Jericho, TV review: Gunpowder plots, whores, cat fights, and third-degree burns - all in the first 40 minutes

ITV's new drama looks set to be Downton for the HS2 generation

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The Independent Culture

Lace petticoats, foreboding clouds, and close-ups of Jessica Raine's dilating pupils: the opening credits of ITV's new drama, Jericho, laid out the stall of a programme which looks set to be Downton for the HS2 generation.

The series is being touted as a "British Western", the frontier settlement at its centre being closer to Yorkshire's Settle than the gun-slinging towns of California, and its desperate inhabitants seeking prosperity via the building of a railway viaduct rather than gold-mining. It's the intrigue and historicity of Deadwood meets the industrial boom of Peaky Blinders, with more grit and grunts than a packed third-class Victorian train carriage. And if the first episode is anything to go by, that's a pretty gripping way to ride. There were precarious pulley-systems, gunpowder plots, gentle-hearted whores, brawls, cat fights, and third-degree burns all within the first 40 minutes.

Raine plays young Annie, forced by her dead husband's debts to decamp to the shanty town at the foot of the looming structure. Along the way she meets the rather incongruously named Johnny Jackson, with manners so fine his fellow navvies call him "Your Highness". They share silences, half-smiles and later, after an explosion kills "chief ganger Jack" – "Sabotage!", cries Mark Addy's Detective Bamford, who pops up on a rock during the funeral – a dark secret.

So that's that set up, then. Added to this is Clarke Peters (The Wire) as the African-American Ralph Coates, who arrives "with 30 years' experience" and an air of mystery and takes the unexpectedly vacated top job. Plus, there's the round-nostrilled tycoon Mr Blackwood and his fraught relationship with his investor's niece.