Viewpoint, starring Noel Clarke, isn’t exactly what you’d call a “thriller”. The show’s action is catalysed by a female teacher’s disappearance, yet somehow the gravity of that scenario doesn’t come across on-screen (or at least not during the first two episodes).
The drama initially feels low-stakes, and that’s in part due to the central focus on a police surveillance team. Their role is to spy on potential suspects and report back to the higher-ups. It’s not their place to question why they’re watching someone, or even ask what crime the suspect might have committed. Their opinion (or rather, ‘viewpoint’) doesn’t matter.
They’re kept in the dark, quite literally. Half the time we’re squinting at characters sitting in darkened rooms, peering through gaps in a window blind. If we learn any developments about the missing person case, it’s not through our central character, DC Martin Young (Noel Clarke in the Viewpoint cast), a quiet, traumatised detective, who finds that sitting silently in dark rooms suits him just fine.
While the first two episodes feel distinctly plodding, Clarke’s performance elevates what is otherwise a slow-burn series. I was reminded of Clarke’s short but scene-stealing turn in Stark Trek: Into Darkness, when he conveyed quiet despair (and later grim determination) through a single look.
In Viewpoint, everything we see is filtered through Martin’s gaze. He decides where to point his long-lens camera, and his narrowed eyes or pursed lips silently convey the importance of what we’re looking at.
It’s also through Martin that we meet our other central character, Zoe Sterling (Alexandra Roach), a gregarious single mother who lives in a tight-knit Manchester community. Martin sets up an observation post in Zoe’s flat, which directly overlooks the home that missing teacher Gemma shares with her boyfriend Greg, the prime suspect in her disappearance.
While Zoe initially seems sweet and bumbling, she is in fact a secret voyeur, already well aware of (and titillated by) the excellent viewpoint into her neighbours’ homes.
This series is at its best when it highlights the tension between private and public lives, or hones in on the everyday moments that play out when we think no one is watching. Zoe goes to extreme lengths, but her fascination with the comings and goings on her street feels timely. Over lockdown, many of us will have become better-acquainted with our neighbours’ habits. Residents watched each other from their windows, or passed judgement on those who appeared to bend lockdown rules.
Of course, just because post-lockdown viewers might relate to aspects of a TV drama, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to watch it. As restrictions slowly lift, viewers might be looking for entertainment that distracts rather than reminds them of lockdown.
Viewpoint is intentionally intimate, even claustrophobic, and Martin’s monotonous nights trapped inside a single, cramped room may feel too close for comfort.
If you caught the first episode, you can read our in-depth Viewpoint episode one recap here. Or, if you’re up to date, check out our Viewpoint episode two recap. Also, see our theories on who kidnapped Gemma in Viewpoint.