There’s been quite a few tweets this past week from people saying they’ve finished #HardSun, and lauding it as a drama well worth a watch.
That’s good to hear if you’ve not seen it all yet, especially as many crime dramas can start strong, only to drag on too long and fizzle out near the end (not naming names). Stephen Fry praised the show and its actors, and if it gets a Fry seal of approval then you should consume it. Case in point: Fry’s Turkish Delight. Delicious. And he definitely invented it.
But blimey I’m glad I’m doing it week by week, as Hard Sun is so unrelentingly grim that the box set of it should come with a prescription for Citalopram. One episode a week is enough for me – I have to watch an episode of CBeebies’ excellent Hey Duggee to lift my spirits after such nihilistic viewing – any more than that and, well, frankly there’s not enough Hey Duggee in the world to lift my spirits after an apocalypse binge.
That’s not only because of all the pre-apocalyptic angst, or the perpetually grim shades of tarmac and piss-neon the show is so artfully suffused in, but for all the gruesome slayings occurring. Corpses litter Episode 3 like bins the night before the dustmen come round.
With the discovery of a young woman’s body, Renko and Hicks, who somehow both manage to look a little like Jack Whitehall if you squint hard enough, are on the trail of a murderous ex-priest called Thom Blackwood, who looks a lot like Jeff from Coupling and you don’t even have to squint.
Actually if you remember Coupling then you’ll be amazed at how terrifying Richard Coyle manages to be. Even more terrifying than The Melty Man. He’s a genuinely chilling presence from the moment he stalks out of the darkness and only becomes more so as he begins to rack up the body count. I’m actually really pleased that he wasn’t caught by the end of the episode and relegated to a ‘villain of the week’ because he’s far to good to limit to just one episode.
In a twisted crisis of faith, Blackwood’s trying to call out God; getting Him to reveal himself and face all of Humankind’s sufferings. And his plan is to keep murdering until Jesus’ Dad gets off his cloud and comes downstairs to prove he exists. ‘If he’s there, let him stop me,’ Blackwood growls in the confessional.
It’s a murderous zealotry that has little to do with the whole Hard Sun conspiracy and the end of the world – frankly you could have an entirely different series based around a murderer with Blackwood’s motives – but it’s suitably compelling and keeps the show from stagnating in worry about the apocalypse. So long as you have the stomach for blood and stabbings. His attack on the bus is unflinchingly frank with the breath-close immediacy and horror knife violence.
By the end of the episode, as he dons a mask that makes him look a cross between a sports sock with evil ambitions and one of those mid-conversion Cybermen from Doctor Who‘s ‘World Enough and Time’, he feels like a worthy threat, especially as DCI John Wick and DI Justin Bieber are far behind catching him.
That may be because both have their minds elsewhere, and largely on their families. Renko is elbow deep in investigating Hicks and getting nowhere slowly, but she’s also dealing with having her son threatened by Grace Morrigan (Niki Amuka-Bird) and lashing out violently. Hicks also has kids on his mind, as he sees the ultrasound of his baby and the full weight of being a daddy again hits home. It’s hard to tell whether his tears are those of joy, or sadness, knowing that his child won’t live to see five candles on a cake. Probably a bit of both.
What I really liked this week was Hard Sun probing a little further into the point and pointlessness of life. Renko’s conversation with the (now ex) journalist is a reminder of the magnitude of what humanity is facing. It’s worse than you dying: it’s everyone and everything you ever knew and loved and hated being erased as well (an odd list is spouted, and the only thing I can remember from it is Teletubbies, probably only because I thought it should’ve been Hey Duggee instead).
We know that when we die some part of us, or at the very least the parts of things we loves will live on, but it’s incredibly sobering to think that it’ll all have been for nothing. Erased. Unheard, unseen, undone. There’s good drama to be mined from that and I hope Hard Sun digs further into the misery of it all, in the way it comes close to later on when Hicks and Renko talk parenting in the local caff, and when Hicks makes a deal with Morrigan to make sure he’s there for his family to make the big THE END that bit less lonely.
So it’s all going to end. So what is the point? Enjoy it while it lasts. Which is exactly what I’m doing with Hard Sun. Just in smaller doses than some, that’s all.