“Everyone is a murder. You just have to meet the right person.”
So says Jefferson Grieff, a criminology professor now on death row. He goes on about how all it takes is a good reason and a bad day. That’s pretty much the miniseries right there. One man (David Tennent), a kind hearted vicar, through a series of choices and missteps has that one bad day. Meanwhile, Grieff plays the part of the highly intelligent murderer who provides consultations for cases that he find morally interesting. Through a chance encounter between two women, Grieff becomes interested.
There’s a lot going on as we jump between the two narratives, but once they start to come to a conclusion, so do they come crashing together. Cut from the same cloth as Silence of the Lambs and Blacklist, Grieff comes off as far more sympathetic and less arrogant as he talks journalist Beth Davenport through the case, though I have to admit it really stretches how much we can reasonably believe he can predict and manipulate from his prison cell. You might feel similar about what should be a reasonable situation quickly spiralling out of control for the vicar but that’s where the plot goes. The comical chemistry between Grieff and his ‘assistant’, fellow death row inmate Dillon provides the lighter moments in this far from cozy story, a welcome counterpoint to the tension building for the vicar.
Three things drew me to this – Stanley Tucci up and David Tennant up front, and behind the scenes Steven Moffat driving it. These two actors are brilliant to begin with. Meanwhile, Moffat has been behind some of the creepiest Dr. Who episodes and the lesser known BBC mini-series Jekyll ( 2007). It’s been years since I saw Jekyll, but James Nesbitt nailed this with his performance and even his physicality. I may have questioned the end of the series but I was still drawn in by the rest of it.
Back to Inside Man.
I felt that the ending dragged on a bit, or at least a little unevenly, but the leads really do all the heavy lifting to get us through and I’m satisfied with watching it. Yes, there’s blood and violence and a few bits of great discomfort but nowhere near the amount you’d find in shows like Mindhunter. There’s also a few moments of little victories amid the mounting tragedies. I flash backed to Michael Douglas’s protagonist in Falling Down (1993) watching things come crashing down near the end. If you can’t buy into the premise in episode one, you’d best just skip the rest as much rests on that set up.
Have they left enough dangling for a second series? Between questions left unanswered about Grieff and the case that shows up for him at the end, yes this could go on for another four episodes.
Would I watch a second series? I’d probably give the first episode a watch and see if it had the same chemistry cooking. I eventually gave up on Criminal Minds for just being unrelentingly bleak for too many episodes. A show like this with flawed lead characters could easily go that way. Admittedly, that didn’t stop Breaking Bad from going on for five seasons and spawning spin offs …