Thursday 24 May 2018

Thrilling to the end if not quite believable

Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager.
Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager.

John Boland

The Night Manager (BBC1) remained thrilling right up to the very end, even as it got more and more implausible.

Would deep-cover MI5 operative Jonathan really have told villain Roper's mistress of his true identity? Why trust her? Was the preceding sex (90 seconds semi-clothed against a hotel-room wall) really so good that he'd then immediately betray himself? And why would he have risked the sex anyway?

Further incredulities piled up, as did shameless borrowings from other sources. Roper exulting at the spectacle of napalm in the evening merely recalled Robert Duvall's "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" from Apocalypse Now, while the fate meted out to him at the close was surely stolen from the great final shot of The Long Good Friday, in which Bob Hoskins found himself trapped in a car with IRA hitman Pierce Brosnan.

Still, even if its final outcome bore little relation to the end of John Le Carre's source novel, it was never less than fun to watch in a James Bondish way, and it's easy to see why Tom Hiddleston (pictured) is being mooted as the next 007.

There are no such dashing heroes in Swedish thriller Follow the Money (BBC4), though it's progressing quite intriguingly, which is more than can be said for Blue Eyes (More 4), yet another Scandi-drama, though a disappointingly lacklustre contribution.

And I've never understood the admiration of British reviewers for Line of Duty (BBC1), which is all about the lethal machinations of corrupt coppers and began its third season with the shooting of an unarmed suspect and its subsequent cover-up by the shooter's colleagues.

I simply didn't believe in the basic scenario, while its treatment was so dour and downbeat that there was no fun to be had by the viewer.

Fun is what Better Call Saul (Netflix) is all about and even when little happens, as in this week's seventh episode, the writing is so sharp and the performances so good that you're happy to be along for the ride.

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