Following an opening episode that might best be characterised as personifying the late Alfred Wainwright, author of many guidebooks to walking in the Lake District – rambling, pedestrian – the second part of ITV’s Safe House mercifully adds some action and energy to what was previously a beautifully filmed, atmospheric but painfully slow-on-the-draw thriller.
Upping the dynamism allows director Marc Evans to revisit his work on the excellent Hinterland, where the violence, tension and intrigue are complemented rather than overshadowed by a backdrop more desolate and austere than a George Osborne Budget.
Former detective Robert (Christopher Eccleston) is still striving to protect the Blackwell family from L.A. Woman-era Jim Morrison lookalike Michael Collersdale (Peter Ferdinando), despite their best efforts to mess things up.
Daughter Louisa (Harriet Cains) illicitly texts boyfriend Dom (Macaulay Harewood), unaware that he is under observation by Collersdale. A mugging later and the barbate butcher is stealthily probing her for information. Fortunately, disaster is averted before the location of the safe house is revealed and Robert decides to make the best of the situation, encouraging Louisa to continue messaging in the hope of drawing Collersdale out. He doesn’t respond.
Joe (Max True) then compounds his sister’s cock up when Robert’s neighbours Megan (Sarah Smart) and the blatantly dodgy Ben (Nicholas Moss) offer the kids sailing lessons. Louisa puts a false name in the register but Joe puts his own. The this-will-rebound-on-your-family-in-a-nasty-way-son klaxon could not be any louder.
Perhaps Joe’s mind is elsewhere. He has a disturbing fascination with Robert’s shooting scar, which the ex-copper inexplicably exacerbates by giving him the slug that caused it.
‘That doesn’t look like a bullet,’ the kid snorts. No pleasing some people – but what the hell possessed Robert to give a child such a peculiar present in the first place?
It’s one of several fanciful leaps in a script that often scoffs in the face of logic and police procedure. Unless DCI Maxwell (Paterson Joseph) is covertly engineering the entire scenario for his own ends, it’s impossible to explain why anyone as physically and psychically damaged as Robert would be allowed to open a safe house in the first place – let alone muscle in and take over the case from his former CO.
Things are further complicated by the earlier shooting of Susan Reynolds. It appears increasingly clear that the cases are linked, yet no one has even suggested a connection – even though the sighting in one of Robert’s flashbacks to Susan’s murder of a white van (Michael Collerdale’s vehicle of choice in episode one) indicates the homicidal Hairy Biker is the gunman who killed her.
Then again, that may be a speculation too far. The episode’s conclusion indicates the most unassuming member of the Blackwell clan may have the most to hide. While Robert mournfully packs away a teddy bear given to him by Susan on the night of her death, Collerdale is carefully staging a fatal overdose in the bathroom of a Manchester flat to disguise his latest victim: a onetime friend of Ali Blackwell.
The enticing tangle of unresolved threads does enough to ensure viewers will tune in for the two remaining episodes of Safe House, but the balance between scenery and story must be maintained to make this a genuinely memorable drama.
The stormy scenes on the lake pull it off perfectly; Robert’s hike into the hills with David Blackwell seems to have little to do with anything other than whistling in awe at the magnificent view.
Aired at 9pm on Monday 27 April 2015 on ITV.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…