It’s not easy to make a new TV crime drama stand out from the crowd.
BBC One’s new four-part drama One of Us, from the creators of the channel’s 2014 hit The Missing, unfortunately suffers from being a bit like Broadchurch (the effect of a murder being as important as the crime itself) crossed with Shetland (a bleak stormy Scottish setting).
There’s a nod to Columbo too (we are shown the killer right from the start) and the lead detective is a slightly aloof, socially awkward female (The Bridge/The Tunnel) who is herself involved with some sort of criminal activity (Marcella). Even the show’s title is an ABBA song, although that at least is probably just coincidence.
There’s also more than a hint of I Know What You Did Last Summer in the show’s underlying premise, and the first episode inevitably has to spend time setting this up. We start with a newlywed couple in Edinburgh, murdered and with the killer standing over them. We don’t yet know why Lee has killed Adam and Grace – nor do we know why shortly afterwards he sets off for the remote Highland location where the families of both victims (the Elliots and the Douglases) live on neighbouring farms.
In the midst of a fierce storm and almost at his destination, Lee crashes. The Elliots find him and naturally take the seriously-wounded stranger into their house to try and help – only to see his face shortly afterwards, shown on TV as the prime suspect in the murder case.
With both families now aware of the presence and the identity of the stranger they lock him in a barn, so that he is out of harm’s way while they decide what to do. But in the morning Claire Elliot finds him dead, his throat cut. “One of us has killed him,” she says; and by the end of the episode it’s become clear that the unspoken intention is to keep all of this from the detective currently en route from Edinburgh.
We’re already aware of cracks in the relationships between the two families. The mother of the murdered bride is very quick to suggest that the groom must have had a connection to the killer; but at the same time the audience knows she believes her own son has slit the killer’s throat. The implication now is that the only way to cover up the killing is for them all to stick together and, more than that, to trust each other.
One of Us is a show with a great premise but a slightly pedestrian first episode, and would have actually benefited from the sort of ‘Next Time…’ trailer which is the norm nowadays.
With a cast including Juliet Stevenson and Julie Graham as the two mothers, John Lynch as one father and (glimpsed only briefly at the very end) Ade Edmonson as the other, there’s no reason to think this won’t be a show worth tuning in for again next week – and hopefully the second episode will give One of Us a much clearer identity of its own.
Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 23 August 2016 on BBC One.
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