ANDREW JOHNSTONE reviews an English series that doesn’t quite seem to know what it is yet, but still manages to feel compelling.
“You think you’re a good man Charlie, you’re not. You’re a moral abomination,” says Grace Moriggan, an Mi5 operative who has been hounding Detective Chief Inspector Hicks and his partner, Detective Inspector Elaine Renko, to the point where Renko suggests they kill her. Hicks pats down Renko, suspecting a hidden wire. “You can’t be serious,” he stutters. She is. Moriggan (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is a sinister piece of work that invites all kinds of feelings of unease and dislike, much like Charlie Hicks himself.
Charlie Hicks (musician/actor Jim Sturgess) is a sort of Jack-the-Lad beset with complexities that include some bent ideas about familial loyalty and the nature of right and wrong. Renko (model, actor and musician Agyness Deyn) has stepped into the shoes of his recently deceased partner and is all kinds of complexity herself.
She is secretly investigating Hicks, who may or may not be bent. He knows what she is up to but pretends he doesn’t. She suspects he knows but manages to pretend otherwise.
The pair are a murky conundrum that are about to get a lot murkier when they unwittingly come into the possession of a memory stick containing some very bad news about the sun. Yes, that sun, that ball of fury that sheds life-giving radiation down on us everyday from some several billion km away.
Over the next five years it’s about to go all haywire and everyone is going to die a slow horrible death and the government wants to keep it under wraps for as long as possible and for good reason: they fear news of the fast approaching apocalypse will be a green light for social chaos. This is where Moriggan steps in.
She is charged with keeping the information under wraps and will do whatever it takes to fulfil her duty. “All I want is for things to stay as they are for as long as possible,” she says to an increasingly agitated Hicks in another one of her attempts to manipulate him into betraying Renko and recovering the memory stick.
Okay, that’s enough, any more and we are into serious plot spoiling territory, so let’s just leave it at that and ask the question: If you knew it was all coming to an end how would it affect you, your work and attitudes?
Hard Sun it seems is a trial series, a testing of the waters and though Cross is on record as saying he would like to explore the theme further, the BBC is yet to green light more episodes, leaving us with what amounts to a taste rather than a full meal.
Treading similar ground to Broadchurch, River, Wallander, The Loch and Hinterland, Hard Sun manages to forgo the character development and subtle plotting that makes these shows so compelling, relying instead on all manner of lurid set pieces to keep the game on the road – the lobotomy guy and his house full of schlock zombies being one, Dennis the Priest and the unbreakable seal of the confessional another.
The result lurches between considered and ludicrous, thoughtful and bombastic – cue Renko’s psycho son, a plot device so fantastical you could call it a rocket and send it to Mars to buy an apple. Then there Renko herself: Deyn does a great line in acting as if she is acting while trying to hold together a character made up of a who’s who of well worn clichés, and as for Charlie Hicks, what with the philandering and the sneaking around behind Renko’s back he hardly has time for any real policing at all, but that’s beside the point. All he is required to do is turn up at the scene of the crime and bark out orders before taking out the perpetrator in some gung–ho act of daring-do.
Mostly, Hard Sun seems to know not what it wants from itself, but there is enough substance here to keep the viewer engaged through to the end and if the BBC does green light another season it will be interesting to see where Cross takes his idea.
If they can reign it into focus and give it some emotional resonance it could still be something special. Best moment from Season 1? When Renko beats the shit out of Hicks. The rest is almost superfluous by comparison.
- Hard Sun screens on SKY TV.
* The Internet and ‘TV on Demand’ has revolutionised the way we watch TV shows. No longer beholden to television networks and their programming whims and scheduling, we can watch back-to-back episodes of new and old shows to our heart’s content without those annoying advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. TV viewing has suddenly become more accessible, democratic and a hell of a lot more fun. ANDREW JOHNSTONE scours the available channels and finds the best of the best, so you don’t have to.