Blackout is shaping up to be a fruity addition to the TV political thriller cannon. In Christopher Eccleston’s Daniel Demoys, we have another idealistic politician who wants to do good, but whose future is threatened by his own weakness. Of course, as we’ve seen both on and off screen, it is his desperate efforts to cover up one disastrous secret that may cause his ultimate downfall.
Christopher Eccleston gives it plenty in Blackout
So far, so State of Play. But Blackout’s opening episode proved that even this classic tale could be reworked beyond recognition, for both good and bad.
For a start, it was told backwards – we got to witness Eccleston’s despair before finding out what had gone so wrong.
And the approach to production had a distinctly un-British flair. Sure, not everything is Midsomer Murders (sadly), but the sweeping aerial shots of some unnamed city gave it a grandiosity that seemed unnecessary, perhaps undeserved. I fully expected to see an overseas production partner in the credits, with one eye firmly on the international sales market.
Daniel Demoys (Eccleston) makes a heroic sacrifice - but is it enough?
The stylistic trickery did not stop there. While dark alley shots, bathed in some hallucinogenic glow could perhaps be explained as a metaphor for Eccleston’s murky vision, the weird, Lemony Snicket lighting in their family home was a bit trickier on the eye.
The director obviously had an admirably distinct vision of the tale but, during the course of an hour, on a Monday evening following a bit of Wimbledon, this started to feel a bit… overegged, if not ridiculous. For example, we’d already established that Daniel Demoys was a drunk, so did we need every single moment he wasn’t in company to show him frantically grabbing and swigging a bottle?
A lot of this must lie at the door of Christopher Eccleston, proving himself once again the go-to British actor for internal demons made clear in wide-eyed intensity, hair-wringing self-hatred tinged with underlying self-righteousness.
A man with a weakness
Perfect fodder, then, for a man brought to a perfectly-paced crossroads by the end of the first episode, persuaded to put himself forward as mayor with the noblest of intentions, but with a massive secret that he will have to spend the next few episodes… undoing.
Hopefully, now the parameters are established, everyone, including the lighting supervisor, will calm down a bit, and we’ll have more plot, less posturing, such as the moment in the hospital when Demoys is asked what he was looking for in the dying man’s room… “Absolution” was the response, a line surely only Christopher Eccleston could say with a straight face.
Blackout continues next Monday. Pics below show Christopher Eccleston giving it his all...