Your estranged son has tried to kill you and burn you to death in your own home. You are tasked with surreptitiously investigating a smooth-talking dodgy copper who may or may not have murdered his best mate. He rumbles you before you discover that MI5 are out to kill you. Tough times, sure, but it’s still not the end of the world…
Well, yes, actually. It is. Neil ‘Luther’ Cross’s dark, high-energy, super-violent thriller Hard Sun blasted onto our screens like the punch to the ribs that our chief copper Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) gave to her frenemy Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) at the close of the first episode.
She had been investigating him undercover for the murder of Alex Butler, a respected copper whose widow Mari (Aisling Bea) is a little too friendly with Charlie. But after a frenetic first hour, it’s Renko and Hicks against the world, battling many dark forces in the episodes to come; though there’s probably not much they can do about the imminent apocalypse which is coming thanks to a fairly dramatic “solar event”.
Yup, our planet is a goner, a fact that the chillingly unscrupulous secret service operative Grace Morrigan (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is determined to keep a secret, even if it means killing someone… anyone. She even threatens Hicks’ sweet young daughter.
Come next episode, Morrigan will be fervently gunning for Renko after Deyn’s character dropped herself off at a newspaper office, about to deliver what one can assume is an award-winning scoop for the intriguingly-monikered Paladin News Group.
I think we can imagine the headlines about the millions of deaths to come. But episode one delivered violence aplenty – a graphically-depicted “suicide” jump out of a tower block, bullets to various heads and a pretty prolonged and brutal fight between Reno and Hicks on the bank of the Thames as the full horror of the apocalypse became apparent.
Some scenes were certainly disturbing and unrelenting, and you can see why the BBC decided to move episode one’s start time to 9.35pm, far away from the watershed.
But Hard Sun is a beautifully shot, involving drama, combining thrilling pacing with some stunning visuals. There’s a deliciously elemental feel to this – cold, grey slate skies, lashings of rain and of course the fiery heat of various explosions and the big burn to come.
I also like Renko and Hicks – they are an intriguing pair, a kind of anti-buddy cop pairing that you could conceive of working even without the apocalyptic storyline. Agyness Deyn is particularly impressive in the role – fearsome yet frightened – and it’s the best work I’ve seen to date from Sturgess.
This is big stuff – a not wholly original premise but still a weighty one – and the drama rises to the challenge. Reno and Hicks are both complicated creatures who will now be trying to deal with losing all they hold precious in a world which is about to disappear – an idea initially inspired in Cross’ mind by the David Bowie song Five Years.
Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying
Oh dear. And if that’s too much for you, I have to warn you that things aren’t going to get any more sedate or cheery in the upcoming instalments…
Hard Sun continues on Saturday nights on BBC1