I have watched a lot of these bleak British detective stories over the years — most of which never break out in America (save for Luther) — and the one thing they all seem to have in common is that a murder is never just a murder. There’s almost always a government conspiracy behind it. Nobody gets killed in London unless an MI5 agent is involved; nobody dies unless an MP has some say in it; and lately, these shows all seem to have Brexit heavy on the mind.
The four-part miniseries, Collateral (now on Netflix) is no exception, and this one, like most, features an incredible cast of former Doctor Who actors, in this case: Carey Mulligan, John Simm, Billie Piper, and Orla Brady. It’s a very good series from writer/director S.J. Clarkson (Life on Mars, Orange is the New Black, Jessica Jones), but it is hardly necessary viewing, save for Carey Mulligan completists.
The series kicks off when a seemingly random pizza delivery guy is shot dead by an unknown figure. Shows like Collateral, however, have a way of making London feel like a very small town. Turns out, the pizza delivery guy — who is Iraqi — delivered his last pizza to the mother (Billie Piper) of an MP’s child; the only witness to the shooting is a vicar’s lesbian girlfriend whose visa was renewed by the same MP; and the killing wasn’t that random, after all. This one goes all the way to … the middle rungs of government bureaucracy.
Carey Mulligan plays DI Kip Glaspie who — mirroring Mulligan’s real-life situation during film — is heavily pregnant, but anxious to work a case. She is assigned this one, and she quickly works her way through the leads and up to the conspiracy but not before both she and John Simm’s MP character impart their feelings about the immigration situation in Britain. In fact, through the prism of this murder, the political system, the Church, law enforcement, and even the military all offer their barely veiled thoughts post-Brexit England, as well.
It’s a smart and solid miniseries, particularly for those who don’t already watch a lot of bleak British detective shows and can still be surprised by how everything in London seems connected. Carey Mulligan is fantastic, even if it is a role she could do her in sleep, while it is always nice to see Simm and Piper, as well as MI5’s Nicola Walker (who has somehow managed to avoid Doctor Who). It’s quickly and efficiently told; there is an occasional twist; bits and bobs of tension; zero sense of humor; and everyone is at least a little unhappy. In other words: It’s very British.