By Any Means: Series 1 Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by James Amos.
“That’s what we do, we go after the bad guys and take them off the streets.”
I for one welcome any new BBC One detective shows. Both ‘Luther’ and ‘Sherlock’ are both massively entertaining due to the story of the protagonist and the actual solving of the crimes themselves. So does ‘By Any Means’ reach the bar set by these shows?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. ‘By Any Means’ is a detective show with no story to tell; its three leads, Jack, Jessica and Thomas are so one dimensional you couldn’t play them on a Gameboy. We aren’t really given much backstory for the three of them, and to make matters worse the episode itself doesn’t give us much of a story either.
Nicholas Manson plays the ‘bad guy’, Jack, Jessica and Thomas play the ‘good guys’ who spend the episode bringing him down. They work well together and even have a bit of light-hearted banter to keep the audience cringing in their seats. Being perfectly realistic here, there isn’t much more to it than that! There aren’t a lot of funny moments, there aren’t a lot of serious moments, there just aren’t really a lot of moments to be honest. As a reviewer, I’m finding it hard to find anything in this show worth mentioning to string into my grand point of what went wrong in the episode itself. So instead I’m just going to focus on the central reason for why this show has left me with a sour taste.
Why did shows such as Luther, Sherlock and even Broadchurch become so loved and appreciated? There a three reasons: the acting of the cast, the crimes in which they’re solving, and the most important reason: the story of the main man. Every single drama on television should focus on this integral point, the guy at the front has to be cared for by the viewer.
In episode one of Luther, the writer had already set him up as a mentally wounded man who needs this line of work to gain accomplishment and a sense of justice within himself. In the first episode of Sherlock it’s already quite obvious who the leading man is, so the writer threw Watson into the spotlight and made the audience care for him. ‘By Any Means’ fails in this key and actually relatively simple aspect, none of the three leads have any story or character whatsoever. By the end, Jack reveals that the reason he does what he does is due to the brutal death of his brother, and by getting the ‘bad guys’ he is almost showing his respect to the brother who died for him. Call me heartless, but this is just completely lazy writing. The writer is so focused on the ‘good guys getting bad guy’ basis of the show that he’s simply whipped up a quick reason at the end for the existence of this ‘By Any Means’ gang. Having Jack tell a 30-second story about how his brother died for him doesn’t make up for the fact he doesn’t have any character or any real purpose, not to mention we still have two leads who are seemingly just tagging along on Jacks ‘emotional journey’.
Now it’s not all bad news. I have to say that this episode looked amazing. The director, although having little to work with, simply stuns you with bright and vivid visuals. Also, the ending was rather satisfying and the ‘next time’ trailer looked rather promising. Warren Brown was on top form, he plays a very convincing leading man in the clan, and he did his best with the script he was given. I also live in hope that as the series continues it establishes and develops the things I have said were missing from this opener. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a top notch crime fighting drama, we just need a story running through each episode and a meaning behind each one. At the moment, this is just a grittier and less exaggerated ‘Hustle’. It needs to shake off the similarities and become its own show with its own purpose and, much more importantly, its own story.
All in all, it’s a poor and shaky start for ‘By Any Means’. The plot was bland and the humour was dry. The last 15 minutes was an improvement on the rest of the episode; but in the end that means nothing if what we had before it was as tasteless as it was. I look forward to next week’s episode, and I hope that we are given something a tad more satisfying, I’m up for something a bit sweet after such a sour dish.