Did we like it?
A thriller in the true sense of the word, enhanced by innovative, arty direction and a three-dimensional anti-hero for viewers who are sick and tired of cases being solved after the murderer leaves a tiny DNA sample in one of his victims’ back teeth.
What was good about it?
• Anthony Flanagan as the laconic flawed DCI Thomas Flynn who must solve the increasingly intricate murders while dealing with his father’s coma and the revelation of meeting his long lost stepsister. Despite being the star pupil when he was training and a rapid ascent through the ranks, his puerile reaction to his sister’s appearance by their ailing father’s bedside showed how emotionally juvenile and petty he could be, a trait mimicked in his professional life when he undermined one of the local cops on the case.
• There are even allusions to incest after Flynn stole some admiring glances at his stepsister. While the very last scene of the opening episode, cast some suspicion that Flynn himself could be responsible for at least one of the killings.
• The subtle eschewing of forensic techniques to solve crimes, which is replaced by Flynn’s instinctive (hence the title) approach to cracking the case. At the scene of the first murder, as the forensic officer carries out all her tests, Flynn is distracted by a picture hung unevenly on a wall; an observation that is the catalyst for him arresting victim Megan’s husband Ian on suspicion of murder.
• And later when Ian’s son, who was sired from semen Ian deposited almost 20 years before, is arrested after his DNA turns up on the scarf used to strangle Megan, it’s quite obvious that this will turn out to be a red herring. We must say after being so buried in thrillers being resolved through such forensic techniques such as Waking The Dead, it’s refreshing for one to use good old-fashioned police instinct (perhaps as a homage to the BBC’s uber-hit Life on Mars).
• One such example of good old-fashioned police work was the classic chase across the back gardens as a panicked Jake fled the officers sent to arrest him after the DNA was found on the scarf.
• Perhaps ITV1 feels so secure in its ability to deliver top-notch thrillers that it feels it can be a little bit more experimental (yes, we know that’s a word often alien to our leading commercial broadcaster), but the curious direction that saw striking scenes such as the forensic police officer up against a background of blinding sunlight, the view through a metal lattice, water dripping moodily into a puddle near to the corpse of the plastic surgeon all combined to instil an eerie sense of entrancing mystery.
• Little clues allow the viewers to formulate their own (probably hopelessly wrong) theories on who is responsible. The clock in Megan’s bedroom was smashed and had stopped at 10.35am, and so this was taken as the time of the attack. But her husband Ian could have killed her at 9.30am and wound the clock forward before arriving late for work at 9.45am, and blamed his tardiness on the traffic. And who was in the house with Ian when Jake called? All we saw was a sinister leg.
What was bad about it?
• The opening sequence in which a flashy car soared along deserted, open country roads in the bright glare of the cleansing morning sun was too much like an advert.
• The almost comical Pink Panther-esque low bass rumble whenever there’s peril ahead such as just before Ian opens the door to his bedroom to discover his wife’s blood everywhere and when the killer poses as a bogus journalist to stun and kidnap the plastic surgeon.
• While have been admirable efforts to distinguish Instinct from the rest of the thriller pack, there are a number of drab necessary elements that remind you that you are watching yet another mystery about a mysterious killer with oblique motivations whose identity will be kept a secret until about ten minutes from the end.