We talk a lot nowadays about how dramas take their time, we binge on them so it doesn’t matter if you’re not instantly hooked. Every now and then though a drama comes along that grabs you from the opening seconds and doesn’t put you down. I’ve experienced this four times this year, German drama Deutschland 83, the second series of Happy Valley, Icelandic drama Trapped and now BBC Three’s first online drama Thirteen.
The story of girl who escapes after being held captive for thirteen years grabs you from the off. When the drama, which is available online via BBC Three on Sunday, begins we meet a disheveled girl, she slowly opens the door and takes step outside. Her fingernails are dirty, her hair is wild and she’s wearing a dressing gown. She races across the road until till reaches a telephone. She picks up the receiver desperate for the operator to answer. “My name is Ivy Moxam, I was kidnapped thirteen years ago I’ve just escaped, please help me!” The opening credits run and you get chance to catch your breath. The lead performance from Jodie Comer is so haunting and damaged, she envelopes you. I was transfixed by Ivy and her transition into the world thirteen years on.
With no precedent to follow, DI Elliott Carne and DS Lisa Merchant question Ivy in an attempt to confirm that she is who she claims to be, whilst awaiting official DNA confirmation. Before they can confirm her identity, news of Ivy’s escape is leaked and the police rush to contact the Moxam family before they hear it from a swarm of journalists.
It’s clear the thirteen years since Ivy disappeared have taken their toll on her family. Her parents have separated with Dad moving out of the family home. Younger sister Emma has tried to move on since her sister left, she’s engaged to her boyfriend who lives with them and is busy organsing the wedding. The news that a girl claiming to be Ivy has been in touch throws the family into a whirlwind. Mum Christina is desperate to see her daughter again and sets about turning the house back to what it looked like thirteen years ago, Emma’s life is rocked too as she’s sceptical that Ivy has been found after all these years.
I found Thirteen to be one of the most engrossing new dramas I’ve seen for a while. It’s ultimately the story of a fractured family learning to come together, it’s the story of a young girl who’s life has been on pause and who is struggling to adjust in 2015 and it’s a story of how you move on. New writer Marnie Dickens has cleverly weaved all these stories together. There isn’t a second where you don’t feel for Ivy’s situation, where you’re not agonsing over the pain the family have been through, until you realise: maybe, just maybe this girl isn’t Ivy at all!
It’s a roar human drama with a mystery element that had me hooked. It will air eventually on terrestrial television but you can find it Sunday online on BBC Three and you simply must.
Thirteen starts on BBC Three online this Sunday 28th February.