John Simm leads ITV’s new three-part crime drama thriller Prey, but is it just another dive into the well-chartered choppy waters of Good Cop Gone Bad?
The answer is a resounding ‘No’ and the question “Is anyone here troubled?” is answered, “Who isn’t!” It’s elegantly handled, and though this is writer Chris Lunt’s first foray into TV it is an astonishingly confident start, hosting a number of gambles that pay off.
Policeman-turned-escaped-convict, taciturn Detective Marcus Farrow (Simm), is first shown to be competent, though troubled by the state of his personal life. When his estranged, earnest wife (Lip Service’s Heather Peace) accidentally leads on her hopeful husband, unsure how to break the news she has a new boyfriend, he erupts, and storms out.
Soon after, we get our first gasp-worthy moment with Marcus’s sudden discovery of her dying in their house, evidentially stabbed to death. Except we have it on good, dramatic irony-enabled authority that Marcus did not commit the double murder of his wife and youngest son, the crime for which he must clear his name.
The net begins to close tight around Marcus and so begins the haphazard investigation helmed by Rosie Cavaliero’s unsettled acting superintendant, who arrests him for the crime prompting Simm’s Marcus to uncover a deep web of police deception that thwarts his every move.
The supporting cast allow the feeling of foreboding and glimmers of a happy ending to slip away with their menagerie of issues on display: a chilling turn from Line of Duty villain Craig Parkinson as best friend turned betrayer, his new boss turned hunter (Cavaliero) who cannot let go of her ruined relationship – the stakes for the innocent have never been so high.
Director Nick Murphy proves why he’s a trusted talent with his distinctive documentary style, overlapping dialogue and jump cuts giving the show a claustrophobic and paranoid feeling, filmed over Simm’s shoulder.
It’s a theme that’s repeated throughout literature, theatre and TV – the innocent hunted, the unfortunate victim of circumstance, but in this age of Line of Duty, Luther and Broadchurch – a parade of hit shows based on the theme of morality-deficient people running police departments – can Prey put its head above the parapet?
The mix of innovative storytelling, directing and a strong cast led by John Simm – who starts the episode as bitter and sarcastic and ends it having been heartbreakingly put through the mill – puts you in no doubt.
If Prey continues to rain down the punches like it has for this first intriguing and harrowing opening episode then we are in for a real treat.
Aired at 9pm on Monday 28 April 2014 on ITV.