‘New Blood’ review: Episode 4 has an unevenness of tone

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There’s an antiques dealer in Episode 4 of New Blood (or Part 1 of Case 2, if you like having numbers thrown at you).

He looks and sounds disconcertingly like the late Oliver Reed, which I mention only because it’s so striking that I suspect everybody watching will have experienced that same momentary “I thought he was dead” shock.

The episode places Gulliver (played by Gary Oliver in fact) as the villain – he’s had some dealing, which he is menacingly reluctant to discuss, with a Polish worker who has ended up dead; and he’s under investigation for handling stolen property.

So it’s another shock when the episode ends with Gulliver, and his premises, going up in flames.  It’s a pretty grim scene as he is tied to a chair by some hired thug, before being doused in lighter fuel.

Our heroes Rash and Stefan have the place under surveillance, but are unfortunately asleep on duty (the sort of sleep that comes after an evening drinking 95% proof Polish spirits).  Finally woken by the approach of the cliffhanger, with the building ablaze and the fire brigade’s sirens blaring, the two take it in turns to blame each other for having dozed off.

New Blood Rash (BEN TAVASSOLI)

Like all new shows, New Blood has yet to fully establish its ‘feel’.  There’s clearly and deliberately a sense of fun to proceedings – it admirably has no ambition to muscle into Line of Duty territory.  But where on the scale between the documentary feel of NYPD Blue and the gung-ho nonsense of Hawaii Five-Oh it sits, I’m not yet sure.

Consequently, there are moments where different styles seem to clash.  It may be a deliberate attempt to tread the line between drama and comedy, or it may be an accidental unevenness of tone.

Gulliver’s death, and the business dealings between the entrepreneurial Wesley Brothers and the Planning Minister Charles Matherson (Alistair Petrie, recently seen in The Night Manager) feel at odds with a trainee detective being left unsupervised to carry out surveillance on a case he’s not even involved with, simply because they are a man down; and the two regulars fighting it out in a drunken stupor as a man is burned to death feels just a little off.

New Blood Stefan (MARK STREPAN)

It’s also worth mentioning that there is at least a hint of déjà vu.  Like the first story, we have murder disguised as accident; we have Rash following his suspicions after his superiors have dismissed the case; and (although to be fair this was inevitable, given the show’s format) we have a case where police detective work and Fraud Office investigation overlap.

The script is very entertaining; the direction is strong and the show look great; and the two regulars are very pleasing in their youthful enthusiasm (although I would suggest that Mark Strepan’s drunk acting isn’t totally convincing).  But if I’m honest I’d liked to have seen something much more different to the first story.

Maybe the concluding part next week will take things in an unexpected direction.

Aired at 9pm on Thursday 30 June 2016 on BBC One.

> Order Season 1 on DVD on Amazon.

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