Beck is on its way back to BBC Four with a new series.
The four-episode series starts in early May with the episode Haunted By The Past.
The episode – Ett nytt liv in its native Swedish – aired in Sweden on Christmas Day 2021, but now, finally, comes to the UK.
The story goes something like this: after a period of rehabilitation, Martin Beck is back on duty. He and the rest of the group are thrown into a case where the body of a notorious Danish professional criminal is found in the water at Liljeholmen.
After last week’s transition episode, the stakes were upped considerably in the penultimate episode of series one of this hugely entertaining espionage thriller.
Jackson Lamb and the Slow Horses are finally reunited in a graveyard (why not?) and they try to figure out what to do next. They’re back into a corner with seemingly no way out, and it’s only a matter of time before the dogs get to them. Naturally, everyone’s nervous (especially Min) but Lamb displays that annoying brilliance we’ve become accustomed to – he shapes up to let his feelings go and issue a rallying cry to his beleaguered trrops, but then proceeds to do an about-face and berates the team calling them “fuck ups” and the worst shower he’s ever worked with. You’d expect nothing less from him.
And then the rollercoaster begins – and this episode’s rollercoaster is a great one. Lamb and Cartwright go off to retrieve photographic evidence of Taverner meeting with her dead inside man on the horrendously botched Hassan Ahmed job. So it’s a quick trip to an eerily empty Slough House (the photo isn’t there) and then on to Regent’s Park, where they concoct a risky but very bold plan to get in. Instead of trying to sneak in, Lamb rolls up to MI5’s entrance playing The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) at ear-shattering levels on his car stereo as he’s confronted by perplexed armed guards. This is mere subterfuge, because while Lamb is huffing and burping and engaging the guards, Cartwright has sneaked into the facility to look for the file. He finds it.
While all this is going on, there are beautifully written and staged scenes inside the van with Curley, Zippo and crew. It’s incredibly tense. Curley wants to finish the job and kill Hassan, while Zippo – now brandishing a gun – wants to let the kid go and escape to Europe. All of this tension is played out in an enclosed space and, with Hassan still gagged and bound in the back, you’re constantly thinking it’s going to end badly.
And then it takes a few unexpected turns, all designed to ratchet up the tension even more. Because they fear being seen (they’re all over the news), they send Hassan out to fill up with petrol when the van’s tank runs dry. Despite being presented with ideal an opportunity to escape, he decides to go back into the van (I’m guessing because Zippo is in charge and he’s promised the gang a ransom from his rich uncle in Pakistan he believes this is the best way to survive the ordeal). And then it takes another turn – Hassan is forced to make them laugh in a bizarre test. It’s an extraordinary scene, where he goes through his stand-up routine, telling anti-right-wing jokes. You can tell he’s bricking it, but as he wins them over he becomes bolder until everyone in the van is laughing. It’s absurd. And dangerous.
Curley then shoots Zippo in the head and we’re back to square one, with Hassan’s best chance of escaping unharmed gone.
Unless Lamb and Cartwright can get out of Regent’s Park and away from Taverner – or the team of Louisa, Roddy, Min and Standish (now ensconced in an all-night caff and waging their own investigation) – can get there first, Hassan is done for. That’s what we have to look forward to in the finale.
Under The Banner Of Heaven could well be the next big crime series (how often have we said that?).
With a cast led by Oscar-nominated Andrew Garfield it’s the retelling of a true-crime tale.
Jon Krakauer, first published in July 2003. He investigated and juxtaposed two histories: the origin and evolution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and a modern double murder committed in the name of God by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism.
The Laffertys were formerly members of a very small splinter group called the School of the Prophets, led by Robert C. Crossfield (also known by his prophet name Onias). The group accepts many beliefs of the original LDS church at the time when it ceased the practice of polygamy in the 1890s, but it does not identify with those who call themselves fundamentalist Mormons. The book examines the ideologies of both the LDS Church and the fundamentalist Mormons polygamous groups, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church).
Aside from Garfield, who plays Detective Jeb Pyre, Under The Banner Of Heaven boasts a great cast – Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sam Worthington, Denise Gough and Billy Howl among them.
Look out for it on 28th April on FX and Hulu in the US. No UK broadcaster has been confirmed, but judging by past Hulu shows, Under The Banner Of Heaven could well find a home on Disney+.
Filming has begun on a new five-part thriller called Better, the BBC says.
DI Lou Slack (Leila Farzad) – confident, quick-witted and wry – was always destined to be a copper. Like her father before her, a legendary detective in the same Yorkshire force, it’s in her blood. To her peers, she stands as one of the best detectives on the team, but Lou’s success lies on a foundation of deceit and corruption.
To all outwards appearances, Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan) – Irish, charming, charismatic, with a presence that commands any room he walks into – is a successful businessman and property developer. But to those closest to him he’s the highly disciplined and coldly ruthless head of a powerful citywide drug trafficking gang.
19 years ago, when Lou was a young police officer at her lowest ebb and Col a low-ranking but ambitious newcomer to the Leeds underworld, their paths crossed, and they struck a deal that changed their lives forever. The bargain allowed Col to become very rich and very powerful, and Lou to turn around her failing career. A complex but special bond between the pair was forged, and so began Lou’s gradual slide into corruption. It started slowly, almost imperceptibly – small favours for Col here and there in return for tip offs, a little money to help her through some tough times – but over time her criminality seeped into every aspect of Lou’s life and morphed into something far more sinister and dangerous as the stakes grew.
But now, when Lou’s family is brought to the brink of a tragedy that would tear apart everything she has built, she finds her conscience, for so long repressed, awakening. In determining to put right the wrongs that she has spent years rationalising and excusing, to have a second chance at a new, better life, she must first confront her own moral and ethical failings. To find her redemption she must bring down the man she has come to love like a brother. The man she has helped place at the head of Leeds criminal underworld. But while Col is a dangerous enemy to make, Lou’s biggest battle may yet be with herself.
When John Simm stepped into the role of DSI Roy Grace – an obsessive, grief-stricken detective patrolling the mean streets of Brighton – hopes were that this could develop into a Morse-like series with a strong sense of place, a gruff lead character and a seemingly endless amount of source material (Peter James has written 18 critically-acclaimed Roy Grace novels).
No wonder Russell ‘Endeavour‘ Lewis is the screenwriter.
However, before I crack on with my thoughts, I must say that ITV is mucking about with the rollout series and the episodes, as it often likes to do, especially with shows like Midsomer Murders. It aired episode one last year, episode two last night (Sunday 25th April) and next week ‘series two’ kicks off with another episode. There are supposed to be three episodes in that second series, but god knows when those other two will be broadcast.
Aaaanyway, onto Looking Good Dead.
It begins with the discovery of a man dressed in a gimp suit hanging from his rafters. Grace and co immediately think that the grim scene is nothing more than chem-sex fun times gone dangerously wrong. It’s only the later discovery of the dismembered body of a young woman that Grace realises there may be a serial killer on the loose – not just your run-of-the mill serial killer mind, a serial killer who obviously wants his victims to be found, and someone who leaves a scarab beetle at the scene of his crimes.
Concurrent to these brutal discoveries around the city and its surrounding dykes is the story of Zach Bryce (The Long Call’s Amit Shah), who, on his commute to work, finds a memory stick on the recently vacated seat next to him. When he gets home, he can’t resist a peek and finds access to a live stream, which shows the aforementioned young woman stabbed to death during what seems like kinky cosplay session.
Now watching his every move thanks to an elaborate spy-ware system, Bryce is threatened with death if he blabs to the cops.
What soon becomes apparent is that these killings are part of a subscription-only snuff site, with thousands of members around the globe who may millions for the privilege of watching people murdered online.
It’s a far-fetched premise – I mean I know that dark web is there and plenty of awful things happen on t’internet, but a subscription site with thousands of viewers around the world? That would have been identified pretty easily you would imagine.
No matter, because Grace is on the case and gets to work processing leads and getting nearer and nearer to the truth, until there’s a huge shooty setpiece at the end, where he captures the bad guys in the network. And this is the thing about Grace – it’s unashamed procedural action.
The difference between episode one and two – despite the slightly daft central premise – is quite stark. This was markedly better. Better paced, better directed, better told… Grace is still brooding a little and still seeks the wisdom and council from his medium pal (although, thankfully, that’s only a small part of the story this time around), but there’s real verve in the storytelling and there’s plenty of propulsive energy to carry you through.
There is some vague social commentary here about what we as a society are willing to consume and the whole proliferation of privacy and spying (the Bryces have a fancy cam to watch their baby at night), but first and foremost really this is just solid, watchable procedural business.
You get the feeling that ITV is setting up Grace to be here for the long-term.
(I also need to mention that Craig Parkinson makes an appearance as a member of the investigating team, doing his best Dot Cottan impression.)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Grace is shown on ITV and is now available on ITV Hub in the UK
Peaky Blinders star Sophie Rundle has been announced as the star of new Alibi series, The Diplomat.
Currently filming in Barcelona, the six-part series tells the story of Laura Simmonds (Rundle) and her Barcelona Consul colleague and friend Alba Ortiz (Serena Manteghi) as they fight to protect British nationals who find themselves in trouble in the Catalan city. Mixing the roles of lawyer, counsellor and cop, Laura and Alba’s diplomatic skills are stretched to the limit by the stream of cases that walk through the Consul’s doors.
The series opens with the unexplained death of a young British barman working on a yacht in Barcelona’s notorious marina. While the Spanish police believe that the death was a tragic accident, Laura supports the boy’s grieving father, Colin (Danny Sapani) who is convinced something more sinister took place that night. As new evidence emerges and a murder enquiry is opened, Laura and Alba find links between the barman’s death, organised crime and the British security services. Laura’s quest for justice places her in real jeopardy, as she threatens to expose secrets that the British and Spanish will go to any lengths to keep hidden.
The cast includes Danny Sapani as Colin Sutherland, Steve Cree as Sam Henderson and Isak Férriz as Inspector Castells.
As we all know, thanks to The Bridge and Saga Norén, Swedish actress Sofia Helin is enshrined in the crime drama hall of fame.
And now she’s returning to the genre, thanks to new series, Fallen.
Created by Bridge co-writer Camilla Ahlgren, Fallen will star alongside Hedda Stienstedt in a tale that examines “sisterhood, parenthood, guilt, grief and how to move on after trauma”.
According to Deadline, Helin plays “Iris Broman, the new head of the Kalla Fall. Due to a tragedy, she moves from Stockholm to the southern town of Ystad to live with her half-sister Kattis (Hedda Stierstedt), where a cold case turns topical again and turns everything upside down, intertwining the lives of several people.”
The series will air in Sweden on C More and TV4, while no UK broadcaster has been announced. It will film in Malmö and Ystad, and is expected to debut in 2023.
Helin says: “I always want to continue working with people I think are talented and interesting, as with screenwriter Camilla Ahlgren. In this way, the process and cooperation are deepened, and we can continue to challenge each other.
“I discovered Linnéa Roxeheim a few years ago when I saw the series Portkod together with my daughter. That a director with that talent for the fine-tuned in terms of human relations tackles a drama in this genre makes me interested. The story [of] Fallen raises for me the question of how a person progresses after a trauma. When you can not get any redress? Is it possible to embrace the light again?”
There are a couple of big series on the streamers this week – the final part of the critcically-acclaimed Ozark begins on Netflix, while Apple* TV (which is producing some great stuff at the moment) welcomes in an adaptation of Lauren Buekes’ time-travelling serial killer tale Shining Girls (starring Elisabeth Moss, no less). There’s also a new Nordic Noir on Acorn TV to look out for, while we say a fond farewell to Slow Horses. Enjoy!
1 Slow Horses *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE* *LAST IN SERIES* S1E6/6 No synopsis available. Friday 29th April, Apple TV+
2Ozark *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODES* *LAST IN SERIES* S2 PART 2E8-14/14 No synopsis available. Friday 29th April, Netflix
3Shining Girls *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES* S1E1 Years after a brutal attack left her in a constantly shifting reality, Kirby Mazrachi learns that a recent murder is linked to her assault. She teams with veteran reporter Dan Velazquez to understand her ever-changing present and confront her past. Friday 29th April, Apple+ TV
4 Grace *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE* S2 E1 Branson and Grace investigate the murder of socialite and patron of local charities Katya Bishop, whose entrepreneur husband Kit becomes the main suspect. The Bishops seem to have led a charmed life, until Grace digs deeper behind the respectable facade and discovers all is not what it seems. Doing so, however, places him unknowingly in grave danger. Sunday 1st May, 9pm, ITV
5 The King *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE* S1 E2/8 Prosecutor Lombardo is increasingly suspicious and does not believe Lackovic committed suicide. Testori asks his team to behave with greater rigor towards the prisoners. Tuesday 26th April, 10pm, Sky Atlantic
6 The Crimson Rivers *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE* S3 E6 Camille and Niemans go to meet former colleague Arnaud Morillon. At his home, they find his dead body in a room swarming with bees. When the doctor examines the corpse, he realises that the marks on Morillon’s neck are not bee stings, but signs of the bubonic plague. The concern is the source of the infection. Friday 29th April, 9pm, More4
7Smother *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE* S2 E4/6 In the aftermath of the birthday party, the family is in disarray, with Elaine insisting she has been set up, but fingers are being pointed in every direction. Val’s sights remain firmly set on Finn, but Jenny is beginning to see him as a person she can really count on, and when a saviour emerges from the most unexpected quarter, even Val has to recognise that she may have been following the wrong lead all along. Tuesday 26th April, 9pm, Alibi
8 Harry Wild *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODES* *LAST IN SERIES* S1 E7&8/8 When the matriarch of a wealthy Dublin family is strangled to death during a family video call, the dead woman’s daughter employs the services of the newly formed Wild/Reid Detective Agency. It soon becomes apparent that there’s a motive for the murder – a large inheritance – but how will they find the killer when all the relatives who stand to benefit were on the call when the murder took place? Monday 25th April, Acorn TV
9Maria Verne *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES* S1&2 Maria Wern is a single mother of two and the Deputy Crime Commissioner on the Swedish island of Gotland. When she returns to her job after six months’ leave, she is thrown straight into a murder case. Then there’s a sudden an outbreak of bird flu to contend with in the area and all resources must focus on containing the infection before it is too late. Things get close to home when her son is among the many children quarantined at a sports facility. And as the panic spreads, a journalist is reported missing. Is he connected to the case? Monday 25th April, Acorn TV
10 The Night Of *REPEAT* *LAST IN SERIES* S1 E8/8 Naz’s fate hangs in the balance, but a last-minute controversy surrounding the defence throws Stone into the spotlight. Monday 25th April, 10pm, Sky Atlantic
The last time we saw Christie on television, the brilliant Sarah Phelps reworked five of her novels to dazzling effect. Darker, meatier, more grisly and, arguably, more interesting than the cosy crime Christie has become synonymous with, they were nonetheless met with criticism in some quarters.
So this adaptation of one of her lesser-known – and, at least, less celebrated- novels will have the diehard Christieites breathing a huge sigh of relief.
A passion project of Hugh Laurie no less, this good-looking, three-part series is now streaming on Britbox and is bejewelled with not only the magnificent Laurie himself but also the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Conleth Hill, Amy Nutall, Miles Jupp, Emma Thompson and Jim Broadbent.
If that’s not enough to tune in, it also transports us back to the relative cosiness and the amateur sleuthing that has endeared Christie fans to the ITV Marple and Poirot series. There are no liberties taken, no fathomed backstories, and no dark interpretations – this is Christie for the Christie hardcore massive.
As ever with this iteration of Christie, we’re transported back to a rural 1930s England full of fabulous fashion, quaint villages, warm, frothy beer and Lagondas careering around pre-war bucolia.
The action is set a Welsh coastal town, and the story begins when local, butter-wouldn’t-melt vicar’s son and heartthrob Bobby Jones (Will Poulter) – caddying for the local doctor on a gold course – hears a commotion and goes to investigate. He finds a man who has fallen from the cliffs onto the beach below, and clambering down, finds him – naturally – at death’s door. His last words… a question: “Why didn’t they ask Evans?”
This trauma coincides with the return of breezy childhood friend Lady Frances Derwent (all berets, high-waisted trousers and posho attitude and played to perfection by Lucy Boynton), who may or may not be in love with young Bobby dazzler. Still, they have some catching up to do, and the frisson is very obviously still present between them, despite Frankie being away in London and cementing herself in the capital’s circle of bright young things.
What’s bringing them back together is this mystery – who was this dashed chap that snuffed it on the rocks and what in blazes does “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” mean. Frankie, displaying the kind of insouciance and boredom only socialites can, senses an opportunity for adventure, and despite the slightly star cross’d nature of their relationship, Bobby – fuelled by redoubtable morality – decides to go along for the ride.
However, they are not the only ones interested in the death of Alan Carstairs – a cartoonish but deadly villain (dressed wraith-like all in black and wearing a bowler hat) is stalking Bobby in the village and causing some havoc.
Soon, Bobby and Frankie are off on their adventure (like Tommy and Tuppance elsewhere in the Christie oeuvre) – first to London, and then on to Hampshire – to hunt for Roger Bassington-ffrench, a man Bobby encountered at the scene of Carstairs’ death. To infiltrate his posh family home – a very dysfunctional place it has to be said – they have to concoct a fiendish plan.
And so the story continues, encompassing some shady characters from a nearby mental sanitorium and, of course, plenty of Christie’s patented red herrings. At the heart of it all is a rather convoluted story, but you know that watching and enjoying an Agatha Christie is not just about the story – it’s about the journey, it’s about the guessing game and it’s about the presentation of suspects and reveal of the perpetrator.
And this story is quite well told. Laurie – who adapted it himself – is obviously in his element here (he’s already appeared in Jeeves and Wooster from the same period, lest we forget) and has a nice feel for the phrasing and vernacular of the time (although it’s not too ‘gosh, jolly hockey sticks’). He also imbues it with the dry, witty humour he’s become known and loved for (there are very nice gags in among the mystery). And when it comes to direction, he shows a bit of flair and some interesting and confident flourishes.
But Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? isn’t one of Christie’s least lauded books for a reason – yes, there’s everything you want from a Christie story, and Laurie manages to ask some questions about class and class division in society (as well as a sweary, tonal shift for a great a Daily Mail joke and dig), but the whole thing could do with a bit more pep. In fact, I’d go so far to say that this story could – and perhaps should – have been told in a feature-length special. It also noticeably skips a few things too, leaves a few ends untied and the denouement is a little bit messy.
However, one thing that Why Didn’t Ask Alice Evans? has going for it is Lucy Boyton as Frankie – the absolute epitome of a young Christie heroine. Boynton is full of vim, vigour and irressistible energy. If she isn’t a star already – we only saw her recently in ITV’s The Ipcress File – she certainly will be very soon. A great talent.
For Christie diehards, this is the adaptation they would have been waiting for. Laurie has an obvious love for the period and the material, and it’s a fun, watchable, and, well, traditional Christie exprience.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? streams in the UK and US on Britbox
But we find Lamb and his ragtag team of misfits in a spot of bother. We saw at the end of episode three that he agreed for his team to be the first on the scene at the house where the British-Asian teen was being held hostage was being held. However, they found that Regent Park’s inside man had had his head chopped off and the gang – and their abductee – nowhere to be seen.
Knowing that they were in deep trouble, and that Diana Tavener would be fitting them up for the crime, Lamb and the team dispersed with orders to bring everyone in and meet at a safe house.
So this episode was more of a cat-and-mouse game, with Lamb and his team members being chased all over London by Regent Park and Tavener, who sensed this was her moment to not only absolve herself of all blame but to also finally get rid of Lamb.
Lamb, of course, had his own tricks up his sleeve, and it was very cool to see this greasy, belching man way past his prime spring into action and reflexively revert to his wily ways. We knew he had it in him.
However fun as this was – and it was – it really did feel like a bridge episode. The type that every series needs or builds into its structure. This was a necessary transition, one that marks a new phase in the drama – with nutcases in charge of the hostages and Lamb and co dispersed but now back together again, Slow Horses can settle back down again for the final stretch.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the abductee will survive, or whose reputation will survive. I’m betting on Lamb, but who knows?