sun 21/04/2019

The Shadow Line, Series Finale, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Shadow Line, Series Finale, BBC Two

The Shadow Line, Series Finale, BBC Two

Hugo Blick's tortuous conspiracy drama drags itself across the finish line

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Stephen Rea and Christopher Eccleston: Characters who'd like a word with the author

I see there are still a few brave souls trying to peddle the "searing televisual masterpiece" line, often in high-profile BBC publications, but I suspect rather more of us may have been veering towards an ever-healthier scepticism as Hugo Blick's wilfully obtuse noirathon ran around in increasingly demented circles. I wouldn't go as far as theartsdesk commenter "Gengis Cohen", who characterises The Shadow Line as "dreadful plotless, sub-Pinteresque nonsense" before really warming to his theme... but after a couple of drinks, y'know, you start thinking maybe he's not all that wrong.

Having hunkered down for the first six hours, brow furrowed and notebook at the ready to try and grab some of those dizzily ricocheting fragments, it was reasonable to expect a bit of mystery and transcendence from the final episode. Instead, it was more of a weary rolling out of great chunks of exposition, laboriously joining dots which would have been better left in an ambiguous murk. Then everybody got killed.

The most indigestible portfolio of revelations was allotted to Commander Penney (played by Nicholas Jones, still looking for that elusive role which will let him trump his portrayal of the magnificently idiotic Jeremy Aldermartin in Kavanagh QC). Penney had the thankless task of filling in a suitably perplexed-looking DI Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor) on exactly where the dodgy money had come from, how it acquired its secret codes, how Harvey Wratten (RIP) had used it to buy a load of drugs to use as leverage for his Royal Pardon, where the remorselessly sinister Gatehouse had learned his trade...

Ejiofor__Mrs_trimBut surely we'd got Gatehouse's number ages ago? From the start, Stephen Rea semaphored this thin-lipped killing machine as a pantomime George Smiley (scarf, trilby, 1960s overcoat), except he only had one note on his scale in contrast to Alec Guinness's subtle symphony of suggestion. And - dear God, how jejune - he went around blowing holes in people with a gun, failing entirely to evoke that inner world measured in minuscule gradations of failure, cowardice, compromise and betrayal which are the essence of the Le Carré-esque hinterland he seemed to be teasing us with (Ejiofor with Clare Calbraith as Laura Gabriel, pictured above).

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Ultimately, Blick's fearfully clever plotting turned out to be a bunch of familiar espionage/thriller components turned in on themselves so they pointed out instead of in, though I have to admit that the climactic revelation that all the secret money laundering had been carried out in order to prop up the police pension fund did take me by suprise. Although not in a good way. It's not really that difficult to keep an audience confounded and bamboozled if you just take a bunch of storylines, cut them into little pieces and feed them back in a confusing order. The really hard part is making viewers care about the characters and feel that they've gained something from the effort they've put in.

Sher_trimMyself, I'd give Ejiofor the marble clock for managing to inject some soul and pathos into Gabriel, a man battling doggedly to patch the holes in his damaged memory while simultaneously trying to breathe the life back into his marriage. There was careful and concentrated work, too, from Christopher Eccleston as Joseph Bede, who almost succeeded in pulling off the paradoxical feat of being a good man, harrowed beyond reasonable limits by his wife's mental disintegration, who made his living by trading gargantuan shipments of heroin.

Elsewhere, Rafe Spall's turn as the tittering psychopath Jay Wratten just made you wish somebody would give him a good slapping and send him to bed without any supper. The glib and sneering Superintendent Patterson (Richard Lintern) sneered glibly throughout every episode without any noticeable change of tone, pace or intensity. They could have left out Antony Sher's Glickman (pictured above) altogether and it wouldn't have made much difference. I can pinpoint the one moment where I felt burned by any real emotion, which was the encounter between Gabriel's wife and his former mistress at the funeral of the latter's son. Otherwise, this seemed like a bunch of characters divided by a common author.

The hard part is making viewers care and feel they've gained something from the effort they've put in

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Comments

even though i couldn't decipher a quarter of your review...it did seem fair.

Found the whole series utterly rivetting. Such a change to have a 'thriller' that engages the mind and makes you think rather than the usual violence just for its own sake which seems to be normal fare for most other detective series - British or American. As for the 'oh so clever' review here. Why don't you write a 9 part series which will attract such a fine cast and production values and let us see how good you are at it. ?

Really baffled that you two commenters find this review too clever/incomprehensibly. It struck me as lucidity itself. And so tiresome, the 'if you don't like it, why don't you write/compose/paint/sing/play one yourself' line. The only duty is to write well and to judge fairly, both of which Mr. Sweeting seems to do.

Far be it for me to comment on the niceties or otherwise of this review. Contrary - wise, I found this to be excellent television; the acting, direction and beautifully crafted plotline to be top class and as enjoyable and exciting as any short (ish) serialised drama since House of Cards. Still, each to their own, eh?

One of the best pieces of "reviewery" I have read in a long time.Spot on. "The hard part is making viewers care and feel they've gained something from the effort they've put in".Precisely what the final episode failed to do. PS I'm not related to Christopher Eccleston who's performance was up to his usual high standard.

"The really hard part is making viewers care about the characters and feel that they've gained something from the effort they've put in". I quite agree, and this is where Shadow Line comes nowhere near The Killing. After recovering from the shock ending, I realised I was actually quite relieved that the police's pension pot will continue to be replenished in these difficult economic times, without Gabriel managing to screw things up. On the whole extremely cynical and pretentious "twaddle", but made watchable by superb camerawork and visuals.

"I can pinpoint the one moment where I felt burned by any real emotion, which was the encounter between Gabriel's wife and his former mistress at the funeral of the latter's son" You must have ben watching a different series to me then. That came across as one of the most unrealistically acted sequences in the whole 7 hours. The series had it's flaws but if you couldn't afford a sentence to appreciate the magnificent direction & camera work at the least, could I politely suggest you step aside and allow someone capable of writing a balanced review have a go rather than just sticking the boot in to make yourself look clever. As a bloke that begins his paragraphs with the word "but" and uses "...." repeatedly I can understand why you deem style and presentation unworthy of attention.

You cannot win can you? All the signposted, glib, lazy, pandering excess of cop/thrillers blocking up the schedules, not just from the turgid ITV1 either, which many reviewers rightly are fed up with. Blick dares to dare at least. Yes it was not easy comfort viewing, that was the point? It compares very well to the missed opportunity of 'Luther', though in that case perhaps having one of the stars of 'The Wire' raised impossible expectations, even so, what a load of tosh 'Luther' is - I gave up on it after series 1. The Shadow Line had some of the very best, most tense, genuine shocking set pieces anything on UK television for many a long time, these were not isolated either. This I think is where many draw comparisons with classics like 'Edge Of Darkness', The Shadow Line does not match up to that one - what does? Still, the comparison with 'Between The Lines' of 20 years ago, despite the very different series formats, is a fair one. Overall, a good effort, worthwhile, a series that will be looked back on rather more fondly that the more negative reviewers think.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow Line but the last episode left me pondering more questions than answers. Why was it deemed necessary to disguise the police uniforms and cars from those used in real life when less edgy programmes like Z cars and Dixon of Dock Green etc were happy to use correct representations? Was it in order to distance the police from another organisation ------- One that "looks after its own" (as Jonah's offspring in the last programme) and provides support ("Pensions") to the dependents of its subscribers. Am I alone in my interpretation of this riveting piece of television or was it all about underfunded public service pensions.

Excellent series. As usual though, the critics would rather put the boot into something genuinely entertaining, and then fornicate over trash like Scott & Bailey.

The showdown in the Jewellers was easily one of the most contrived and pathetic string of implausibilities crammed into one scene that I have ever seen. Not to mention the lazarus-like recovery of Gatehouse from him being pumped full of holes by Glickman.

Thats funny as I didn't find it difficult to follow at all ... maybe you should just stick to reviewing trash like the x factor and hand your job over to someone who has a brain

I have mentioned & linked to this article in my own review of the series. I hope I managed to avoid including any truly terrible prose like this "The glib and sneering Superintendent Patterson sneered glibly....." that I picked up during my second reading of this glib and sneering hatchet job of a review.

Once you've removed the turd fom your upper lip, Random Review, you might see that the joke's on you. But I suspect that self-importance wins over humour every time.

Even if it had only consisted of its concluding words - "A bunch of characters divided by a common author" - this would have still been the most thoughtful and lucid review of The Shadow Line I have read. So I don't know what all you moaning minnies are on about. As for my own view, it was an entertaining enough drama series - style over content in the best sense of the expression - but it was a long way short of being a masterpiece.

It was definitely twaddle, but it was PRETTY twaddle.

Ho ho! - Mr Random criticises starting a paragraph with "But" but him/herself uses "it's" incorrectly and says "different to" instead of "different from"! Tut tut! The series was imperial-sized rubbish - cheap but grandiose direction, insulting lack of genre knowledge, massively boring, terrible arch acting, overindulgent yet empty writing, and deeply, condescendingly, unoriginal plotting. Unless it was a parody like Psychoville and I missed the subtlety, TSL was the worst cop show ever, if only on a technical basis. (And, though I hated Luther 1, Luther 2 is excellent.)

Hated it. Cannot even say how much I HATED it. Depressing, laborious, dark, depressing and way too full of itself. I would not want to ever in this world of this show, ever.

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