Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Southcliffe: episode 4 - TV review

Southcliffe finished on Sunday night, but I only caught up with episode four 48 hours later. Having loved the series at the outset what did I make of it, having now watched the whole drama? The series has, I think it's fair to say, rather divided opinion. Some absolutely love it. Some hate it. Others think it began well but then fell apart.

Well, the first point I'd make is that a series that can provoke such a range of reactions must have something to be said for it. Midsomer Murders it ain't. This is a story about a spree killer, and the consequences of his actions for a tight-knit community. And I'm still full of admiration for Tony Grisoni's writing, and in particular the actors (especially Eddie Marsan and Shirley Henderson), though I did think that some parts of the story (Shirley Henderson's increasingly frenzied attempts to deal with the death of her daughter, above all) were developed at the expense of others which intrigued and tantalised..

There is a bleak and depressing mood throughout the four episodes, and anyone looking for comfortable entertainment should look elsewhere, but for me, Grisoni did very well to come up with an ending that felt broadly positive, despite the absence of clear or easy answers to the issue of spree killing and its complicated motivations. The structure of the storyline was unorthodox, but extremely interesting from a technical point of view, and I felt that even though the story seemed to meander at times, the refusal to settle for obvious sub-plots was a real strength.

There's certainly much more that can be said about spree killers, and I'm not sure that the finale contributed to our understanding of what makes them act the way they do. But Southclife was an original piece of work that kept me interested and thinking hard, even when I might have preferred to look away. I don't suggest it was perfect, but I'm very glad I watched it.


Unknown said...

I was in two minds about the finale which has left the story lingering long after the end. There's the positive spin and a drawing together of threads in that key characters were both victimized and victimizing, but there's a neatness that doesn't sit well. Loved the landscapes and the pace, and such good acting.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Frances. Agreed, it's very thought-provoking stuff. Glad I saw it.