A star rating of 4 out of 5.

There will be people who tune into After the Flood, a new ITV drama about a Yorkshire community dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic deluge, as their own homes have been hit by Storm Henk. For many of those impacted by the UK’s recent bad weather, it isn't their first rodeo, and the same can also be said for the characters in this particular town, where everyone knows everyone's business. But that doesn't mean there aren't secrets swirling beneath the surface.

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Writer Mick Ford, who has worked on a string of Harlan Coben adaptations for Netflix – there's shades of that here – and is also known for his role in Scum alongside Ray Winstone, has delivered a compelling mystery thriller which revolves around the discovery of a dead body in the lift of an underground carpark. Initially, it's believed the man died after becoming trapped due to the flood water, but it wouldn't make for particularly compelling viewing if that was the case and across the episodes, it becomes clear that his death is linked to a moment of reckoning for the town as a whole, courtesy of a brilliantly engineered plot by Ford.

You might need Jenny from Gogglebox's notepad to keep abreast of what's happening as the tangled web weaves ever tighter, with some of the more exposition-filled scenes a little clunky, but it won't detract from your enjoyment.

Leading the charge to uncover the identity of the mystery man and what happened to him is Jo (Peaky Blinders and Gentleman Jack star Sophie Rundle), a heavily pregnant police officer who has her sights sets on becoming a detective, like her late father and her husband Pat (The Hunt for Raoul Moat's Matt Stokoe, who is also Rundle's real-life husband).

Pat repeatedly urges her to slow down, concerned for both her health and their baby's, but many female viewers will likely read him as irritating, bordering on controlling. There's also rumblings of him not wanting Jo to muscle in on his territory as a detective, possibly because he's worried she'll outshine him – she certainly has the capacity to. It's a riveting dynamic and another feather in After the Flood's cap.

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Jo and Pat arguing outside in After The Flood.
Jo and Pat in After the Flood. QUAYSTREET PRODUCTIONS FOR ITV/ITVX

But before we reach the murder investigation, the series opens with a thrilling sequence in which we're first introduced to our lead. A baby is being swept down river at a ferocious pace after its banks burst and if action isn't taken immediately, the outcome will be fatal.

The stakes are consistently high throughout After the Flood, although Ford never misses a moment to inject some comedy into proceedings when appropriate – Faye McKeever does a lot with a fairly limited role – which is highly enjoyable and crucial for releasing the pressure valve.

Ford also isn't afraid to include some grisly moments, but it never tips into territory that's nauseating or alienating. This is a show that firmly understands what its audience wants.

Rundle is in terrific form as Jo and perfectly cast as a character who has all of the ingredients of a solid protagonist: she has a heart, but she's not a pushover; she makes risky, questionable decisions that many of us wouldn't, which lead her down interesting roads; she has intellect and boundless drive; and she refuses to let her pregnancy, or the opinions of others about her and her pregnancy, dictate how she moves through the world, which makes for great drama. Rundle herself also has the likeability factor, which helps.

She's joined by a cast of British screen favourites, including Lorraine Ashbourne (Sherwood, Bridgerton) as Jo's mum Molly and Philip Glenister (Life on Mars, The Long Shadow) as local property developer Jack, who barely features in the first episode. But fear not, Glenistiters! He has plenty to do in the coming episodes.

Ford's writing and the performances give all of the characters a lived-in quality, with Ashbourne a particular highlight as a woman who is fighting the good fight. Molly is a key voice within the community, always on hand to brew a cuppa for whoever's in need while banging the drum for better flood defences from stingy, self-serving politicians as the town awaits yet another deluge in the coming days – just as parts of the UK remain on flood alert.

It might seem like ITV had a crystal ball when deciding to release the series this week, but flooding has become an all too-frequent occurrence, which is what motivated Ford to write this piece. The best television has something of note to say and his message is clear: the impact of climate change isn't a myth, and it's not something that only affects islanders living in the Indian Ocean. It's a problem for all of us, and that problem is here, right now. But it's a message that's communicated in such a way that you won't switch off, as it's often easy to do when confronted with something so utterly overwhelming and existential.

Instead, you'll want to stick around to find out how this messy business concludes. The clock is ticking to save the town from total collapse, propelled in part by a Sally Wainwright-esque score of drum beats and agitated fiddles, as Jo also races against the clock to solve the murder case before her baby arrives and puts her out of action.

With no instant fix for a climate that is becoming increasingly more volatile with each passing year, don't expect a finale that wraps it all up neatly. But with an interesting blend of high-drama and genuine comment on the defining issue of our time, After the Flood is an entertaining, rewarding watch.

After the Flood premieres on ITV1 and ITVX on Wednesday 10th January at 9pm. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.

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