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A good story but full of filler
on 8 February 2014
This is very much a boxset to watch all in one go, as it relies on the viewer being vigilant. Despite the show's flaws, it does have good re-watch value.
The premise is that there is a pile-up on the A-12, involving eight cars. There's some fatalities, some critical injuries and some escape with a few scratches and a bad arm. But our lead policeman John Tolin (Douglas Henshall) does some sleuthing and discovers that there are some dodgy dealings about. He is paired up with policewoman Ann (Kate Ashford) with whom he naturally has romantic history with. So, who are all these people and what's going on?
That is really the show's problem for the middle three episodes. In the opener, we see some intrigue and wait to learn more about that, only for more 'intrigue' and characters to keep piling up. Clearly this was done to stretch the show to five episodes (one was shown every weekday for a week). The criminal activity was all a bit vague and unconvincing, lacking any tension, though there is a pay off of sorts for the blandest one in the penultimate episode. If they'd left that, the show could have focused on the more interesting criminal activity; the dodgy secrets of a large company that one of the people involved in the crash, PA Karen (Claire Rushbrook) is on the brink of exposing.
Buried underneath all of this unconvincing no-tension dodgy dealings are the secrets of a private piano tutor (David Bamber), the rubbish relationship of roadside diner waitress Jane (Lucy Griffiths), the millionaire who wants to whisk her off her feet (Paul McGann), a man (Phil Davis) and his mother-in-law (Sylvia Sims), and a young black couple (Anwar Lynch and Leonora Crichlow). These stories are quite well written: because some of them are predictable, it means that others surprise you because of course, you're expecting everything to be predictable and lazy. And of course, it's an ITV drama, so predictable and lazy are par for the course.
Acting-wise, the dodgy dealers are passable but the main actors are actually quite good. True, they're not given outstanding material and due to the large cast, characters do not get a lot of chance to develop, particularly the relationship between Griffiths and McGann's characters. Their chemistry is more like daughter and father so it's a bit off-putting to imagine them as lovers but these characters were always looking for an escape route.
Personally I think the show was at its best when dealing with the personal consequences. Of course, we wouldn't get the irritating police couple or the good performance of Jo Woodcock as John's daughter, but it would be more interesting. Writer Anthony Horowitz was clearly capable of doing something more subtle but ITV clearly thought it would be more appealing as a police procedural show.
The end episode is satisfying and does leave you thinking about how the crash had such a vast effect (the butterfly effect). Though some characters obviously end up worse, others get the chance of freedom, so there's some interesting ethical dilemmas.
The show is worth a watch if you can pick it up cheap- it's on Amazon for under a fiver at the moment and it's just about worth that. Yes, it is mainly a stretched out police procedural but there are some interesting twists.