In the Dark episode 1 & 2 review
There’s a certain comfort to crime dramas – a predictable structure that, while allowing us to theorise and wonder about the ‘whodunnit’ aspect, ensures we know a few things going in. There will be several convincing red herrings, personal drama of the detectives dragged in, and the culprit won’t be caught until the last 20-minutes of the final episode.
So where does that leave In the Dark viewers after episode two, in which the killer of Abigail was caught and arrested, and the mystery of what happened to Helen (MyAnna Buring) and Linda (Emma Fryer) as 13-year-olds solved? It’s disconcerting in a way that these kinds of series are rarely allowed to be, and leaves the world wide open for new adventures in episodes three and four.
We’re now fully aware that this show is not about the town or about Poppy and Abigail’s abduction – it’s about Helen. It’s about the ways in which her past, present and future battle with each other as she simultaneously confronts her abuser and looks forward to having a child of her own.
Throughout these first two episodes we’re keenly aware that Helen is absolutely terrified of being a mother. Not for herself, but for a future child she may not be able to protect from the horrors she experienced herself. They’ve got “20-years of fear” to look forward to, she tells devoted boyfriend Paul (Ben Batt), and that’s before she’s left alone and fighting for her relationship after revealing a self-sabotaging affair with their colleague.
The paternity drama is less fun than a lot of the series’ other elements, which rely heavily on an excellent performance from Buring. Cold and detached – and suffering from PTSD from an event the audience isn’t privy to – aren’t easy shades to play, and she does a fantastic job of also making Helen a likeable and relatable protagonist.
The literal hauntings of a young Linda and Helen are admittedly a bit heavy-handed, and it doesn’t take long before what happened all those years ago becomes obvious to 80 per cent of viewers. In retrospect, though, maybe this was the point. In the Dark might be trying for something more, dealing with the humanity underneath the crime drama tropes and presenting us with a plain character study.
Either way, the town itself is filled with plenty of eccentric locals, and the show does well weaving these folks in and out of the first two episodes. The killer reveal isn’t particularly interesting, but it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere either.
Phil (Matt King), the devout city-dweller and medical examiner who visits the pair in episode two, is far better than the part he’s given, and I hope he sticks around. Mainly so he can talk some more about the dark web and Bitcoin as if these are things that ordinary people use on an everyday basis to cover up their criminal activity. As an audience surrogate, he’s golden.
‘What future do you want?’, the series asks Helen, and perhaps confronting her past will finally allow her to figure it out.