Only 2 of 4 episodes were made available for review.
Sheridan Smith fans have been well catered for of late. Following on from BBC true crime drama Four Lives and Channel 5's The Teacher comes No Return, an ITV thriller which she has described as "every parent's worst nightmare".
Kathy Powell, played by Smith, is on holiday in Turkey with her husband Martin (Michael Jibson) and their two teenage kids Noah (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) and Jessica (Lily Sutcliffe). Kathy's sister Megan (Sian Brooke) and her husband Steve (David Mumeni) and their young child have also joined them on their "big" getaway, as Kathy describes it.
Unlike Megan, who enjoys ski holidays, emphasis on the plural, this is an important event in the Powells' calendar, particularly for Kathy, whose excitement is palpable. But their jolly is cut short in brutal fashion.
16-year-old Noah is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and, in a heartbeat, the full weight of the Turkish criminal justice system is bearing down on him and his family.
All of a sudden, the sun's rays feel uncomfortably hot and their new surroundings, once exhilarating, exude a menacing aura. Their day-to-day lives, with their varying demands and anxieties, instantly regain their appeal.
Noah maintains that he "didn't do anything", adding: "It was just hands." What happened between himself and the other teenager following a local beach party was both consensual and "normal", he asserts, defending himself against the inference of rough sex.
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It's a two-pronged matter because Noah is in the process of exploring his own sexuality. His parents have long thought that he is gay or bisexual, but have never spoken about it with him. And Noah, too, has been reticent to confide in them, particularly given a homophobic remark made by Martin a couple of years ago.
Regardless of what really happened between Noah and the alleged victim, the fact that he hasn't been able to come out on his own terms adds a further layer of tragedy to this story. Instead, he's having this conversation under lock and key with a 15-year prison sentence staring him in the face.
Smith, as you'd expect, delivers a powerhouse performance as Kathy and once again masters the portrayal of the everywoman-type figure. It's hard to say whether this is her best work given the sheer number of superb performances we've witnessed from her, but this is certainly up there.
Smith has spoken about her lack of formal acting training in the past and we can't help feel that bypassing drama school has worked in her favour. There's always something incredibly instinctual and, by default, convincing about her delivery that keeps you pinned there, waiting for her next move, and transports you right into the eye of the storm with her.
Kathy acts as a necessary contrast to her husband Martin, which injects the series with further tension. He favours a less combative approach to their predicament, instead preferring to follow the official guidance for fear of escalating matters further. But Kathy is the fuel that propels the narrative forwards, making a number of risky moves in the hope that it will lead to her son's freedom.
Serkis, too, is impressive as Noah, capturing that rabbit-in-the-headlights fear as his future looks to be slipping away from him. Unlike countless films and TV shows, Serkis isn't far off the age of his character, which is another area where No Return strikes gold regarding authenticity.
A nod must also go to Sian Brooke as Megan, who navigates myriad moving parts with ease. Her marriage is hanging on by a thread, in large part due to the challenge of raising a son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and there are also long-standing tensions between herself and Kathy, which many viewers will likely recognise in their own sibling relationships.
Those strong performances are bolstered by Danny Brocklehurst's (Stay Close, The Stranger, Brassic) dialogue, which is both engaging and entertaining, but also rooted in sincerity. His characters look and feel like real, flesh-and-blood people.
Alongside the high drama, he also makes space for moments that thaw the ice a little – a subplot involving Megan and one of the hotel employees pulls the action back from the brink, if only just for a second, and even the lawyer that Kathy and Martin hire to fight their case, who borders on clownish on occasion, is a welcome distraction from the dark cloud cast over the Powells.
All of those nuts and bolts combined with the compelling case at the centre of the series make No Return well worth a watch.