‘Safe House’ Episode 4 review

Never mind gorgeously bleak cinematography, a heavy air of suspense and some of Britain’s best acting talent filling out the cast; TV thrillers live and die on their stories – in particular, the ending.

Without a plausible explanation for the mysteries built up in preceding weeks and a satisfying emotional finale, viewers are entitled to feel disappointed.

This is where Safe House falls down. The materials used in construction were good, but they’ve been put together poorly. It’s difficult to know whether to blame the builders, the architect or the developers, but something has gone sadly awry. The explanations are inadequate and the climax is a confused mess, washing away any investment in the characters like last night’s bathwater. This is disappointment on an industrial scale.

Safe House

After much speculation, the actions of psychotic and wannabe roadie for The Band Michael Collersdale (Peter Fernandino) turn out to have no connection with the earlier murder of Susan Reynolds. The sole motive for his campaign of destruction is to gain custody of Joe Blackwell, who is secretly his son. Having tracked the Blackwells down to the Lake District, the hirsute hitman smacks seven bells of shit out of Sam and kidnaps Joe (Max True), raving about the wonderful new life in Spain they’re going to have.

His driving, however, is as out-of-control as his attitude towards parenting. They haven’t even made it out of the postcode before the car smashes into a dry stone wall. There’s a long, wannabe-Nordic-noir moment of tranquillity, all tinkly piano notes and shots of berries growing on trees, then Collersdale is dragging Joe off down the scree towards the lakeside.

Safe House Christopher Eccleston

Happily, heroic Robert (Christopher Eccleston) has arrived – as has friend and former colleague DCI Mark Maxwell (Paterson Joseph) along with some police snipers. While the marksmen take aim, Robert stumbles after Collersdale, encouraging the whiskered loon to give up.

‘I just want to take care of you,’ Collersdale blubbers to his son, but Robert’s persuasive pleas have hit home. He allows Robert to take Joe, but Maxwell has already decided on his course of action. Collersdale’s brain is blown out by a sniper’s bullet. Joe is horrified but unharmed, and the Blackwells – freed from their torment but in sore need of some family counselling to wash away the ocean of bullshit they’ve fed each other – return home.

Maxwell’s executioner-like behaviour is just another example of what’s been abundantly clear for weeks: he’s even more demented than Collersdale. It was him who ordered the death of Susan Reynolds, not her hoodlum husband Eddie. Robert works out the truth after the gangster advises him: ‘It’s the ones you love … you stop looking.’

Safe House

The exact reasons for Maxwell’s betrayal are unclear (it is attributed variously to protecting himself, protecting Robert and even protecting Susan herself – the classic sociopath’s argument that killing someone is beneficial to them) but this muddy lack of clarity is entirely in keeping with a part written with an astonishing lack of logic. It’s no wonder Paterson Joseph has played him with cartoonish foreboding: there’s no point trying for realism when your character is as convincing as a rubber dinosaur in 1970s Doctor Who.

The deranged detective goes full tonto at the end, pulling a gun on Robert and goading him about Susan. ‘You took her from me, just like you took Katy,’ he says – although the latter part of this remark is never fully explained. ‘You sucked them in with your righteousness.’ Perplexing and implausible to the last, Maxwell then proceeds to shoot out only Robert’s car tyres, leaving his onetime subordinate alive with a final valediction: ‘Walk home to that nice clean life I gave you, and ask Katy what’s right or what’s wrong.’

What’s wrong is that Safe House has dribbled to an end without providing suitable answers or a decent conclusion.


Aired at 9pm on Monday 11 May 2015 on ITV.

> Order Safe House on DVD on Amazon.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

> Follow David Lewis on Twitter.

  • Dr Michael Eisenberg

    David, Thank you for the recap. I agree, 2 stars. It seems to me that in an attempt to make TV scripts more elaborate and like a novel the writers leave inexplicable gaps and holes. It happens in American TV all the time. I’m not sure which is better. Simple and sensible or abstract and confounding.

  • Richard Emanuel

    Terrible climax to what seemed to be a suspenseful thriller. Safe house played it too safe it not making a surprising killing to shock the audience. I’m sure there was a creepy shot of an axe at the end which no one actually used. Almost a metaphor for the show in having a lot of options choosing none.

    Ignore this and watch true detective or line of duty.

  • Hilary34

    Did peeter out at the end but that seems to be a generic fault with these kinds of dramas where plot lines of even more ridiculous coincidence leap out to strangle each other. Someone previously mentioned the ludicrous Escape Artist which was even sillier with much poorer writing and acting and I would throw in What Remains which like this wasted one of Britain’s truly great actors in David Threlfall and Mayday and the one in the country house with the smug couples I can’t even recall the name of. I am sure there are plenty more of these cookie cutter crime dramas which are just as forgettable. I thought it was much better than any of those but a big disappointment given the cast and the set up.

  • st4rchy

    So bizarre. What are we to make of the childhood photos in the last scene? It’s shot as if it’s some big reveal–Mark and Katy knew one another as children! and look, the law was involved!–but it really tells us nothing. This would be an acceptable level of murkiness for something that might resolve over the same season, but in the finale, when no second season has been announced, it’s just strange. Mark drops hints about it that are supposed to look dark and nefarious, but it just looks off. “I may have murdered two people but she failed to mention something in her childhood.” Might work, if you play it as sociopathic imbalance, but that’s not how it’s written.

    Overall, though, not nearly as disappointing as The Missing or Broadchurch season 2.

    • Jenn

      I don’t seem to dislike it as much as many and it certainly got good viewing figures. I liked The Missing personally and thought it was more successful than Safe House. Safe House though was infinitely better than Broadchurch 2. That’s not saying much as I think B2 is possibly the worst thing on British television for quite some years. I expected Tennant to be awful as usual (poor guy simply can’t act, just gurns and stares boggley eyed at everything) and knew Chibnall would struggle to write anything which held together, but I was so disappointed that only Olivia Coleman tried to put in a performance in this. The other actors must have been having too much fun in the sun by the beach or were amused by the awful dialogue written for them. Shockingly bad.
      Anyway, vast reams have been written elsewhere about the truly dire Broadchurch 2, so back to Safe House which I thought was pretty solid, Eccleston is always good and I think given the good ratings, it could return with a new story. I’d certainly watch. I also liked Code of a Killer before this one, certainly it hung together well.

  • Rodneyjp

    Most unsatisfactory ending to a series that started with much promise. The bearded baddie left a trail of death just because he wanted his son (Fathers For Justice, not)? The top cop orders police marksmen to shoot dead an unarmed, unthreatening man – our cops may be trigger happy but this is ridiculous – no inquiry here into a police killing. And all these nudges and winks about a past relationship between Mark and Katy – whah? And the 3-episode storyline about a Safe House set-up to protect a family from a murderous bastard – all nonsense! Never mind the quick dashes by car between the Lake District and Manchester which take only a few minutes, whereas anyone who ventures out on the M6 knows it can take half a day! And, finally, what magic temporarily transformed our hero’s Volvo estate into a Vauxhall for one round-trip? Did he have to put the car in for a service between visiting the jail and rescuing the kid?

    • Murgatroyd

      Did you notice the ‘VXL’ on the Vauxhall’s number plate? This usually indicates a Vauxhall publicity/demonstration model.

  • Karen

    I’m glad I’m not the only one confused by the ending. It was very disappointing.