The Escape Artist: Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
With The Day of the Doctor in the offing the BBC have astutely decided to broadcast David Wolstencroft’s new courtroom thriller The Escape Artist just a few weeks before we see David Tennant take to the TARDIS floor again. It’s a neat way of making a killing from both programmes and even if Tennant hadn’t been in the forthcoming Doctor Who special, The Escape Artist would have still turned many heads.
Tennant is one of the greatest actors alive today; he masterfully seizes every role he takes on and from the opening moments in the taxi I liked Will Burton. Burton is a man that adores his family but will more than readily put his vocation before them as shown at Jamie’s birthday celebration. In the wrong hands the junior barrister could have been a wholly objectionable character but Tennant imbues him with a doggedness and foolhardiness that actually, in the end, comes up being a strong and positive trait. By the end of episode one I’ve found myself really on Burton’s side, this was largely sparked by Kate’s graphic death. Now that he’s a single father and a man hungry for justice I can really empathize with him.
Toby Kebbell does an outstanding job as the horrific Liam Foyle, a man whose sanity absented itself a long time ago. Kebbell makes Foyle a particularly oily individual and scenes with him make for unpleasant viewing. His bizarre bevy of birds evokes memories of Psycho’s Norman Bates who too hoarded fowls, admittedly dead ones. Foyle is frankly sicker and more mentally unsound than Bates; one of the earlier court scenes depicting the fate of Sandra Mullins showed just what he is capable of. He’s a necrophilist, a sadist and a degenerate but one who has the second most powerful defence lawyer in the country backing him. What Maggie (played by a particularly straitlaced Sophie Okonedo) has done is near inhuman. Will may be her nemesis but defending Foyle in a case as personal as that just to get a one-up on him is barbaric.
Meanwhile Ashley Jenson does a serviceable job as Kate, Will’s wife (anyone else notice the Kate and Wills connection – I am, of course, referring to Kate Middleton and Prince William, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) but I felt it was rather ridiculous that the casting director decided Tennant’s character needed to be Scottish too. Kate was also ludicrously careless in the Burton’s country home. She left the car doors open, the back door open; I’m surprised she didn’t stick up a sign at the entrance saying ‘murderers come in this way’. If you see a sinister stranger peering at you through the window whilst you’re in the tub, you think you’d move around a little more carefully, it’s a traumatic experience for a woman. Also Will was rather stupid in letting her go to the country home alone and left her and their son to go to a function. What caring husband and father would do that?
Kate’s death was one of the most terrifying sequences I’ve seen on the BBC of late. This year they’re really pushing the boat out with dark dramas. First there was The Fall with the sexual predator Mr. Grey himself (Jamie Dornan was recently cast in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie) and then more recently we had What Remains, a terrifically brutal and bleak drama over on BBC One. When Will burst into that room my blood froze and then Foyle’s appearance at the window didn’t make it any better. What a truly horrific scene.
The Escape Artist has started on a high and its opener is very promising. With Kate having been killed off so early on I can’t see where the series is going and that’s a very good thing. I don’t like being able to predict what I watch and right now I’m baffled. So many questions in need of some many answers. Only time will tell, they say.