A world away from the period setting of his hugely successful Foyle’s War, Anthony Horowitz’s New Blood is absolutely set in the present day, and the visual style takes its lead from that.
There’s plenty of flashy sequences and dizzying jump cuts – probably the only flourish that doesn’t work is the reflected lights slowly fading in a dead man’s eyes. It feels like the director showing off, and more importantly doesn’t serve the story: it would make sense if the man was dying but he’s already dead, due to having jumped (or was he pushed?) off the roof of a tower block.
This brief moment of auteur aside though, there are clearly experienced hands at work here.
The opening episode of BBC One’s new seven-part series manages to introduce a large number of characters without ever once losing us – even though, apart from a brief sequence where one of the two leads tries to chat up the sister of the other, the story of an undercover fraud office operation seems entirely separate from the story of a series of killings being cleverly staged as accidents.
In fact, not only is the audience able to keep up with the story, we’re actually a step ahead. The murder victims were all involved with a drugs trial six years previously; and the wily modern viewer knows it won’t just be coincidence that the Serious Fraud Office is investigating a drugs firm.
We’re also able to make the very obvious leap between victim number one being a hit-and-run, and the presence of an unexplained dent in the car belonging to Henry Williams (Ian Bonar). Somehow he is being manipulated by two beautiful women (nice work if you can get it) into conducting this series of murders (okay, maybe not so nice).
Experience shows too in the characterisations. Game of Thrones actor Mark Addy is the ‘seen-it-all’ old copper going through the motions, but he’s not so blinkered that he won’t consider the suggestions of his newbie partner. Conversely, newbie Arrash Sayyad (Ben Tavassoli) has the smart mind we’d expect of our hero, but his inexperience shows when asking dumb questions. Though cutting, Addy’s sarcastic replies aren’t always undeserved.
As for the show’s other lead, Stefan Kowolski (Mark Strepan) is skilled at undercover work, his chat-up technique isn’t bad, and yet he seems bizarrely oblivious to co-worker Alison (Kimberly Nixon) all but throwing herself at him.
Anna Chancellor pops up briefly as the head of the SFO, given far too little to do but of course doing it superbly. Likewise Mark Bonnar as a shady government figure. Hopefully both will feature more fully as the series progresses.
Dipping its toe into Sky Boxset or Netflix waters, the BBC has already released the first three episodes onto iPlayer in one binge-friendly helping, so they can be watched well ahead of their weekly transmissions. I’d definitely recommend giving this first episode a go – after which I suspect you’ll do the same as me, and move straight on to the next instalment.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 9 June 2016 on BBC One.
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