This 8-parter doesn’t hang about, with both protagonists well establlished in the first episode using a Peep Show narrative styling. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden are beautifully awkward, slightly scary, both a little scarred (albeit it in different ways) and, while they are not necessarily likeable characters, there’s something there to keep you invested in their journey.
The pair challenge the teen stereotypes seen in your average weekly drama and are a refreshing change to the teens that sometimes take over the TV schedule.
The extended cast also give context to the protagonists, and it’s not hard to see their individual motivations for embarking on the road trip that will presumably span the rest of the series. There will need to be some resolution for everyone involved, but I feel that this will come organically towards the final episodes.
Stylistically, this show won’t be for everyone, but I certainly found it a wonderful change to the current TV-by-numbers and rigid formulas that are too fearful to break from convention. Its spliced footage adds depth and foreboding to the unravelling plot, woven together with a delightfully dark humour that would not be out of place in a series like Dead Like Me, Six Feet Under or TEOTFW’s closest comparison: Dexter.
I’m not just talking about the male lead, James. Without question, he displays many qualities of Michael C Hall’s blood expert, but the similarities don’t end there. Like Dexter, there is a supporting narrative from both James and Alyssa to give the viewer an insight into the inner self, one that neither are able to reveal fully to anyone. It’s used, on the most part, to great effect. However, being comfortable in each other’s company does often find them verbalising their inner thought verbatim and can feel a tad pointless.
The setting of the show is a little mixed. While it inherently appears to be British, there’s a somewhat American feel to some of the locations, particularly when the pair walk home. It’s a curious artistic decision and I look forward to seeing how it adds to the show. It’s interesting to note that the show is based upon a graphic novel by Pennsylvania born Charles Forsman.
It’s fair to say that the pair don’t physically get very far in the show’s second episode. However, the distance is more than made up for in character development. Topless and without his father’s stolen car, James quickly shows us how they got into that position. This episode is not about the location, but the character journey.
While James is still considering how best to kill Alyssa, she is emotionally unravellingdue to the realisatin that she can’t go home, despite admitting to herself and the audience that she really wants to. It’s clear that their road trip was a little too impromptu.
Just as her surliness begins to grate (you’ll be forgiven for willing James to get on with his bloodlust), we’re given an intimate look at what her life was like in the house where she didn’t feel at home. She is the stronger of the two personalities when in public, but when she’s alone with James; the front begins to fall, and you see the vulnerable girl who has not had anyone in her corner for a long time. I dare anyone not to feel for her.
James’ development is less emotional, more experiential, which may be a little close to the knuckle for some considering the current climate. It is perhaps braver to not shy away from the issue. It’s resolved thanks to Alyssa and, though it might not do the justice that some would deem appropriate, it is arguably the most realistic outcome for two teens stranded without funds.
The music in this episode is as wonderful and thoughtfully placed as in the first, simultaneously complimenting and distracting from the images playing out on screen.
The episode ends with two moves made by the characters; Alyssa inviting James to go with her to her estranged father’s house and James’ father going against his son’s predictions and alerting the police to his disappearance. It’s a nice touch that ensures all threads are kept relevant. I am hoping that also means we will avoid those pesky ‘previously on…’ segments that are on almost everything recently.