If Hard Sun proves anything, it’s that you should never mix work and family. For instance, I have to clap my hands over my ears and yell ‘LALALALALALA!’ whenever my dad tries to talk to me about Hard Sun.
Work and family have been part of a messy, violent knot since Episode 1, but in Episode 5 that knot tightens and gets more blood-encrusted, as home life and professional responsibility become one gruelling mission, both for Renko and Hicks. And it puts not just their careers, but their lives, on the line.
It doesn’t waste any time in getting that way. Within a minute of beginning, the recently escaped Daniel stabs his dad, Noah Underhill, in the back with an ice pick. Then, in a thankfully unseen moment, turns the tool on his crown jewels. Yee-Ouch.
‘An ice pick to the privates – that’s gotta be a Ten from Len,’ government agent Grace purrs to Hicks. That’s a weird line. Not like he was killed with a voting paddle or a tap shoe. Would Len Goodman give such high marks for mutilated pickled walnuts? Perhaps, but only if it was followed by a flawless forward change into a reverse fleckeryll (Craig would’ve given it a five and called it a ‘Pants dis-ah-ster, dah-ling!’).
Daniel, in possession of his dad’s phone and the Maltese Falcon flash drive, waltzes off, aided in his escape by mum Renko, who puts herself in a compromising, not to say criminal, position by texting him a warning that the cops know where he is. You can understand why. She’s a cop, but she’s a mum first.
What I can’t understand is why Aisling Bea has an Eliza Doolittle accent in this series, instead of her usual delightful Irish tones. If it’s an attempt at distancing her comedy persona from her dramatic one, then that’s understandable, but the accent is so noticeably Cockney flaar-gewl that you expect Rex Harrison to appear on a wager. It’s a shame, because Bea proves herself to be a very good at drama here. It’s a shame the accent detracts from the rest of her work and her scene with Hick’s wife Simone.
But that is a small (if ongoing) niggle, and one easily forgotten given the pace and relentless tension of the rest of the episode, as Renko and Hicks race against one another to track Daniel (and by extension the flash drive) down before the rest of the police can. When they both get to them another ugly – but brutally well choreographed – fight scene occurs between the two, akin to their first beat-up on the sandbank in Episode 1.
Daniel escapes – not before leaving his mum the flash drive – and goes to partake of some drugs in the most drug-den-lookingest drug den you’ve ever seen. This is a good point to say something i’ve not managed to in these reviews yet: which is that Jojo Macari has done really well portraying a damaged but complex character. You can understand why his mum still loves him. He’s dangerous but also vulnerable. With him the two go hand in hand. It’s a great performance; the kind that makes you want to feel sympathy, but from a distance. Or behind safety glass.
With Hicks still on his tail, Renko threatens him that if she doesn’t leave him alone she’ll tell Simone that he’s been cheating on her. In retaliation, a bloodied Hicks, looking like a badger with late stage TB, promises he’ll kill her if she does that. And the way he says it, you believe him. He’s a man with everything to lose. He’s already lost Mari.
With the phone re-activated by Daniel’s dealer, everyone converges on a drug den that looks once to have been a lovely canal-side tavern. Tsk. Yet another sign beleaguered Britain’s pubs need saving.
A government agent dressed as an addict gets there first, pumping Daniel for information on the location of the flash drive before pumping him with an overdose of heroin. Renko arrives just in time to quickly and efficiently beat the shit out of her. But then the other .gov.co.uk goons burst in, ready to take Elaine away and leave Daniel to die. Given the ruthlessness of this show, you genuinely believe that might happen.
But here comes the unlikely saviour, DCI Hicks, with a gun and a way of saying ‘OH LOOK THERE’S NO WAY OUT!’ that is at once hilarious in its theatricality and sincere in its meaning.
He holds a gun to Grace’s head. They hold one to Elaine’s. The stand-off – and Daniel’s life – is saved by sirens.
It’s a complicated relationship that Hicks and Renko have. It keeps the viewer on their toes and provides the core engagement in the show. It’s a volatile, heat of the moment, emotional (but thankfully not at all romantic) relationship. One minute they’re tearing shreds off each other, the next their saving each other’s lives. They’re bound by their own and each other’s work and by their personal lives. It’s by no means a trustworthy relationship, but they acknowledge it exists. It makes for a refreshing cop duo – we’ve not seen anything like this on screen before.
And just as it seems they’ve come to terms with how deeply, uncomfortably intertwined their work lives and the lives of the people they love are, Hicks pulls a face that you instantly understand the meaning behind.
Hicks did kill Butler.
We even get a nice flashback to prove it. Bang. Splash. You won’t be seeing your wife and her Dick Van Dyke accent no more, Butler. Suddenly, just before its series finale, Hard Sun has become even more engaging viewing. Unless you’ve already watched the finale, of course, in which case, ‘LALALALALALA!’, and see you for the finale next week.