Not for the first time Christopher Eccleston has ditched a successful show after the first series and Safe House, which got an average of six million viewers a couple of years back, had to rewrite, relocate, recast and probably loads of other things beginning with the letters R E too. Even the original writer, who is credited here for coming up with the original concept has been replaced.
Some might wonder why they’d bother bringing back at all. Essentially series two has the same DNA with different chromosomes. It’s difficult for yet another crime drama to find new twists to the genre and it kind of succeeds if you can forgive the cliches and fanciful leaps of imagination needed.
The opening abduction scenes are reminiscent of Scream without the gore as a tied up John Channing (Ashley Walters) watches on as his girlfriend Julie (Lynsey McLaren) is kidnapped before his eyes. The news of the kidnap triggers memories for Tom Brook (Stephen Moyer), a former detective and regeneration of Robert Carmichael. He believes that this new crime has a link to a former case of his, a case which imprisoned Jason Griffin, a man nicknamed ‘The Crow’ for reasons as yet unknown because he doesn’t have any wings. Or a beak. Alas, Tom believes that either he wasn’t working alone or they locked up the wrong guy and the killer is still out there. For Simon Duke, who looks destined to be another criminally small role for the wonderful Jason Watkins, the news also causes flashbacks but his experience is more personal due to losing his wife at the hands of The Crow nine years previous. Keeping up? Good, that’s the science bit over with.
Think Nordic Noir set in Albert square. The camera shots are slow and lingering, the coastal setting is grey and bleak but the performances don’t quite fit the scenery. The main characters look like they’ve been airlifted in from a soap. Moyer’s constant frowning and unconvincing delivery grates but more concerning is Walter’s portrayal of a man whose girlfriend might be dead. He looks disinterested at best, completely bored at worst.
So to the cliches: Retired detective coming back to a case? Potential of copycat killings? The wrong person in prison? Jason Watkins not being given enough to work with? you can tick all the above off. While there aren’t any plot holes as yet, certain issues need to be raised. It’s curious why the police didn’t make a connection to The Crow until Tom turned up. Or why the family wasn’t given immediate protection and why they were then handed over to someone with a deep connection and history to the case. It’s not bad by any stretch but perhaps the show is perfectly named. For a basic premise that is a little different to the norm it still feels generic, still feels like it’s in a comfort zone. If the twists are good then the game can be raised.
As we know full well, this Safe House will be about as safe a sand castle at full tide. Thankfully there’s plenty of intriguing questions this very slow paced opener has set up. What incoming danger awaits the residents of the house? Will Julie survive? Is Simon free from all this? Is the wrong man in prison? Whether or not they’ll be executed well is what this programme now rests on. Whether or not anyone will be executed at all is another matter.
Safe House Continues Thursday at 9.00pm on ITV.