Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Recommendation of the Month: The Shadow Line

I love British television and I love a good drama.  When you put the two together you, more often than not, have the perfect series.  The Shadow Line is no exception to that.The series was created, written and directed by Hugo Blick and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, Rafe Spall and Stephen Rea.  It follows the investigation into the murder of Harvey Wratten over the course of a seven episode run.

The Shadow Line is anything but just another run-of-the-mill cop drama.  When Harvey Wratten is murdered just hours after receiving a Royal pardon along with his nephew, Jay, the investigation begins.  However, it isn't just the police wanting to know who murdered Harvey.  His nephew, Jay Wratten (Rafe Spall) wants to know as well and conducts his own investigation in his own way.  This also isn't a buddy cop drama in the least.  DI Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and DS Lia Honey (Kierston Wareing) don't spend thier evenings laughing and chatting at the pub.  There is real tension between them at times.  They work together for the good of the case but she isn't afraid to question him and has seen at least one of DI Gabriel's secrets with her own eyes.  DI Gabriel was involved in a shooting where he was shot in the head and his partner was killed.  He has amnesia related to the shooting but not everyone believes his claim of remembering nothing is legitimate.  Even DI Gabriel knows everything isn't as it appears when he finds a briefcase full of money in his closet.

On the other side of the coin we have the criminal element from which the late Harvey Wratten came.  His nephew, Jay doesn't just want to know who is responsible for his uncle's death, he is driven to know.  Rafe Spall's portrayal of Jay Wratten is powerful and compelling.  He easily goes from grieving nephew to maniacal "interrogator" demanding answers.  No one, or nothing, including cats are safe from his desire to know who killed Harvey.

Joseph Bede (Christopher Eccleston) was an associate of Harvey Wratten and the two men started a venture together with Bede investing everything he had.  After Harvey is murdered, Bede makes it clear to those remaining in the organization, as well as prospective new associates that he wants to finish the venture he and Harvey started, make his investment back then he's out for good.  In his personal life, Bede's wife, Julia (Lesley Sharp) is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's.  Joseph is determined to take care of his beloved wife no matter what.  Having lost someone extraordinarily dear to me to Alzheimer's I'm usually not fond of the disease being used as a device for sake of plot.  Seeing Sharp's handling of her character's illness, Eccleston's reaction as an adoring husband knowing what lies in store for his wife and how the Alzheimer's is actually written into the plot impressed me.  I didn't get the feel that it was thrown in as a simple way to make Julia Bede a sympathetic character or to try and give a little humanity to Joseph Bede.

Then there is "Gatehouse" (Stephen Rea).  He's a mysterious man in a dark coat and hat who manages to reach each person connected to the Wratten murder just before the police.  More often than not, those he comes in contact with end up dead

There are a lot of different story lines going on in The Shadow Line at once.  You have the police investigation into Harvey Wratten's murder, Jay Wratten's own quest to find out who killed his uncle, Joseph Bede's continuation of the operation he set up and put everything he had into, Bede's wife's struggle with early onset Alzheimer's, DI Gabriel and his wife wanting to have a baby and the secret he is keeping from her and, finally, but certainly not the least of things, a mysterious briefcase of money in DI Gabriel's closet and the mystery surrounding a shooting he was involved in and whether or not the amnesia he claims to have regarding it is true or made up.

While it might sound like so many things going on at once would be confusing, it really isn't.  The story is so well presented it's easy to keep up with everything and not get one confused with the other or lose your place.  Not once have I found myself asking "wait...what just happened there?".

Fans of other British drama's such as State of Play or Luther might find The Shadow Line to be their cup of tea as it sort of has the same feel to it.  The writing is strong, the acting is superb and each episode of The Shadow Line is better than the last.  The only negative thing I really can say about the show is that it will be just seven episodes.  Something this good, I could watch for much longer and enjoy every second.

Four of the seven episodes have aired already.  The final three will air on the 2nd, 9th and 16th of June.  Residents of the UK can watch previous episodes online at the Shadow Line Official BBC web site (link below).

The Cast of The Shadow Line:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as DI Gabriel
Christopher Eccleston as Joseph Bede
Kierston Wareing as DS Lia Honey
Rafe Spall as Jay Wratten
Lesley Sharp as Julie Bede
Stephen Rea as Gatehouse
Clare Calbraith as Laura Gabriel
Richard Lintern as Patterson
David Schofield as Sergeant Foley

The Shadow Line airs Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. (UK time) on BBC Two.
For More Information:
The Shadow Line Official BBC Site:
The Internet Movie Database:

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