‘SS-GB’ review: Episode 2 gets bogged down in a lot of unpacked exposition

Posted Filed under

Many liked the sound of SS-GB. Sadly when they tuned in last week for its opener some found that the sound was its chief problem with it.

There were complaints from (a small number of) viewers about the overall quality of the sound, while some accused Sam Riley of mumbling. Well, the sound has been fine on all our preview copies, but it’s hard to deny that Riley has a certain…pitch to his voice; a growliness of which Will Arnett’s Lego Batman would be envious. Even I’ll admit to there being one or two points where I had to scroll back and prick up my ears.

He seems particularly gravelly when talking to reporter Barbara Barga (Kate Bosworth), the most alliterative member of the Press since Lois Lane. His ‘Maybe I can help?’ initially sounded like something to do with kelp which, given that rationing is still in effect, may have been a handy tip for a cheap but warming seaweed stew.

Actually, when you can hear what’s being said, Riley and Bosworth have a great scene together: sexy in that 1940s ‘sass and suggestion’ sort of way that no longer exists in a DTF world. Has Riley fallen for spunky Ms Barga?

Probably, seeing as they have sex (partly to keep warm, although there’s clearly no shortage of wood in that room, ‘fnarr, fnarr‘). But with his Nazi masters breathing down his neck he also has to uncover if she was the one who smuggled what the Nazis think of as the ‘alternative facts’ newsreel footage into the country. #FakeNews.

After a promising – if unapologetically procedural –  first episode, things get unfortunately stodgy; bogged down in a lot of unpacked exposition over cards or rationed pints. There’s a lot of tell and very little show. Archer’s card game with the high-ranking Resistance members is clearly meant to be a high-stakes scene but has absolutely no weight to it. It’s just a bunch of chaps in black tie, talking and explaining other character’s positions on the board.

Caught between being a pawn for the Resistance and being one for the Nazis, Archer is essentially Allo Allo‘s Rene Artois without the grubby apron or the mysterious sex appeal. Especially as the Resistance give him their own version of ‘Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once’ by leaving the hideously tortured corpse of PC Jimmy Dunn in the ruins of Archer’s house. Aneurin Barnard, we hardly knew ye.

It’s a sign that although this is a show where, yes, Nazis are still the baddies, that doesn’t automatically make everyone else the goodies. SS-GB reminds us that war and occupation are ugly events that create ugly actions.

Unpalatable as the actions of the Resistance may be, they’re not as galling as the idea of the Nazis successfully developing an atomic bomb (and also apparently dabbling in some occultism – I half expected a Raiders reference) and, amid all the equivalency, we get to see the joyous sight of Archer doing that most 2017 of things, punching a Nazi. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

Giving Huth a bunch of fives is about as dynamic as SS-GB gets this week, but it’s the little things, isn’t it? Watching a Nazi take a knuckle sandwich is the reward you get for listening to all that growling and plotting. Still, at least you can actually hear the growling and plotting.

Aired at 9pm on Sunday 26 February 2017 on BBC One.

Buy the original novel on Amazon here.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

Follow Rob Smedley on Twitter here.