Did we like it?
ITV have finally made a thriller worthy of the rich source material of Ian Rankin’s detective John Rebus.
What was good about it?
• Ken Stott as Rebus. Granted, Stott now plays grizzled detectives with a dark side more often than Ross Kemp plays gorilla/man hybrids, but he gets the roles because he does such a good job. And he has invested Rebus with a number of quirks and idiosyncrasies which distinguish Stott from similar parts in Messiah and The Vice.
• One of Rebus’s unique traits is his propensity to matter-of-factly reel off exposition such as when he explained to Clarke that the reason he had headed off to the museum by himself was to rekindle his romance with Miranda its curator. This obviously replaces the interior monologue of the books, and is segued into the script with unobtrusive skill.
• Claire Price as Rebus’s sidekick DS Siobhan Clarke. Not being familiar with novels, we can still surmise that Clarke’s oscillation between spikiness and stoicism perhaps comes from the mind of Rankin as she is bereft of many of the annoying qualities of sidekicks in detective thrillers.
• The odd and distinct colour coding which was apparent throughout the tale of black and white. Rebus often wore all black, as did the murderous mastermind Phillippa, whilst Clarke was more often seen in white or cream coloured attire whether it was hygienic boiler suits to conduct an forensic investigation or chasing a suspect at a funeral, contrasting with the uniform black of the mourners.
• The threads which were laid down early on in the tale, such as the former administrator at the clinic where one of the victims worked keeping a record of all the births, were judiciously picked up later on to enable Rebus to piece together the clues.
What was bad about it?
• The bundle of theories over the motive posited by Rebus and Clarke after the first killing, concerning ant-abortionists or vengeful parents, could all be immediately discounted as this was one area where Rebus was not cut free of the tether of hackneyed detective thrillers.
• That murderous mastermind Phillippa was something more than the ostensible object of the killer David Costello’s obsession was obvious from quite early on. When she was introduced to Rebus by his lover, her biography was suspiciously more detailed than might be anticipated for a simple work experience girl. And later on, when the war-game enthusiast incongruently explained to Rebus the three qualities of the finest generals, she listed them as be prepared to make the big decisions, confuse the enemy and always have a back-up plan, it was evident there was more to her than just being a victim.