), based on Zoran Drvenkar’s thriller novel, You.

The eight-part drama will see Leah McNamara, Vivian Oparah,  Yasmin Monet Prince and newcomer Isidora Fairhurst take on the roles of four  friends whose dreams of the perfect summer holiday spiral into a dark and perilous adventure after they inadvertently cross paths with some of the most dangerous people in Europe.   

Then You Run follows a close-knit group of rebellious London teenagers on a getaway in Rotterdam – but after the estranged father of Tara (McNamara) is discovered dead, they find themselves on the run across Europe with three kilos of heroin and a host of deadly criminals snapping at their heels. Leading the hunt against Tara and her childhood friends – reckless Stink (Oparah), sharp Ruth (Monet Prince) and loyal Nessi (Fairhurst) – is Tara’s uncle Reagan (Coyle), a notorious gangster haunted by his past who will stop at nothing to track down his missing cache of drugs. But Reagan isn’t the only person they should fear – because all the while a terrifying and mythical serial killer known only as ‘The Traveller’ draws closer, on a collision course with them all…

Joining alongside Richard Coyle as Reagan are Cillian O’Sullivan as Orin, Francis Magee as Turi, Darren Cahill as Darian and Christian Rubeck as The Traveller.

Look out for it in 2022.

BBC Two confirms transmission date for The North Water

It’s a busy period at the moment as many of the main channels here in the UK are announcing premiere dates for some of the big autumn series.

With this in mind, we now know when The North Water will start.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Ian McGuire, the five-part series tells the story of Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. But the ferocity of the elements is matched by the violence of his crew mates, with Drax (Colin Farrell), a harpooner and distinctly brutal force of nature. As the true purpose of the expedition becomes clear, confrontation between the two men erupts, taking them on a journey far from solid ground and beyond the safe moorings of civilisation.

Stephen Graham also stars.

The North Water: Friday 10th September, 9.30pm, BBC Two

REVIEW Baptiste (S2 E6/6)

So it’s time to say goodbye to Julien Baptiste and in what at times has been a brutal series, we finally get to find out what happens to our favourite obsessive person finder.

The big question was this: as he and Emma Chambers closed in on the plot – with her son Will at its heart – would Julien’s ultimate redemption be death, or would he come out of all of this not only alive, but healed?

To begin with we were treated to a flashback sequence (because Baptiste wouldn’t be Baptiste without a cheeky flashback), showing how Andras Juszt had played them beautifully, manipulated Kamilla Agoston and basically preserved his identity as Gamorrah.

Now knowing how he had done all of this, it was time to focus on the present day. That meant Will and Andras’s heinous plot to finish the job off. Soon, we found out that meant destroying a nearby refugee camp, where the two right-wing operatives had been posing as kindly charity workers (bit much too much to swallow that one).

Before they got to the inevitable end-game there was a very good scene where Emma and Julien debated whether she should go public with what part her eldest son Alex played in the Baross Józsefváros massacre. She was adament she wanted to and take everything that comes with the admission, while Julien was against it because he was worried what might happen to him in the harsh glare of the media.

As Emma saids it was not about him, and Julien bit back and saying it was very much about him. Or at least as much was it is about him as it is about her.

This gave us a fascinating insight into his motivations and personality. Julien, as he gets deeper and deeper into cases, does err on the side of martyrdom and narcissism and he’s often desperate for thanks for his obsessive dives into the cases of others. It’s classic anxiety – deflect what’s happening under your own nose and what’s happening in your own life to become part of others.

And so to the dramatic end game. As Julien suspected (he always suspects), there was something fishy at the refugee camp and things didn’t add up. It played out like this as Juszt decided that enough was enough and Will wasn’t to be trusted, and beat him to a bloody pulp.

Julien and Emma weren’t far behind, and a two-hander developed at Juszt’s hideout – Julien doing (rather brutal and violent, it has to be said) battle with him in the woods, and Emma crawling out of her wheelchair to go to Will inside the cabin. While I didn’t buy Julien becoming an action adventure hero and prevailing against a (much) younger man (to say the least), Emma using sheer will and every once of strength to get to her son was very moving.

However, Julien had been stabbed during the fight with Juszt, and we were left with a little cliffhanger – would Julien survive?

Yes, yes he did. His martyrdom would not be ultimate, but now he faced a new challenge – to live life in Paris without the thrill of the chase, without purpose. We saw him clean his apartment, take up cookery lesson, learn magic tricks… whatever he could to keep his mind occupied. Crucially, he began to spend more time with his family – his estranged wife Celia, and his granddaughter. This was now his purpose; a purpose that existed right under his nose all along and a purpose that kept his daughter’s memory alive.

A fitting end for a character we’ve grown to love and wish the best for.

So as a finale it had a bit of everything – action, tension, some silly bits, some more silly bits and some interesting character development and emotion.

(One of the other things I didn’t buy was Kamilla Agoston and her ne’er do well husband. We were expected to feel sorry for them as they embarked on another round of IVF. After what they’ve been playing at, it was hard to take.)

As for this series, and this character – who we first met around a decade ago in The Missing – it was a fond farewell. This second series was much better than the first, and while flawed it really did have its moments.

And, aside from Tchéky Karyo’s reliable performance, it was Fiona Shaw as Emma Chambers that really stole the show thanks to an incredible turn. In an intensely emotional and physical performance she really was at the top of her game – nuanced, stoic, strong and vulnerable all at once. A great part and a powerful performance, despite everything being thrown at her.

(Whether you can generate any sympathy for her, and her sons and what they did is another matter entirely.)

As this pair said their goodbyes, and we said our goodbyes to Julien, it ended on a downcast note – despite Gamorrah being destroyed, their acolytes filled the void. And this is the lesson to Julien: as much as you think you can help (and you can to an extent), you can never help everyone; solve all of society’s ills. The world still turns, and bad people will always exist.

Paul Hirons

Episode rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Series rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.






The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th August)

Strap in ladies and gentlemen, we’re approaching the new autumn season and some channels are kicking thing off in earnest. We’ve got the big, new BBC One drama, Vigil – murder on a submarine! – old favourite Vera is back on ITV and there are a couple of interesting things on Netflix. Enjoy!

S1 E1/6

A crew member is found dead under suspicious circumstances aboard a nuclear submarine. However, the vessel is unable to return to port due to its status as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, so a police inspector is sent on board to investigate. Despite an initial diagnosis of accidental overdose, she suspects foul play, but finds the crew closing ranks against her. 
Sunday 29th August, 9pm, BBC One

S11 E1/4

DCI Vera Stanhope must unravel the mystery when well-respected local builder and family man Jim Tullman is found beaten to death on the steps of the Collingwood Monument the day before he was due to testify in court as the key witness in a violent assault case.
Sunday 29th August, 8pm, ITV

S1 E3/4
As the weeks pass, undercover police officer Sadie – aka Lizzie – is unable to crack prime suspect Colin Stagg, and it soon becomes clear that the pressure she’s under is starting to have a profound impact.
Friday 26th August, 9pm, Channel 4

4 Open Your Eyes (Otwórz oczy) *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES*

Julka ends up in an amnesia treatment center after she loses her family. When she begins to have strange dreams that will become too real for her, she wonders if the place where she is is the one she thought it was so far.
From Wednesday 25th August, Netflix

When family man Nick Brewer is abducted in a crime with a sinister online twist, those closest to him race to uncover who is behind it and why.
From Wednesday 25th August, Netflix

S1 E2/6

When a body is found on a boat in the Clyde, the case takes the team to the Isle of Bute. Evidence points to a jilted lover, but a darker secret emerges as the team investigate.
Tuesday 24th August, 9pm, Alibi

7 The Crimson Rivers *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S2 E3/8

Two teenage boys are playing in a deserted building when they discover the body of a young woman encircled by chalk marks and with a symbol carved into her forehead. The investigation leads Niemans and Camille to a migrant camp where something, or someone, is terrifying the people.
Friday 26th August, 9pm, More4

S2 E12/13

As the search intensifies for a serial killer on the run, Malcolm’s tenacity causes US marshal Emily Ruiz to kick him off the case, but he does not back down that easily.
Wednesday 25th August, 9pm, Sky One

9 Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S2 E7/8

When Peregrine and her friends take a fishing trip to soothe their various heartaches, Sam manages to hook a corpse, but all the bystanders have airtight alibis.
Monday 23rd August, Acorn TV

S1 E5&6/8

Vimes’ misgivings over those vying to seize the sword distract him from the dangers of daring to destroy it.
Thursday 26th August, 9pm, BBC Two

BBC to launch Vigil with double bill

It’s a fair bet that BBC One’s Vigil is going to be the next seriously big crime drama.

From the makers of Line Of Duty and starring the likes of Suranne Jones, Martin Compston and Endeavour’s Shaun Evans, it’s got an intriguing set-up. And now the BBC has unveiled three new images as well as a start date.

Episode one will premiere on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on Sunday 29th August, with episode two at 9pm on the Bank Holiday Monday, 30th August.

The story? When a crew member is found dead on board the Trident nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, police in Scotland are called in to investigate. The catch? The UK’s nuclear deterrent must remain unbroken, so the submarine stays on patrol and Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Jones) must go aboard to begin an investigation. Although the death was written off as an accidental overdose, Amy suspects foul play. But when the crew close ranks in the face of Amy’s questioning, a new threat overshadows her inquiry.