Last night's viewing: Hit & Miss, Sky Atlantic; My Big Fat Fetish, Channel 4

 

You can tell that Hit & Miss is going to be a cut above from what it chooses to surprise you with. The central character, Mia, is a hired killer. She’s not the first female assassin we’ve seen on screen by a long shot, but this combination of gender and profession is still unusual enough that a more conventional series might tease you with the reveal. We’d see Mia touching up her lipstick first, say, and be allowed to coast with our preconceptions for a while before she stepped out of the car and shot her first victim. Here, it happens the other way around.

Mia isn’t an ordinary woman, though, as we discover when she strips for the shower just a little later. What’s inside her bra is what you might expect. What’s inside her pants is not: Mia has a penis. But this moment too is studiedly matter of fact. Hettie Macdonald frames the revelation as if we’ve noticed but the camera hasn’t – because it isn’t that big a deal. The real surprise, the one that makes Mia herself reel and blink back the tears is the discovery that she’s a father. Or a mother. Or some hybrid of the two that has yet to be worked out.

Along with her payment for that first clinical execution, Mia gets a forwarded letter from Wendy, a women she’d loved when she was still a man. Wendy is dying of cancer and the letter consigns her children to Mia’s care, including a young boy called Ryan, who is Mia’s biological son. And from that moment what Mia does to earn a living is peripheral to the charged drama of her domestic mission (which, crucially, is the kind of mission a lot of viewers are on too). It isn’t going to be easy. The family Mia finds living up on the moors above Manchester is as ramshackle as their smallholding. They are looked after by the aggressively defensive Riley, the oldest sister and a girl made furious by grief. She resents Mia’s intrusion and is determined to push her out again.

 Paul Abbott and Sean Conway’s script is mostly terse and understated, with the occasional flash of romantic colour. One of the most poignant moments, when Ryan learns that Mia had never been told about his existence, is conveyed in just two syllables: “Why not?” he says, a line that is beautifully delivered by Jorden Bennie. Later, though, when Ryan shares with Mia his fear that things are going to change, she reassures him by explaining that without change we would never have butterflies, a line that trembles on the edge of mawkish.

Chloë Sevigny’s performance here may remind some older viewers of Stanley Baxter; there’s something about the combination of exaggerated femininity and dead-pan solemnity that recalls his essays in drag. But given the plot it works, and (having seen episode two) it’s an armour that’s going to peel open. What really charges the drama, though, is the uncertainty about what gender you might assign to Mia’s virtues and vices. When she savagely beats the local bully who’s called for the rent and teaches Ryan to box, is she substituting for a missing father or mother? And when she asks her handler whether the next target has any children, what has been woken in her – a paternal instinct or a maternal one?

There’s a sense that all gender relations have been twisted out of true – into exploitation or violence – and that only the love and security of a family, however odd it is, can put things right. It’s wonderfully unexpected and unpredictable and a debut commission in original drama that Sky Atlantic has every reason to be proud of.

Which is more than you can say for My Big Fat Fetish, a tawdry documentary about subscription websites catering for those with a penchant for obese women. Channel 4 should know better but simply couldn’t stop itself gawping.

Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments