Monday, December 12, 2016

The Level

Karla Crome as DS Devlin.
Premise:  On the same day that she receives an award for bravery, Detective Sergeant Nancy Devlin receives a desperate call from Frank Le Saux, a former classmate's father. Nancy (Karla Crome) meets Frank at an isolated clearing in the woods at night. When he asks Nancy for help, she emphasizes that all she can do is "make his name go away if it comes up in an investigation." Before Frank can explain the source of his new "trouble", he's shot and killed--and Nancy is wounded as she makes her escape. She reports nothing to her superiors, but later is assigned to a police team in Brighton that's tasked with investigating Frank's murder. Nancy also starts receiving phone calls and texts from the killer, such as: "Frank's Girl--I'm coming for you." As if that's not enough, her gunshot wound worsens, Frank's mistress is almost killed after contacting Nancy, and the police discover that another suspect was present at Frank's murder. That suspect is, of course, DS Nancy Devlin.

Running Time: 
45 minutes.

Status:  The Level aired in September-November 2016 on ITV and made its American debut on Acorn TV on December 12th.

Production Notes: The Level features a number of familiar faces to viewers who watch British television detective series. Amanda Burton, who starred in both Silent Witness and The Commander, plays Frank's wife Cherie. Philip Glenister, who portrayed DCI Gene Hunt in Life on Mars, is on hand as a shady businessman. And Noel Clarke, a detective inspector in the underrated Chasing Shadows, is a detective sergeant teamed with Nancy Devlin. The cast also includes Rob James-Collier (valet Thomas Barrow on Downton Abbey), and Joe Absolom (Al Large on Doc Martin).

Our Review: While the central mystery in The Level is a conventional one, writers Gaby Chiappe (Shetland) and Alexander Perrin transform it into an intriguing puzzler with a series of carefully planned plot twists and turns. The first twist--Devlin being assigned to track down herself--propels the series as the detective tries to find Frank's killer while thwarting her colleagues from discovering her involvement. It's not an original premise (see the 1948 classic film The Big Clock), but it's executed well in The Level. It also holds viewer interest until the third episode when a truly unexpected revelation changes the plot's dynamics. The writers also succeed in creating a mélange of shadowy characters, almost anyone of which could be a villain (though one of Devlin's colleagues is so obviously bad that we concluded he must be a good guy). Karla Crome is adequate in the lead role, though her character is fairly one-note and it's hard to imagine a series being built around her.

Grade: B.

No comments:

Post a Comment