Badly lit sets, mumbling and adverts: none of them bother me. In fact, there’s very little that really grinds my gears, but if there’s one thing that does, it’s thrillers that use scary music at the expense of scary plot.
New ITV drama Safe House is guilty of this, playing Psycho-esque stabby tunes whenever the villain appears, when it would be far creepier if we were left to notice the evil for ourselves.
It might seem petty to focus on the music, but it’s important, because there is a general lack of subtlety in the first episode of Safe House which left me feeling slightly disappointed. In the best dramas – Broadchurch, The Missing – the characters and plot speak for themselves. This feels hollow in comparison, with too much style over substance.
All that aside, it’s certainly picturesque, jumpy telly, with Christopher Eccleston as an ex-copper who runs a police protection refuge in Cumbria. Inspired by the story of a real couple, the four-part drama begins when Eccleston’s character Robert and his teacher wife Katy (Marsha Thomason) are asked to turn their remote Lake District home into a safe house for protected witnesses and crime victims.
But of course, nobody’s really very safe at all.
What kept me watching the first episode of Safe House wasn’t the plot so much as the cast, with Paterson Joseph as the intriguing friend of Eccleston’s character Robert. Eccleston is great as a troubled, but seemingly good guy who is teetering on the brink of crisis. He’s kind, yet he’s clearly keeping some dark secrets.
Then there’s the wild landscape, which is mesmerisingly beautiful and adds to the viewer’s sense that something is severely amiss.
I’m sure that this four-part drama, written by Michael Crompton (Kidnap & Ransom, Carrie’s War), will have some hooked right until the end. Many a series, including BBC1’s Ordinary Lies, has begun with an average first episode, and turned into something utterly compelling. So let’s hope the next episode stops threatening to scare us, and actually does it.
-Read our interview with Christopher Eccleston on Safe House, Doctor Who and why he’d like a career in America