Welcome to the slow road of weekly Hard Sun reviews. I’m sipping the series slowly, like a fine cognac, or Pepto Bismol. By now you may have watched the entire 8 episodes. In fact, you could’ve watched them all several times over. Judging by the iPlayer charts you might well have: it’s proved very popular.
And that’s fantastic to see. Partly because Hard Sun is a drama of quality and great promise, and mostly because the BBC clearly put it in a timeslot designed to nudge people toward iPlayer convenience.
In fact, my only problem with Hard Sun is that it’s been allowed to be bingeable. It might not hit the glossy corona of ‘Event Television’ but Hard Sun is more than good enough to be something you can wait a week for. Its structure is episodic in a Netflix-y sort of way, but it doesn’t scream to be consumed in big sittings.
At this point in time, when Auntie Beeb puts full series up – especially drama – it feels more like experimentation into streaming rather than expressed confidence in a show. Or maybe I’m being cynical and old-fashioned and need to move with the times instead of yelling at clouds. Or maybe I’m waiting for the day when I can watch an entire new series of Peaky Blinders in one Saturday.
But at least I’m not waiting for the end of the world, unlike everyone else on pre-apocalyptic planet Earth. Thanks to Renko (Agyness Deyne) the Hard Sun truth is out there. Not in full, which is probably why there’s not mass panic and looting (well, that and you want to save the looting for a year or two down the line, when the better TVs are in the shops), but just enough to allow the gaps to be filled with hearsay, alternate facts, and #FakeNews. And for it to attract the attention of all the wrong people.
Some of those wrong people are in positions of great power, as Hicks (Jim Sturgess) finds out in a tense opener that sees him zip-tied to a lawn chair on some plastic sheeting and facing the possibility of watching his pregnant wife be assassinated. It’s only down to Renko releasing part of the Hard Sun footage that she and the baby live.
Some are the average Joe & Jane public, or already unstable and looking for an excuse for violence, And it’s looking like each week will see Renko & Hicks solving a crime brought about by the Hard Sun information. This week it’s a deranged dad, estranged from his family and shafted over by his business partners. Fuelled by the oblivion that solar extinction will bring he goes on a particularly gruesome killing spree, planning on sparing his children the apocalypse and all the sweet looting.
Renko & Hicks are on the case, but as Hicks mutters at one point ‘Five years…what’s the point?’. What’s the point in catching criminals and putting them away when they and everyone else will be dead in under half a decade?
It’s a question that’s only going to get harder to answer. Renko doesn’t have one, but that’s probably because she’s investigating her partner, and even though Hicks doesn’t know that, the two trust one another about as far as they can throw a punch. Their elevator ride is so tangibly awkward that I started to make small-talk with the TV, just to break the atmosphere.
Personally they’re at odds, but professionally they make a reliable pair as they save the kidnapped kiddies in a gripping sequence in a forest that looks stolen from a fairytale nightmare. And just as it seems Renko is about to meet the business end of a shotgun, Hicks is there to save her.
Although he could’ve been a bit quicker couldn’t he? How long was he standing behind that tree, and was he just waiting for the situation to play out a bit more? You can’t be sure with Hicks, not when he’s starring on good ol’ fashioned string, photos and post-its evidence board. And the violence he then inflicts is enough to colour your view of him some more.
Clearly he’s guilty of the crime of being incredibly good looking, but by the end of the episode it seems there’s some solid evidence that he did commit murder. Whatever it is, it’s enough for Renko to look at her evidence board in a whole new way. Keep quiet, Hard Sun bingers.
At this very early point Hard Sun feels like it’s getting the detective portion right but underplaying the sci-fi aspect of the show. Hopefully that aspect may grow as the show progresses and #Sunpocalypse panic sets in, and I’m sure it will, especially as there’s been some quiet but solid world-building going on in the background (Renko’s mention of internment camps won’t have failed to prick your ears).
It’s also capitalising on the media-fuelled ouroboros of dread that we’re all involuntarily prescribed to in the 21st century. It doesn’t matter if it’s the fear of nuclear war or the reality of killer suns: panic comes to you through all the usual channels. Often with a hashtag, because death isn’t catchy enough.
It’s all good ground work, and if the show keeps it up, there’s no reason for it not to pack the sun cream and reach a second series. In which case I’ll give in, catch up with Century 21st, and watch it all on iPlayer.