The third series of Sky Atlantic’s singularly stylish crime drama Tin Star brings the current run of this offbeat and unformulaic thriller to a conclusion in fine form, with all of the show’s signature elements building the momentum for an electrifying final reckoning.
The three members of the Worth family, who comprise Tin Star‘s leading trio, each experience something approaching an epiphany this time around. Tim Roth puts in an extraordinary performance as the volatile and explosive ex-police officer Jack; Genevieve O’Reilly shines as his passionate and unpredictable wife and partner-in-crime Angela; while Abigail Lawrie steals every scene she’s in as the fiercely-independent if sometimes over-confident daughter Anna.
Together the Worths exist in a state of near-continual chaos and jeopardy, as the consequences of fateful decisions play out in situations that are barely within their control. It’s a drama that time-and-again shocks and surprises, and is punctuated by acts of bloody violence, but is also laugh-out-loud funny and frequently compelling.
Crime and crisis
The first two series of Tin Star unfolded in Canada, after the family quit Britain in an attempt to build themselves a new life. But fresh tragedies soon engulfed them, as crime and crisis pushed familial bonds to breaking point, and Jack’s law-and-order commitments faltered. Even as the family broke apart, the Worths’ past returned to haunt them – and potentially to consume them all.
It’s not just the setting in the UK city of Liverpool that makes series three feel so different to its predecessors. It’s the fact that the family has become a fully functional unit once again, all in pursuit of a shared objective: retribution. The Worths are on a revenge mission, working through a literal “hit list” of those they consider culpable for an unforgivable crime.
What makes their job harder is that those they are hunting are senior figures in the city, on both sides of the law. Worse still, those powerful characters are just as determined to put paid to the threat posed by the family, whatever the costs. At the end of this bloody feud, only one clan can remain standing.
Yet at the core of Tin Star is a determination to side-step the usual, predictable beats. This series is so much more than a simple tale of payback. The action sequences and life-and-death clashes in Tin Star: Liverpool are superbly crafted and rendered: a bullet-strewn showdown at a funfair is a particularly inventive homage to some classic screen images. But it’s the character interactions, the sudden unforeseen switches in the narrative, and the dark and offbeat humour that deliver the series’ punches.
In this set of six episodes, each of the show’s lead characters reveal new facets of their nature. Angela gets to let rip and to find new reserves of emotion-driven righteousness; Jack develops an unwavering focus on the task at hand, whilst stepping up to his role as the lynchpin of the family; while Anna comes of age, embracing adult-life and reconnecting with both her parents. And all three of them continue to make dire decisions, which leave this newly-united family at ever greater risk.
The quality of the supporting cast is first rate, with Ian Hart a standout as crime boss and businessman Michael Ryan, a figure who inspires fear but who burns with resentment. Joanna Whalley as the determined but flawed youth and community worker Mary James; and Neve McIntosh as ruthless drug courier Georgia Simmons also shine.
But for the whole of the cast, it’s the sense of genuine peril that surrounds each and every character which makes the series’ ensemble so watchable. At any point in the story, anyone might be killed off (and Tin Star‘s body count is on the high side).
Sense of place
It’s arguable that the show’s second series, which pivots on Anna abandoning her family to join an Amish community, was not quite so focused or pacy as the first. But there’s no slowing of the momentum here.
The city of Liverpool is another of this third series’ impressive characters. The action unfolds in locations across Merseyside that echo really effectively the themes of continuity and change, and of past and present, that permeate the storylines. Each series of Tin Star has had a potent sense of place, and it’s a technique honoured to good effect again here.
Brilliantly written and performed, Tin Star: Liverpool is driven by a determination to be different that never flags. As the risks multiply on the streets of the city, shocks are followed by jaw-dropping twists and turnabouts. Heart-wrenching, heart-stopping and hilarious – if this third series turns out to be its last outing, then spending time with the Worths will still have proved more than worth it.