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It takes real skill to cram a mammoth amount of plot into a 45-minute episode and still make it feel easy to digest and gripping. Thankfully, new British TV drama Fearless has Homeland and Person of Interest writer Patrick Harbinson at the helm, someone well-versed in crafting high-quality television. The always elegant Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders, Penny Dreadful) stars as Emma Banville, a human rights lawyer dealing in miscarriages of justice. The pilot sees her hired to prove convicted child killer, Kevin Russell (Sam Swainsbury) is actually innocent. On top of this, Emma is sheltering the wife and child of an alleged terrorist.
Although these two strands initially seem removed from each other, in true noir fashion they may be interlinked. Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku), the cop who perhaps forced a confession out of Sam, is now running a shady counter-terrorist operation. Add a couple of dodgy characters played by the great Michael Gambon and Robin Weigert and one certainly has an intricate web of deceit to entangle.
Right from the outset, Fearless feels pacey. Not only does it barrel through a ton of information in its opening hour (I haven’t even mentioned Emma’s husband played by John Bishop and their plans to adopt), but the show’s look resembles a spy thriller. Director Pete Travis (Dredd, Omagh) appears to be taking cues from the fly-on-the-wall style of contemporary Paul Greengrass, giving the series a distinctively cinematic feel.Also worthy of praise is Helen McCrory. It’s always great to see scene stealers given a chance to take centre stage. It’s fabulous to see the British actress – known for playing tough, strong but graceful characters – provided with a vehicle for her talent. She seizes the opportunity, imbuing her lawyer with a quiet power and intelligence. She always seems to be the cleverest in the room, even when saying little.
Occasionally the show slips into some cliché. A scene in which Emma is lectured about her personal life by her mother feels a little odd, giving how strong the lawyer is. However, moments like this were only a blip in what was a solid opening hour of TV. Plus, the pilot’s enigmatic and mysterious final moments had me hooked into tuning in for the next five episodes.
Fearless is on Monday nights on ITV.