Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Thorne: 'Sleepyhead' - Part 1

“What’s got a nine-inch dick and hangs up…?” – Thorne’s Dad

I don’t normally watch any of Sky1’s original dramas, to be blatantly honest, because they usually look shit but for some reason the trailers for their adaptation of Mark Billingham’s novel Sleepyhead really intrigued me.

Maybe it was the presence of actors from some of my favourite US shows – Natascha McElhone (Californication) and Aidan Gillen (The Wire) or maybe it was that it was directed by Stephen Hopkins, who Sky were eager to tell us had directed episodes of 24 and Californication but for some reason I really wanted to check this three-part series out.

Thorne: Sleepyhead opened with heavy breathing, but it wasn’t some sort of creepy killer it was our hero Tom Thorne, chasing a suspect and struggling to keep up with him. Within a minute we know that Thorne is not some sort of supercop, he’s just an average, middle-aged cop who happens to have a knack for solving big serial killer cases.

Thorne instantly reminded me of some of the rare British crime thrillers of this ilk that I have seen in the past, mainly ones starring Ken Stott, but it was shot with that stylised US feel that Hopkins has obviously honed on the aforementioned shows he’s worked on.

Make no mistake though, Thorne may have American influences and an American style to it but this is a very British show, with Brit humour and that kind of dark, gritty tone that we do admittedly do much better than they do in the US.

The humour at times is laugh out loud funny, paying tribute to Billingham’s novel which was obviously heavily influenced by his time as a stand-up, but for the most part this is a dark, dark thriller with London providing the grainy backdrop.

As David Morrisey’s Thorne continues to pursue his suspect in that opening scene, things soon take a grisly turn as they discover a dead body mid-chase.

A bit of digging with Gillen’s coroner reveals that there is a serial killer on the loose, or so it would seem.

Thorne and rookie partner Dave, who looks set to be the series’ light relief with exchanges like “which part of the States are you from” “the Canadian part” (either that or they’re really trying to throw us off the scent and he’s actually the killer), then discover what they think is the killer’s first mistake – he has left one girl alive, albeit with ‘Locked-in’ syndrome.

Her condition meaning she is completely aware of what is going on around her but cannot communicate in any way – her voiceover providing a somewhat disturbing narration to the episode.

It soon becomes apparent though that this was actually the killer’s first success and that all the dead girls were accidents as the locked-in is what he was trying to achieve all along.

Through his dealings with the victim Thorne encounters McElhone’s doctor and immediately sparks start to fly. McElhone is a shining light in the dark, grim tone of the show and does stand out somewhat form the rather drab and dull sets and supporting players, but nevertheless she brings a touch of class to proceedings.

I can almost see her being put into jeopardy at some point now, especially as her and Thorne’s relationship has already evolved to an ‘almost kiss’ before being interrupted by her daughter.

The ending of the episode really surprised me though as it wasn’t McElhone’s good doctor who became the killer’s next victim but Thorne himself. Now he clearly won’t die or end up ‘locked-in’ but it was still a very surprising twist to end part one.

All in all the first instalment of Thorne: ‘Sleepyhead’ was thoroughly enjoyable and I really can’t wait to see next week’s follow-up. In terms of a suspect at this stage the evidence points to the douchebag Doctor – so it won’t be him, the lingering looks and camera angles seem to be trying to make us suggest Gillen’s character – which would make sense as I’m surprised to see an actor of his stature relegated to what is a mere supporting role, although his and Morrisey’s banter was enjoyable – but surely that would be too obvious now, unless they’re really trying to beat us over the head with the “look how guilty he looks” shots and I don’t see a director of this experience doing something like that.

So I’m at a loss really, I have no doubt it’s a character we’ve met already but unless it’s McElhone’s character or Dave which I can’t see, then my money would go on Eddie Marsan’s character, who just looks creepy and seems to know a hell of a lot about Thorne, as does the killer…

Hats off to Sky1 though because this isn’t the sort of show I would expect them to make, it isn’t an adaptation of a Terry Pratchett book after all, but they’ve done a hell of a job with it and it is the sort of thing they should be doing for UK TV, and it’s a rarity to be able to be hooked on something like this because there aren’t spoilers pasted all over the internet.

Bullet Points:

- I appreciated not being beaten over the head with exposition about Thorne’s demons but is it possible to have a cop in a drama like this who doesn’t have some sort of demons!?

- There were some great light moments in amongst all the darkness, in addition to the two quotes above the moment in the toilets as Dave was offered a handshake by Marsan’s character after he’d just used the urinal and his subtle reaction to that was very funny.

- This was my first real taste of David Morrissey as an actor, given that I’m not a massive follower of British drama like this, but I thought he was really good as Thorne and I can definitely see what the hype is about.

- Talk about a contrast for Natascha McElhone – the sunny climes of L.A. for Californication to the dour London skies for this. She must have really found something she liked about the script though for her to take the job!

Thorne: ‘Sleepyhead’ continues Sunday @ 9pm on Sky1


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