Imagine the outbreak of a news leak in London today. A story about a devastating event that will bring the end of life to the planet within only five years. Panic, mayhem (in the UK) or fake news? And how would this really affect people who are already on the verge of mental collapse? Who would be better to introduce us to their stories but police officers involved in such criminal cases every day. But what happens when the main police team is the one responsible for the unearthing of the dire news? What if the main characters are trapped in a dangerous web of concpiracy, but also in a struggle against their personal demons?
This year’s “Hard Sun”, a co-production between BBC and Hulu, completed a promising, first season. Penned by Neil Cross, creator of ‘Luther’ (2010), lives parallel with Idris Elba, since the careers of both men took off after this series.
This time starring Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn, as a seemingly discordant detective duo, namely Charlie Hicks and Elaine Renko. Sturgness, although he has a well-written character, with moral dilemmas, weaknesses and maybe a ‘Dirty Harry’ foulness, he doesn’t really manage to impress, even though he does have his moments. However, Deyn is the impressing one, with a much androgynous look (which surely strengthens her interpretation), full of vigor, a calm voice and an invasive gaze.
The series manages to plunge us into an ominous ambience, an atmosphere of secrecy from all sides, with government conspiracies, the tragic past of Renko and Hicks being suspected of murdering his ex-partner. It is, indeed, an ‘onion scenario’ that unfolds its story on multiple levels. The directors achieve a good pace in scene development, given the small number of episodes. At the same time, photography, with darkened shots, cold lights and the ‘underlying’ music, makes sure that the level of anxiety is well maintained and that a sense of internal and external deterioration sets us on course for the coming doom.
The storytelling is largely responsible for this since it manages to strategically present how one narrative engages with the other, it never overextends and keeps interest unabated. Intensity, of course, is not lacking in this show, demonstrating a lot of violence (especially if we take into account that British police rarely resort to the use of arms, in comparison to the U.S.), but not beyond the usual levels of the police-mystery type of series in general.
It is indeed a peculiar characteristic in this show, that if some of its elements gave us more time to process, they would turn against it. The various cases could easily be disassociated with the pre-apocalyptic event. No, it is not realistic for the characters to overcome the backstabbing between them so easily. Violence often comes off as rather ostentatious for the sake of an unnecessary shock value. The music, within its intensity, would start to become irritating in a little while.
While we are not talking about a milestone of a series at the moment, nonetheless, it does achieve a very good balance making it easy to go past all of the above and enjoy the beginning of the end of the world. Especially in the pilot, with the pleasant surprise of David Bowie’s voice singing “Five Years” so fittingly.