It's impossible to keep up with the abundance of new shows released across every streaming platform. Still, one that caught my attention was Inside Man, a new BBC drama from the mind of Steven Moffat that dives into how good people end up doing bad things.
Warning: Inside Man spoilers follow
Starring David Tennant as Harry Watling, a vicar who resides in a small village in the UK and Stanley Tucci as Jefferson Grieff, a man on death row in the US for murdering his wife, it provides for a fascinating watch that was fronted as a miniseries. With 60-minute episodes and the prospect of telling one complete narrative over the course of four episodes, I happily committed. No need to plough through a dozen episodes every year for three to six years while simultaneously hoping it doesn't receive a cancellation. Four episodes. Simple. In and out... or so I thought.
Let's begin with the setup: Harry agrees to hide a memory stick from a verger at his church, which unbeknownst to him contains child pornography. This then leads to a catastrophic set of unfortunate events where Harry's son, Ben, is accused of having child pornography by his maths tutor Janice. To stop Janice from immediately running to the police and ruining Ben's life forever, Harry ends up locking her in the basement until he can assess the situation further. Every episode sees Harry stumble further into the darkness, dragging his wife Mary into the situation, all in the naming of protecting their son.
"Everybody's a murderer, you just need to meet the right person," Jefferson professes. On the other side of the Atlantic, crime reporter Beth Davenport (Lydia West) interviews the murderer as she tries to establish why he killed his wife and whether he can help Janice, whom she suspects has gone missing.
This all comes to a culmination in the final episode as Ben, who winds up locked in the basement with Janice, attempts to murder her with a hammer due to his confusion about what happened to his father (and the fumes from a faulty space heater). Harry then finds Ben before it's too late, only for him to flee and for Beth to catch Harry about to finish off Janice for good. Additionally, Mary is killed in a hit-and-run accident from being spooked by Beth knowing the truth and Jefferson avoids death row for helping to solve the case.
It's gripping, to say the least. It just doesn't make any sense at times why certain people do certain things. It's a classic conundrum in television. If people actually talked to one another as opposed to keeping secrets, the whole situation could have been resolved better – that's drama, though I suppose. But humour me. Why doesn't Ben call someone the minute he knows his phone is on low battery? Why doesn't Harry tell Janice who the USB really belongs to? Many times I questioned the character's thinking.
The final segment has Harry and Jefferson speaking for the first time via Zoom with the former now imprisoned. A post-credits scene then unexpectedly materialises with Janice, now recovered from the traumatic experience, visiting Jefferson to discuss the idea of murdering her husband – excuse me! A husband? I'm not sure whether anyone wanted this. This was billed as a mini-series, so why are we setting up an unnecessary season two?
It was an unsatisfying end to a thrilling drama. A more interesting climax would have been to see Ben murder Janice, only to be subsequently killed by the space heater left by Harry. Now with Mary dead too, Harry gets off scot-free (this is where people smarter than me explain the reasoning) with his family taking the blame. Alone and with no one else by his side, it would have given Inside Man a better sense of finality. I don't know. The cheapness of setting up a second season instead of telling one overarching story rubbed me up the wrong way.
While the acting is superb, Tennant shines brightest as he does in everything from Doctor Who and Jessica Jones to Good Omens and Staged. It's also the idea that anyone under certain circumstances can crack and commit the unthinkable. Watching Harry go from the beloved Vicar into a man that is desperate for any way out of this never-ending nightmare is compelling. This is only backed up by Janice, who is clever, manipulative and the worst person to ever kidnap. All beaten and bruised and locked in a cellar, she is the threat. It's a tour-de-force for performances, it's just a shame the writing didn't stick the landing.
Inside Man stars David Tennant, Dolly Wells, Lydia West, Lyndsey Marshal, Louis Oliver, Dylan Baker, Mark Quartley, Atkins Estimond and Stanley Tucci. All four episodes can be streamed on BBC iPlayer now with a Netflix release date expected at some point in future.
In the meantime, anyone outside the UK can look at the best free VPNs on the market to gain access to Inside Man.