I’m assured that Harlan Coben is a huge deal in thriller writing with his books prominently displayed in stores at airports and train stations. Somehow I seem to have missed him entirely. But his name is writ large on this new Sky drama series and if this is anything to go by I’m going to be keeping an eye out for his stuff in the future.
The Five is an eight-part original thriller made for Sky, which promises to be a stand-alone series with a proper beginning, middle and end. He says “The one thing I do think that I’ve brought to TV from the novels is a real ending. I guarantee that the end of this show is well earned.” If that’s true, that would be so sweet!
I’m sick to death of tv shows spinning out into series 2, 3 and beyond just because series 1 was popular. It’s usually a case of diminishing returns and sours your love for the original. As my old English teacher used to say “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone”. Wise words currently being ignored by the writers and producers of Broadchurch…
Anyway, back to the drama in hand. It’s a bright frantic pop video start that clearly and cleverly links four present-day adults with four kids in the woods who told tearful little Jesse to go on home. Then he vanished, never to be seen again. His little red coat reminded me of the classic visual in Schindler’s List. Mark as an adult seems to be running from his past in a red top, another unspoken link to Jesse, his brother. The storybook scenery at the beginning is especially beautiful – the shafts of golden light in the trees look so warm and inviting. But to misquote Melisandre from Game of Thrones the woods are dark and full of terrors.
The drama takes place 20 years on from Jesse’s disappearance and the action slips into the past effortlessly, no dissolve into wobbly lines, no Tardis wooshing noises, no jarring X-Files caption on the bottom of the screen. The past and the present are interlinked in the lives of the characters – they think about Jesse every day – so it seems quite natural to move around in time easily.
When the cops turn up and start running around (there’s been a murder!) I was worried things might get a bit formulaic, but the focus is sharp on Mark, his broken family and his childhood friends. The raw emotions feel real, especially Danny and Mark’s shock at Jesse’s apparent return. It’s emotional but not melodrama; extremely believable. Great to see Him and Her star Sarah Solemani in a serious role, showing off her acting chops. And I’m very interested to find out exactly why her character Pru came back to the UK and didn’t make contact with any of her old friends. Not even a Facebook status update? She’s hiding something.
Shout out to the location managers and the design and lighting techs. Episode one is a series of increasingly gorgeous locations with incredible lighting (fairy lights! fairy lights everywhere!). If they ever reboot Changing Rooms I want that team to turn my front room into something magical.
So far, so good then. The Five has been pacey and interesting sitting right in the middle of the Goldilocks zone of drama – pitched not too fast, but not too slow. I’ve got a feeling that this is one I’ll stick with happily right up until the end.
Episode 1 is available on Sky On Demand until 29th April