During the second instalment of Blackout, it becomes apparent that a number of changes have taken place since last week’s opening episode – both in a dramatic context and in the nature of the thriller itself.
Having left Daniel Demoys (Christopher Eccleston) in front of the press last week, proclaiming himself to be an all-round shit whilst simultaneously announcing his contention for the forthcoming mayoral election, we find in the opening scene of Episode 2 that time has zoomed forward. Not very far, as the funeral of Henry Pulis – the bent businessman Daniel inadvertently killed in a drunken rage – has yet to occur, but it’s been long enough for this unlikely candidate to have not only won the ballot but taken office. Now he’s Mr Mayor, the reformed, alcohol-free family man in charge of a city with an £82 million budget to spend and a bloody big secret to keep.
So far, so pretty similar, but while Demoys thinks he’s been given an almost divine second chance to improve the lives of the people in the city – ‘Everything that’s happened is telling me I can pay for what I’ve done’ – and takes an egalitarian approach to his new job, the story has broadened beyond simply being about one man’s mistakes, choices and reparations.
Shadowy forces (as the Queen might say) in the council are already at work trying to keep the new mayor’s crime under wraps for their own ends, and what started as a drama about morality has become a political thriller. The investigation into Pulis’s murder is stalling, despite the best efforts of his daughter Ruth (Rebecca Callard) and one-riot-shield-short-of-a-kettling copper Dalien Bevan (Andrew Scott) – both of whom end up confiding in Demoys, unaware that he’s the murderer whom they’re desperate to track down.
Bevan – whom Scott plays like a cut-price, post-austerity Moriarty, begging, blubbering and a desire to be reunited with his kids replacing flamboyance and plans for global domination – is likewise in the dark that his estranged wife, part-time sexual adventuress Sylvie (MyAnna Buring), has been having an affair with Demoys and saw the aftermath of the fatal attack on Pulis. He is, however, sure enough that she’s seeing someone to plant a bug in her bag and follow her to a hotel meeting with Demoys, who has an appeal to women that always evaded Ken Livingstone during his tenure as Mayor of London.
Sylvie loves him; wife Alex (Dervla Kirwan) is prepared to stand by him, even though she knows of his terrible crime; even Ruth Pulis tries for a cheeky snog (in the alleyway where her dad was murdered, dubiously enough).
However, Danny Boy gently discourages the grieving daughter, tells Sylvie their relationship is over, and after praising his wife to the rafters in front of the family (‘Jeez, Dad,’ daughter Meg moans, ‘we can’t even have dinner without hearing a Disney speech’) ensures that she won’t be implicated in his crimes if the truth ever comes out. It will, of course, but by the time it does, the main character will have been all but rehabilitated in the viewer’s eyes.
It’s partly down to Christopher Eccleston’s innate likeability, but it’s mostly because he portrays Demoys’s genuine desire to make amends for all his wrongdoing – not just with his family but with the city in which he lives – so convincingly. Last week, we wanted him to be caught; now, things aren’t so clear cut. If the corrupt cads on the council (including Ewan Bremner’s Jerry, who is much more of a Machiavellian motherhecker than he initially appeared) weren’t so keen to let sleeping murder lie, it might be better all round if the facts were bunged in the recycling bin along with all the empty vodka bottles and forgotten about. But that ain’t gonna happen.
Blackout’s shift of emphasis from moral dilemma to political intrigue is so smoothly executed that the join is almost impossible to see, while the way it constantly subverts expectations – it appears Bevan is going to shop Demoys when in fact he’s asking him for help; we think Sylvie is at the Town Hall to expose her lover but it’s actually Daniel’s former nurse/alcohol counsellor/guardian angel Donna (Branka Katic) – ensures that it’s never anything but captivating.
Aired at 9pm on Monday 9th July 2012 on BBC One.
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