Noel Clarke

Chasing Shadows S1 E1-2 “Only Connect” (ITV)

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Contains some mild spoilers for the first two-part story.

ITV’s new crime drama Chasing Shadows is an oddly bloodless affair, resembling nothing so much as a piece of low-cost flat pack furniture where the individual components parts are familiar from other efforts and promise a decent end result, but which instead turns out to be so bland and anonymous that it fades into the background never to be thought of again, merely serving its purpose and filling some space for as long as it lasts.

The very set-up of the show sounds almost comedically clichéd: a mismatched pair of investigators, bucking against authority and improbably tasked with hunting down serial killers while working out of the civilian Missing Persons Unit rather than the Met’s murder squad. Given that one of the investigators is brilliant but anti-social to the point of breathtaking rudeness it seems that the particular immediate template for the show is most likely the Nordic Noir series The Bridge in which one of the cops was strongly implied to be high on the spectrum of Asperger’s or autism. This is similarly the case with Chasing Shadows complete with added traits of OCD and Tourette’s for haphazard good measure, although whereas Saga Noren’s character was used as a darkly satirical commentary to subvert gender and national stereotypes, here there is a complete absence of any equivalent intriguing subtext.

Perhaps to avoid encouraging comparisons with The Bridge, Chasing Shadows has reversed the genders of the two leading characters so that the male role of DS Sean Stone is the one who is emotionally closed down, brusque and unfeeling with a blinkered focus on facts and data and on getting the job done – a dull stereotype, despite some very accomplished and intelligent playing by The League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith. Meanwhile the female character of Ruth Hattersley (Alex Kingston) becomes the warm, emotionally accessible, nurturing and motherly role balancing work with home life, so that the whole thing ends up producing a set-up that sends us instead all the way back to the cop show gender clichés of the 1970s and completely misses the point of modern convention-challenging shows like The Bridge. Read the rest of this entry »