Crime thriller

Fallet (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Number of episodes: 8

Fallet is a Swedish television series on Netflix, part satirical comedy, part crime drama. It stars Lisa Henni and Adam Godley in the lead roles. What I liked most about Fallet is its brilliance in sticking to its rare genre. The case is a very serious one but the characters’ antics can’t stop you from laughing. 

Sophie Borg is a Swedish detective; young, arrogant and always goes with her instincts, her very bad instincts. Almost every decision of hers ends in a disaster. But that doesn’t stop her. On the other hand we have DCI Tom Brown, a British detective, timid and innocent, he lacks the authority needed for his position. He rarely solves cases and frequently talks to his dead mother. When a British man is found murdered in Norrbacka, both Sophie and Tom are assigned the case, a last ditch opportunity to save their career. 

Till probably the first episode, I didn’t realise it was a satirical comedy. But with the introduction Klas Wall and Bill Wall, Norbacka police, the genre becomes clear. Klas is on the verge of retirement and doesn’t want to take any risks. Sophie takes it as her mission to break the rules while Tom makes sure he follows all British etiquette of pleases and thank yous. Sophie confidently bursting into a “drama” rehearsal and taking a bizarre shot at an alleged suspect was so funny. Bill’s character grows on you. His sincerity in taking down Morse coded statements from a witness was too good. 

Apart from these quirky antics, what makes the show even more interesting is the case itself. The murder followed by few other murders kept me on the edge of the seat. The connection to a group of exchange students and Sophie’s mother being a part of that group made it even more engaging. When the story took the turn of Tom being attracted towards Sophie’s mother, I thought it was very cliched but that’s what the writers intended to do. Make the show cliched. It’s really difficult to get into this complex genre where the case is dark and the actions are silly. The investigation process is very nicely done and the ending stood up to the build up. 

Fallet is quirky, funny and interesting. The cast is very good. The setting is magnificent. The writing is crisp and clear. An easy and comfortable watch. 

 

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Dark (2017) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 4/5

No: of episodes: 10

It’s been a long time I felt pulled into a different world, a world of mystery, eeriness and creepiness. Dark is an intriguing and compelling German TV series which jumps from crime to horror to sci-fi effortlessly. It involves one of the most complicated concepts, something which I struggled understanding in even Harry Potter, Time-turner. 

The story is primarily set in 2019 where children are going missing all of a sudden. Ulrich, father of Mikkel, one of the missing boys, is on the hunt to find his son. There are so many parallel stories which run that it is sometimes a little too difficult to follow and slows down the pace of the narration. Charlotte is the lead investigator for the case and she suspects her own husband could have something to do with the crime. Jonas, a teenage boy, is still recovering the loss of his father when he finds out his father might have hidden a huge secret, a mystery which he takes it on as his own mission to solve. Every investigation connects to a strange, scary cave in the woods. What is in the cave? 

[Spoilers ahead]

So the cave leads to a two way path, one of which takes you 33 years behind to 1986. When Jonas travels through time to 1986, he finds Mikkel in a hospital, only to be informed by a mysterious hooded guy that this Mikkel would grow up to be his own father. WOW! When taken through 1986, we find all the characters in their young age, with very different equations with each other. In a way, the writers brilliantly use this phase to build the characters. 

Every character has some mystery behind. The story makes you wonder, what would be the right consequence and should you change the events of the past. Should Jonas just bring Mikkel back to 2019, but that would mean his own existence would be a question mark. Things turn even more complicated when the other path in the cave takes you 66 years behind to 1953 where it all started. You feel all the broken pieces falling into place. Loved the moment when Charlotte reads about missing people in 1953 and finds Ulrich’s picture in the newspaper. The Helge track was too good. There are many shocking moments which keeps you on the edge of the seat.

[Spoilers end]

The ending left me a little cold. I felt it was rushed? Just a tiny bit may be. I had difficultly understanding the purpose behind everything. The concept just went above my head. So this is all about good vs evil, but which party is good and which one is evil?

The pace of the narration was very well done. It started off slow, building the premise and the important characters. Slowly the mystery and the problem is unraveled. I did feel there were too many characters and too many love angles which I felt wasn’t really needed for the story. I never understood Claudia’s involvement and who the hell Noah is and what has Bartoz got to do with anything? Noah didn’t age in any of the three periods, did he? 

The setting, the rain, the background music all added so much to the impact of the show. 

Having watched the show in English audio, I did find a lot of voices off, especially Ulrich’s. The actor was equally bad in my point of view. With no character actually playing the lead role, the rest of the cast were satisfactory. None stood out though. 

Dark is a must watch. It is very thrilling for most part and the story captivates you from the word go.

Breathe [Web Series Review]

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Rating: 5/5

To what extent will a father go to save the life of his son??

That’s what Breathe is all about. Before I jump into why I absolutely loved this show, I need to first breathe a sigh of relief. Indian Television, even if it’s only web series now, is not all gone down the mud. Hats off to Amazon Prime India and Abundantia Entertainment for putting this amazing production together. 

Star power does help. With the likes of Madhavan and Amit Sadh, Breathe got the much needed attention. But it effectively proved that it’s not all about star power. At the end, it’s about the writing, screenplay, directing, music and all other technical aspects which makes a show stand out. Breathe scores in almost every category. 

Denzil Mascarenhas aka Danny (Madhavan) is a fun loving man- a successful football coach and a wonderful single father to 6 year old, Josh. Josh is suffering from a lung disorder (to put it in simple words) and need a transplantation to survive, a deadline of 6 months to save the little boy. Josh is currently at 4th place in the AB negative donor receiver list. Danny is desperate to save his son and realizes he needs to take matters into his own hands. He has to do something to push Josh up the list and get the much valuable organs. What can he do? In order to secure the organs, the organ donors have to die….right? And that’s what Danny plans to do. Does he succeed in saving his son? Can he live with his actions?

Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) is a guilt ridden, drunkard policeman, still unable to come to terms with the accidental death of his daughter, causing him his marriage subsequently. When he realizes his wife, Ria, might be a possible target in a series of killings (By whom? Have a guess?), he and his subordinate, Prakash, gets down to investigate. Slowly connecting the dots and identifying it’s all about organ donors, Kabir’s intuition gets him to Danny. He is sure Danny has something to do with all the deaths. But does he have proof? Does Kabir solve the case and end Danny’s mission? Or does he understand Danny, as a father, and support him? 

I just loved this ethical dilemma. Even till the end, I couldn’t figure out if Danny was right or wrong. He was right as a father but that didn’t justify his actions of killing innocent people, right? It also brought into light the significant need for organ donation, and all the issues that comes along. The writer did a fantastic job with a proper ending which kind off puts everything into perspective. The perfect ending I must say. 

Sequences to highlight. The asthma attack sequence was so thrilling that my breath was caught up for a moment, I swear. Those were the portions you are confused if Danny should succeed or not. The sequence of the bike accident when that young man dies, that was the moment when I felt a tinge uncomfortable with Danny’s mission. The suicide sequence, nice touch to begin the show with that, was scary. Kabir showed what policeman’s intuition is, how he could directly sense something was off with Danny and WOW he was so right. Loved the last revelation bit, wouldn’t give away much here. I wasn’t entirely convinced the need for Danny’s neighbor woman at the tattoo parlor. Seemed unnecessary. Also- Dr Aruna was so quickly forgotten. 

Astounding performances by both Madhavan and Amit Sadh. Madhavan is such a versatile actor who hasn’t really got the right roles to bring out his mountain of talent. He as Danny showed all kinds of emotions, with such perfection. Loved the scenes where he is traumatised by the murders he had committed, his beautiful scenes with Josh, the determination and fire in his eyes- Honestly, I didn’t know he could act so well. He just lit up the screen. Magnificent! Amit Sadh, to be honest I remember him only in Kai Po Che. Didn’t watch any of his other works. But he as Kabir, what an outstanding performance. Very powerful. His nightmare scenes were so impressive. Ably supported by all the other actors. Actors playing Josh, Danny’s mother, Prakash- all brought so much life to their characters. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, every aspect of the production scored well. Loved the title track. It was creepy and well suited the show’s concept. The background music, settings especially the police offices, the cinematography in the murder scenes were top notch. The dialogues were crisp and relevant. 

When I lost hope in Indian Television ever reviving itself, this show comes along. It’s sad that such shows don’t make it to the television, hence reaching many more people, but it’s a start and a very good startI wish GECs free up a slot from their usual meaningless melodramatic shows, to broadcast shows like Breathe.

 

Next of Kin [2018] [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6

If I have to describe the feeling when high expectations and thrill sags into extreme disappointment and boredom, this series would be the best reference. Starting off as an intense thriller, a very predictable story and characters left me just wanting the series to end.

Next of Kin follows a Pakistani family settled in London. Mona Harcourt, a successful GP, lives with her husband- Guy Harcourt, son- Sammy and her mother- Mrs Shirani in London. Their lives crash down when Mona’s brother Kareem is brutally killed by unknown terrorist group in Pakistan, the same day when a terrorist bomb attack occurs in London. You feel so sad for the family who have been preparing to celebrate Kareem’s return home. Their plight to retrieve Kareem’s body from Pakistan amidst political and legal hitches, riveting sequences. Then we have Kareem’s son- Danny, who goes missing and the police instantly connects him to the attack and a hunt begins. Mona tries to pull her family together in this grief stricken moment, protect them from conspiracy and betrayal, putting her life and her family’s at risk in the process.

Everything is so convenient. Mona’s character, whom you actually like in the first 2 episodes, becomes so irritating and utterly unconvincing. What started off as a strong character just ended up being helpless and her bizarre decisions and actions just only make things worse. I understand and I don’t expect characters to be perfect, but at least some sensible action from someone is required to retain the sanity of the show. Mona getting shot, getting imprisoned, getting kidnapped- it’s all too much. There are so many family members, and the writer strives hard to give some importance to each one of them through unnecessary story lines, that your attention gets wavered off the plot. Honestly, I don’t think so many characters were needed in the first place. The investigation team or task force or whatever you call is a complete mess. They try to portray the tension and pressure behind every operation but by that time you just lose interest in almost every bit of the plot. I don’t want to start on their shooting aim. Danny is forced to go undercover and provide details about attacks planned. You don’t connect to the seriousness of the situation at all. The pace of the show doesn’t help matters either. No explanation on Danny’s creepy expressions till the end. I took a moment to think- What exactly is the plot of the show? Is it about stopping the terrorist attacks? Is it Mona’s plight to save her family? Is it about Danny? Without a clear purpose, the show fails to impress at the end.

The actors did their best to emote their characters. Was good to see Shabana Azmi on screen but her character didn’t have much to do. Archie Punjabi and Jack Davenport did their best to keep the show together. Fine performances from the supporting cast as well.

Next of Kin started off very promisingly. But messy writing in the 2nd half makes this show easily forgettable.

Bosch [Season 1 Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Network: Amazon Original

Episodes: 10

There have been numerous TV series with the leading character in the title- Inspector George Gently, Inspector Lewis, Morse, Rebus- and mostly every one of those shows were based on novels. Bosch isn’t any different. Created by author Michael Connelly, the novels and the TV series follow the life of Detective Harry Bosch. An Amazon Original, this series scores high in certain areas and fails poorly in others. 

Just like most of the main TV cop leads, Harry Bosch is a middle-aged, serious, no-smile guy. Investigated for a shooting/encounter, all eyes are on his every move. When the owner of a dog calls to report finding human bones in the woods, Bosch and his team begin their investigation. The bones belong to a 12 year old boy (Arthur Delacroix) who went missing 20 years ago. A group of suspects is lined up, including Arthur’s father and the timeline is established for the cold case. On the other hand, patrol sidelines a truck for a search and finds a dead body. The truck owner- Raynard Waits is arrested and questioned. The story takes a shocking turn when Waits confesses to murdering Arthur and many others whom he has hidden in the woods. He later escapes from police custody and commits more murders. It becomes a game for him between him and Bosch. But why Bosch? What’s the connection between them? 

The cases are one of the most interesting, thrilling and grittiest cases I have ever seen. They are perfectly set in the first 4 episodes. But then happens the fall. The next 4 episodes practically has nothing to offer to the story. Yes, Waits murders more people and speaks to Bosch over the phone, challenging him. We get to see Bosch’s family and his equation with his ex-wife and daughter. There is internal politics, competition for promotion, elections and lot more. But with such a brilliant case hovering helplessly over the head, its impossible to focus on the rest of the things. 

Titus Welliver, as Harry Bosch, makes things even worse. I haven’t seen any of his works before but he just makes Bosch so dull and boring. He is so wooden in his dialogue delivery. Don’t get me started on his weird white bracelet (May be some backstory there? I don’t know) I understand the character is meant to be serious but still the actor could bring some life to the character. As a viewer, I didn’t feel for Bosch at any point of time. I didn’t route for him, or had confidence in him, that he would solve the case. I missed energy in the character. I didn’t care what happened to Bosch and that’s epic failure on the actor’s part. Hopefully, he does something different in the other seasons. 

Coming back to the case, I loved the profiler’s angle to the case, some historical significance to the name “Raynard Waits” and digging up Arthur’s past. The connection between the cases was well established. I wondered why no one recorded Bosch and Waits’ conversations? I mean- no outside perspective on that? As much as both the cases ended convincingly with no open ends, it didn’t end on a high note. It was a complete fizzle at the end. 

I don’t know if I would watch the rest of the series- 2 more seasons have aired- but I did love the cases. So may be I might give another season a try. Fingers crossed.

Gently in the New Age [Finale] (TV Show Review)

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Rating: 5/5

Fitting, satisfying but a depressing end to an absolute marvel!

Inspector George Gently has always been one of those series which I just can’t stop admiring. I don’t know if it’s because of the 1960s setting, or the blending of the then relevant social issues with intriguing crime cases, or the brilliantly picturesque setting or the fantastically amazing cast- it’s just very difficult to pick one reason. 8 series- 10 years! That’s a journey to applaud. When it was announced that this series would be the final one, I was in a way happy because ultimately the show would get a fitting closure and Wow! What a closure!

Before I get to the part which eventually turned this usual finale into an extraordinary one, a little about the case. It’s the 1970s now. We have two cases running in parallel, connected by one person, Michael Clemens, an ambitious politician and a potential winner for the next PM. George Gently, after successfully proving corruption within the police system, is approached to look into the murder investigation of Leslie, a case involving Clemens in some way. On the other side, a undercover reporter is murdered publicly at a union protest, the reporter who laid his hands on a proof concerning Clemens. John Bachchus and Rachel Coles run the latter investigation while Gently takes the cold case. We also catch a glimpse of the state of politics then and the government cover ups. But what’s interesting and better than the actual case is how every character reacts to the case.

George Gently! This show has always been about him more than the cases. An honest man with extreme integrity, at the verge of retirement after the assassination of his beloved wife Isabella, he moved down from London to lead a quiet life, to cope with his pain and loss. This finale portrays how George never really overcame his grief and come to terms with his loss. He had distracted himself with work and nurturing his protege John Bachchus, but with the changing world and his inability to adapt to it, it results in absolute frustration and opens the door of helplessness and loneliness for him. The friction between him and John doesn’t help him either. In a way, George feels like an outcast unable to compromise with his principles or accept the harsh corrupt world. At the end, the season finale ends with George finding closure over his wife’s death.

The first half hour of the episode, I felt the story was going nowhere. It didn’t feel like it was a finale. But the next 1 hour! Mind blowing! Seeing George struggle with his emotions was agonizing, especially his call to Rachel in the middle of the night and the subsequent breakdown. I was surprised how George called Rachel and not John. That scene was so endearing. It was the first and the last time we see George so vulnerable. I absolutely admired how George wasn’t ready to give up his integrity even though he was about to retire in a week. That’s Gently for you! We never got many scenes of George thinking about Isabella over the series, may be a few here and there. This episode showed how much George missed Isabella and how he just can’t live without her or how every day has been a struggle for him. Another strong point of this episode was how it was and is highly difficult for an honest cop to work in the real world. The last scene between John and Rachel showed George’s success- creating two potential and capable police officers.

A little disappointing was the very few interactions between George and John. They have been through their ups and downs over the years and in the previous episode we saw a huge clash between them. I expected them to mend their relationship or something that would mean they were at a better place. I wasn’t sure at the end if George and John were Ok. I mean, they would have definitely been, courtesy to the lovely friendship and bonding they share, but- I wish there was one scene to show their strong bonding, to show what each meant to the other.

Coming to the performances. This episode, hands down, belonged to Martin Shaw. What an actor and performer! Shaw portrayed Gently’s frustration and pain so well, it just hit me. He effortlessly lets the viewers into Gently’s personal and vulnerable side. Even though the rest of the cast and supporting cast did a great job, they didn’t have much to do in my view. It was all Gently throughout, which I actually felt was the right way to go. Kudos!

I’ll miss George Gently a lot but I am really happy that the show got a wonderful ending, which many series doesn’t get. This show had one of the best story narrations and the pace of every episode was almost equal to perfect. Appreciation to every one of those involved in the process of making this amazing series. George Gently will always hold a special palace in my heart.

Top of the Lake (2013) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6

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Mounting expectation and then huge disappointment! That’s how Top of the Lake was. Recently, Season 2 of this series, which I am yet to watch, was aired and has gathered very great reviews. I, being someone who goes by the order, decided to watch Season 1 first before moving to Season 2. Now I am not sure if I will watch Season 2.

Top of the Lake has been a show on my watchlist for very long. I never got around watching it until now. It’s one of those shows which is painted in gloominess, both in setting and emotions. There has been a lot of shows which are based on child abuse. This show is one among them. I wouldn’t say the writers were insensitive or did injustice to the theme, but somewhere I felt, they completely lost track of the story.

In a small town in New Zealand, Tui Mitcham, a 12 year old girl, tries to kill herself by drowning but is rescued. On medical examination, it is discovered that she is pregnant. Detective Robin Griffin, a specialist in cases involving children, is called for help. She along with Detective Sergeant Al Parker tries to get to the bottom of the case. Matt Mitcham, Tui’s father, the head henchman of the town, tries to deal with the case on his own. He has several ugly disputes with GJ, a spiritual woman leader leading a group of troubled woman, over a land they occupy. When Robin questions Tui if she would tell who is behind the pregnancy, Tui refuses to answer directly. Matters get worse, when Tui disappears- runs away. Robin now has to find the abuser as well as find Tui before something happens to her.

This is a very disturbing plot, no doubt. The screenplay is very slow, and hence the story moves at a snail’s pace. I don’t really mind slow stories, but when the story moves away from the plot, focusing on other characters which don’t really make a difference to the story? That’s when the attention begins to waver. Robin Griffin is the lead of the show. For the first two episodes, she was effective- good with her intuition, head straight with her fellow male officers and all. She has a troubled past (no surprise there!), something similar to Tui and that’s where the narration shifts. The story tries to connect Robin and Tui’s story. Robin subsequently comes across as whining and complaining, self piteous, and her on and off relationship with Tom (Tui’s step brother) gets very irritating and takes the story away.

Looking from a different perspective, my view of the show, my complain that it strayed away from the plot is just because I read the plot online beforehand. Hence, I had a set expectation which might have driven me to the disappointing conclusion about the show. Even with a beautiful scenic setting, a dark hovering theme and a good performance from the cast, the final Sidney Sheldon type of ending overshadows all the good things for me. Al’s attraction towards Robin was sudden and on the face. Matt Mitcham’s outbursts were either overdone or overacted. I never understood the purpose of GJ and her troops. May be just to bring some weirdness? I feel quiet doubtful why I didn’t like the show much while the same show had garnered so many positive reviews, nominations and awards? Could it be because of binge watching it? Guess, that’s an entirely different story.

On the whole, Top of the Lake isn’t a very bad show. It’s creepy, weird and gloomy. It did get my attention for the first few episodes. Probably the in-between ones- Episode 4 and 5 weren’t that great and engaging and hence the loss of interest. You can watch this show for its magnificent setting and at times very exciting scenes, but yes, there are much better shows to spend your time on!