David Morrissey stars in this 2010 series from U.K.’s Sky1 as Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, your average, tortured, loner detective who rarely, if ever, plays by the books– average except that he’s played by David Morrissey, that is. The first (and thus far, only) series of Thorne, adapted from the first two novels by Mark Billingham featuring the titular Thorne, aired in the States on Encore in 2012 and at last makes its way to DVD in a 2-disc set from Anchor Bay Entertainment on March 5, 2013. And what perfect timing! After all, with The Walking Dead season three nearing its climax, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to wait a week at a time to get that Morrissey fix.
The first series of Thorne is comprised of two, three-part storylines, “Sleepyhead” and “Scaredy Cat,” with each of the six episodes running about 45 minutes. This allows for the investigations therein to be far more nuanced and engaging than in your typical, hour-long, crime thriller series, particularly those on the major American networks. This format allows the characters of Thorne really shine, as well, allowing us greater access to even the most minor of the major players, access you’ll truly appreciate given that the supporting cast includes the likes of Aidan Gillen, Natascha McElhone, Eddie Marsan, and Sandra Oh.
“Sleepyhead” is absolutely terrific. The investigation Thorne and the team pursue in “Sleepyhead” finds them tracking a killer who leaves his victims dead of apparent strokes. The truth Thorne uncovers about the killer’s motives is ultimately highly disturbing, and most importantly, linked to a significant, long-secret incident from Thorne’s past. To this end, the characters slowly open up to us throughout in a way that feels incredibly natural. In this, the histories the characters share aren’t dumped on us in one big lump at the outset, and the exposition that reveals the specifics of their relationships is very rarely hokey. It’s the perfect opener for the series, and indeed leaves you desperately wanting more. So don’t be surprised if you watch these stories on back-too-back evenings, or just back-to-back for that matter!
Unfortunately, the story is paired with the sadly mediocre “Scaredy Cat.” Here, it seems Billingham attempted to significantly raise the stakes over the highly-successful narrative of “Sleepyhead,” but in doing so, delivered a mystery so transparent that even I saw the big reveal coming from the very first episode. I say “even I” here, mind you, specifically because I’m not the kind of guy who tries to figure out who did it when watching a mystery. I’m more interested in the characters and their arcs. I’d much rather follow the detectives through the investigation that I might experience the narrative through their eyes. Identifying so closely with the protagonist(s), I find, adds to the overall immersive effect of a mystery. “Scaredy Cat,” however, was so transparent in its operations that, even before the first body is discovered, I saw through the mystery. And that’s disappointing.
“Scaredy Cat” reveals the inherent drawback of a series like Thorne, which spreads its mysteries out over the course of numerous episodes. In such a series, if the viewer solves the mystery early on, the lengthy proceedings that follow can prove rather dull, and I indeed found that to be the case with “Scaredy Cat.” That said, I still sat through “Scaredy Cat” in one evening, going to bed far later than I had hoped. And this, I think, speaks to the quality of the performances in the series, particularly by Morrissey and Gillen, which are so engaging that even if we’ve little invested in the mystery, we’re at least invested in the characters enough to see “Scaredy Cat” through to the end.