Hugo Blick writes and directs this meditation on the divide between good and evil via the investigation – from both sides of the law – into the death of drug baron Harvey Wratten soon after his extraordinary release by royal pardon from prison.
The pedigree of the show is obvious from the cast alone, with Christopher Eccleston and Chiwetel Ejiofor leading things as conflicted drug dealer and cop respectively. They're helped by fine turns from Nurse Jackie's Eve Best and a Rafe Spall as the psychopathic nephew of the murdered Wratten. The ensemble slowly collide over seven hours as the mystery around the murder, and the circumstance's surrounding Eccleston's final big deal, are slowly peeled away. This is no gritty realist cop drama like The Wire; it's full of big Acting, though, as exemplified by the scene in a Dublin antiques store wherein Stephen Rea and Antony Sher do battle by means of enigmatic dialogue. The forced grandiosity of these play-offs can make the hour-long episodes tiresome – and the muggy lighting doesn't help. The complicated plot, too – though developed wonderfully – can be perplexing unless you're paying very close attention. But that's probably a good thing for viewers used to the HBO fare that The Shadow Line has been compared to. And even though it's more Donmar than Baltimore, it's an encouragingly original piece of British storytelling.