This is a worrying start to the new crime drama, one that does not bode well for the rest of the series.
A young boy is walking home from school and soon witnesses his father gunning a man down after a drug related dispute. Flash forward to the present day and that boy is now on the force, tracking down the pawns of London’s drug trade.
This is the opening scene of the BBC’s new crime drama The Interceptor and it feels a little cliché that the boy would go on to join the police, fuelled by an all-consuming desire to go after the top dogs in the criminal food chain. But as the episode unfolds, the intro and character history soon plays into the wider theme that The Interceptor aims to explore. It’s clear that creator Tony Saint wants to focus on the often overlooked consequences and casualties of criminal activity. When a runner moving drugs from A to B diverts the blame to the addicts, the show’s protagonist Marcus Ashton (O. T. Fagbenle) emphasises how “it’s not just about the users… it’s about everyone else.” Pointing a spotlight on “everyone else” and exploring the wider implications of drug related crime may pay off in later episodes and separate The Interceptor from previous BBC crime dramas such as Sherlock and Luther, but for now it’s not enough to set it apart.
The audience soon finds out that it’s not just the ‘troubled past’ stereotype that feels familiar, as the first twenty minutes run through a checklist of crime drama essentials. There’s the frustrated cop who wants to go after the big players of the drug world, a meet up with a drug dealer in a dingy car park and the subsequent car chase after things inevitably don’t go to plan (this scene even had slap bass if the show wasn’t emulating old school cop dramas enough).
The Interceptor is far too optimistic, diving into action that could have been held off until later in the series, and it’s one of the biggest failings of the first episode. There’s no depth of character thus far so car chases and punch ups are dull and tiresome where nothing is really at stake for the audience. What’s worse is that in between the action the audience is spoon-fed formulaic plot-lines and overly familiar scenes, typical montages of our hero scowling as he pieces together a collage of the faces in the criminal hierarchy (the audience can’t help but cringe as he gravely states that “this organisation is bigger than anything he’d imagined“).
One of the best performances of the episode comes from Paul Kaye who plays the repulsive Jago, but his introduction to the series is so lazily written that it’s almost laughable as he openly boasts to a bloodied man tied to a chair about how fate is on his side. This sort of Bond villain monologue is unforgivable but Kaye’s performance is solid enough as he effortlessly makes Jago a hateful on-screen presence. However, when considering that he is directly responsible for hospitalising Ashton’s buddy cop partner Tommy (Robert Lonsdale), it feels like a waste when he is eventually caught at the end of the episode. It would have been much better to see Jago fulfil his promise and walk away unscathed, giving the audience and Ashton a bigger drive to see him get caught later down the line.
Thus far, Ashton seems like an amalgam of tried and tested on-screen cops, all combined to create a watered down and predictable character. He goes rogue a number of times in this episode alone, placing personal vendettas and his defiant sense of justice over direct orders from his superiors. Nothing new here, bad boy cops that don’t play by the rules have been gracing screens for decades and Ashton doesn’t bring anything fresh to the role. What’s worse is that his poor character design and weak plot line add up to create a protagonist who is not really that good at his job. Yes there are plenty of cops that bend the rules for vengeance, but at least their results matter to the plot and provide an emotional pay-off for the audience. All that Ashton’s spree offers is a safe wrap up for this episode. At times this episode is so comically cliché that it has startling similarities to a montage of McBain from The Simpsons.
On paper, The Interceptor does have the potential to be a good crime drama which is why it’s so frustrating to see such a clumsy and catastrophic first episode. It’s predictability tempts the mind to wander and our protagonist is infuriating. Is he bad at his job or does he just lack any clear cut motive? Probably both. Hopefully the coming weeks will see The Interceptor conquer these almost irreversible flaws.
The Interceptor airs on BBC One on Wednesdays at 9pm.