I review Episode 1 of BBC One’s brand new three-part legal drama mini-series The Escape Artist, starring David Tennant.
David Tennant’s back, ladies and gentlemen. Viewed by many as their favourite Doctor (despite Christopher Eccleston being my personal favourite, I can’t help but argue that he’s still a good one nonetheless) it’s clear by now that he’s a good actor and it was mainly his performance, along with the other members of the cast, that really carried The Escape Artist’s first episode, making it a lot better than what it would have been if we hadn’t had such brilliant actors cast in the respective roles – because I’m not even going to deny here that The Escape Artist is full of law drama clichés and doesn’t really bring anything new or original to the table.
However, what it does bring to the table is some quality acting, and a really tense hour of television. Created and written by David Wolstencroft, of Spooks, this new series introduces us to Will Burton, played by David Tennant, as an expert barrister who has never lost a case in defending his clients. However, now he finds himself in a latest case – dealing with the unlikeable and downright creepy Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell), who appears to have committed a brutal and horrific murder – with overwhelming evidence pointing him as the guilty man. And it’s up to Will to prevent Foyle from going to jail.
The Escape Artist doesn’t start off with a bang. There’s no fast scenes interlinking and full of jump cuts ala Sherlock or By Any Means. This doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seats desperately wanting to find out more early on. However – once you reach a certain point in this new legal drama – you won’t be able to stop watching. The episode takes its time to build up and for the audience to get to know the cast – for example, the main focus here is Will Burton’s family – Ashley Jensen plays the wife/mother role pretty well indeed and of course Tennant is on fine form as Will himself – delivering a captivating and compelling performance that doesn’t fall into the trap of making him a work obsessed character with little regard for family life – but Wolstencroft has him juggle the act of family and work very well indeed and it’ll be interesting to see how this affects him given the twist towards the end of the episode.
There are several themes running throughout The Escape Artist and it deals with them well in the hour that we’ve had so far. “Everybody deserves a defence” is one theme touched on here – which is arguably one of the most important themes in the entire episode. It really enhances the overall performance – and whilst of course, there may be the odd niggle – for example, is the guy who suggests to Will that Carlos Tévez aware that Tévez in fact left for Juventus in the summer thus making the character invalid for what we can only assume is a game of Fantasy Football which in the UK at least only allows footballers from the Premier League? Of course, this could be taking place last year as opposed being happening in the ‘now’, so this could be forgiven.
Whilst it will be arguably David Tennant who will draw the viewers in, it’s not just him that you’ll be praising by the episode’s send. The aforementioned Toby Kebbell and Ashley Jensen both do brilliantly in their roles – and Sophie Okonedo also plays Will Burton’s rival figure well enough to elevate this drama from beyond the average legal thriller into something a lot more compelling, captivating and interesting.
This is certainly something that I’ll be following for the next two episodes, and something that you should certainly check out as well. The Escape Artist really is top notch stuff, and is a much needed break from all the genre stuff like Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D that I’ve been watching recently – and you can certainly guarantee that I’ll be back for Episode 2 next Tuesday.