Saturday, 28 April 2018

TV75: Collateral

A four-hour British miniseries (or a four-episode season one, if you prefer), this Netflix Original is a unique police serial featuring one of the UK’s best film actors, Carey Mulligan, and two of its best TV actors, Nicola Walker and John Simm. Add to this that Collateral was written by one of my favourite British TV writers, David Hare, and there should be no way this show could go wrong.

And, indeed, the first episode blew me away with its brilliant dialogue and acting, fascinating characters, gorgeous stylistic cinematography and fast-paced intelligent plot, not to mention that its heart was most definitely in the right place, with wise words about immigration and the justice system. An easy four stars, I thought. Then came the second episode, and the third, and everything began to unravel. Sigh. So sad.

The heart of the story is the police investigation into the murder of an Arab immigrant as he was delivering a pizza. Leading the investigation is DI Kip Glaspie (Mulligan), who is six months pregnant and leading her first case. Her police partner is DI Nathan Bilk (Nathaniel Martello-White) and her boss is DSU Jack Haley (Ben Miles). But the investigation is only a small part of the plot, which also features the killer (an army captain played by Jeany Spark), a gay vicar (Walker), her immigrant partner (Kae Alexander), who witnessed the murder, the woman who ordered the pizza (Billie Piper), her ex-husband (Simm), who is now the local pro-immigrant Labour MP, the manager of the pizza place (Hayley Squires), the victim’s two sisters (Ahd and Julie Namir), an MI-5 agent (John Heffernan) and many more.

The above paragraph reveals Collateral’s biggest flaw, and it’s a major one: There are far too many characters and storylines for a four-hour miniseries. In order for Collateral to have been as great as it could have been, one of two things needed to happen: 1) Take eight hours to develop all the characters and storylines adequately; or 2) Tell the story in four hours but focus on Glaspie’s investigation and the killer’s story, with maybe one side-story. As it was, the show felt ridiculously convoluted and scattered, with the feeling that every side-story was rushed to its inadequate conclusion.

Collateral could have been one of the greats; all the ingredients were there. Instead, each episode is less compelling than the one before and by the end there is only a sigh for what might have been. Collateral deserves no more than *** as a result, but I was so appreciative of its political views that I’ll slide it over into a lightweight ***+. My mug is up, but the brew inside is nowhere near as tasty as its aroma promised.

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