Monday, 26 August 2013

What Remains - BBC TV review: episode one

What Remains started last night, and episode one was very watchable for (at least) three reasons. First, the script by Tony Basgallop explores the lonely bleakness of one aspect of London society, where a person can die and not be missed for a very long time. Apparently, a tragic real life case formed part of the inspiration for the story. In What Remains, the mummified remains of a woman called Melissa are discovered in the loft of the house where she lived. Nobody had seen her for ages, and everyone says they thought she had  moved out.

Second, the victim lived in a house divided into several flats,and a number of people living there are potential suspects. They include a dodgy teacher (well played by David Bamber) and two women whose relationship is falling apart. Really, the house offers a "closed community" familiar from many traditional whodunits,but the feel of this show is bleak and far from traditional.

A long time ago, I made regular visits to a shared house in London over the course of two or three years. The occupants rented their rooms, rather than owning separate flats,but What Remains did remind me strongly of that house and the eclectic community formed by its residents. I was very conscious at the time that the people who lived there were linked by nothing other than an address, and that tensions could rise between near-strangers just as they can rise between family members. I even thought that one day I might write a story with such a background....

The third strength of episode one was the performance of David Threlfall as Len, the cop who is about to retire when he is called out to look into Melissa's death. He too is lonely and clearly loneliness is going to be the key theme of this story, and may even be relevant to the motive for murder - assuming that Melissa was murdered, as I do, of course. I really enjoyed the understated way Threlfall tackled the part of Len, a man with whom one can readily empathise. I'll definitely be watching this one next week.

6 comments:

Carol said...

This sounds remarkably like the book "Human Remains" by Elizabeth Haynes, which was published this year.

Anonymous said...

This story sounds interesting. Also, I have noticed that the finding of mummified or decomposed corpses happens on a fairly regular basis, according to newspaper stories.

Arabella McIntyre-Brown said...

These houses in London are sad places, often. I lived in the basement flat of such a house - I and my flatmate paid a cheaper rent in returning for 'managing' the place - hoovering the stairs and collecting the rents, mostly. With the exception of Gary and Andy, the gay couple on the ground floor, the tenants were a sad bunch, and one or two could as easily have been potential murderers as murder victims. An interesting sociological study, but not a very comfortable place to live. I'll be waiting for the DVD to come out of this series, as I can't watch it live. Thanks for the heads-up.

Spangle said...

I watched this last night and I think this has great potential. I'm already compiling my subject list of suspects! I don't think it's going to have quite the impact that 'Broadchurch' did, but I'm looking forward to watching the rest of this series.

Sarah said...

I thought the first episode very good, and I completely agree with your comments about David Threlfall.

The plot reminded me a little of 'The Girl on the Stairs' by Louise Welsh. Although it's set in Germany, the protagonist is pregnant and there were quite a few other similarities.

But still, a very watchable series.

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting comments, thanks. I've not read either Human Remains or The Girl on the Stairs, I must admit.
I thought episode two was equally good.