Sky have been desperate for years to mirror Netflix and Amazon in producing quality original dramatic content. To say this has been hit (“Tin Star”) and miss (“Britannia”, “Fortitude”, “Lucky Man”, “Jamestown”) so, err…mostly miss, would be an understatement. However, it appears that they may be a glimmer of hope with this superb gritty, harrowing gem from first-time writer/ creator/ star Lennie James (of “Walking Dead” and “Snatch” fame).
Local deadbeat and womaniser Nelly discovers that his estranged teenage daughter Jody is abducted, with local Police considering him the chief suspect. It is up to Him to find out what really happened to her and whether she is still alive.
Not only is he able to rely on actors from the deep pools of his previous work to help support his story but it’s his writing that really shows immense maturity and incredible realism. This show could have easily ended up on the BBC with its paint-by-numbers ideology of London, where it’s darkly lit and hoodie rich on every estate with grime wannabees but instead, you really believe that you’re watching the events unfold in a more docudrama format.
It’s hard to pick a poor performance from both the support and it’s lead; Lennie is great as the local Dirty Den, Suranne Jones her usual dependable self as Jody’s Mother totally broken and helpless by the abduction and Jason Flemyng strong and silent as his trans mate Tam. But the stand out for me was Stephen Graham as his closest associate Melon. As Melon’s history is discovered, which then transpires to be an avenue into finding Jody, he just gets better and better. Dipping back into past emotions and memories, attempting to justify his habit for the greater good that eventually leaves him broken and lost. I personally feel that he, along with Eddie Marsan, are the finest British actors working today and do not get enough credit or work for their immense talents.
Once the twist (and it’s a pretty good one, although a little sign-posted) is discovered, Nelly and Melon have to do the unthinkable and the show enters subject matter that is very rarely explored in the modern climate and makes for an incredibly anxious, tense and ultimately frustrating finale.
Unfortunately, it’s the finale that is the main reason why this show doesn’t quite deserve the ever-elusive AssHat 10/10, with an all-too rushed/ brief cameo from Ade Edmondson unexplored previously (felt a bit like he offered to do it before his weekly Pilates session) and the ending leaving you slightly unfulfilled. It rare nowadays that a show doesn’t contain enough episodes. Usually, the broadcaster tries to overstretch every single inch of the story to meet an arbitrary episode account, often leaving it thin and threadbare. Here the opposite is true and it feels like one, maybe two, extra episodes would have been better to fully complete the journey.
However, such is the rich tapestry and relationships of the community of characters that have been forged in the show that Sky has already commissioned a second series to explore them further. I just hope that don’t try and follow “Broadchurch” and attempt to make it about another missing person. You have been warned, Mr James!
Watch this if you like: “The Missing”, “This Is England”