Stan Lee’s Lucky Man episode 2 review: Win Some, Lose Some

Review Louisa Mellor
29 Jan 2016 - 23:00

If only Stan Lee’s Lucky Man would fully commit to its pulp silliness, it could be an invigorating, fun watch…

This review contains spoilers.

1.2 Win Some, Lose Some

The moment a strip club owner (Omid Djalili, playing his character from Black Books) delivers the line “why don’t you put the cuffs on me and we can cha-cha?” is the moment a TV series loses any claim to credibility. Handily for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, credibility is overrated. If only this show would realise that and fully commit to its pulp leanings. 

It clearly wants to, but like a self-conscious toe-tapper on the edge of a dancefloor, it can’t quite bring itself to jump in with both feet and start having any real fun. Until it does, it’s doomed to remain in the uncomfortable no-man’s land between entertaining schlock and serious crime thriller, not quite satisfying the requirements of either.

When you’ve got the majesty of slo-mo Jimmy Nesbitt leaping gazelle-like over a motorway barrier, why muck about with dreary cop conspiracies and failing marriages? Instead of probing the tragedy of addiction and childhood bereavement, why not get Joseph “Beyond The Wall” Gatt back for a punch-up and another speedboat race? Stick to the fun stuff, and let The Wire and co. take care of the rest.

Because a superhero discovering their powers should be fun, shouldn’t it? Even though, as “everything comes at a cost” woman keeps reminding us, everything comes at a cost.

It’s too early to know the exact rules of that cost are yet—does buying a five-figure box of Corn Flakes from that ill boy’s mum redress the cosmic balance?—but it can’t be long before Harry catches up with the audience and realises that whatever else that bracelet is, it’s bad news. Having seen its previous wearer take a nosedive off the top of a tall building at the start of episode one, we’re a step ahead of DS Clayton in that respect, but surely he’s heard the one about The Monkey's Paw?

There’s an interesting discussion to be had here about how much of a stranger’s misfortune we’re happy to collude with in exchange for our own comfort, (see Ursula Le Guin’s powerful short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas for more on that) but Stan Lee’s Lucky Man seems unlikely to play that out with the necessary depth or deftness. It’s simultaneously too silly and takes itself too seriously.

It still looks a treat, mind you. The capital shines like a copper kettle in all that spring sunshine. If only the dialogue could be as sparkling as the surroundings, we’d be onto a winner. Even the camera seemed to lose faith in what the characters were saying at various points, and drifted off on its own to gaze up at the London Eye and take in the various sights. 

Case-wise, it is satisfying to see the Freddie Lau murder continue across multiple episodes rather than being tied up inside the first fifty minutes. Less satisfying is that, thanks to Harry’s bracelet powers, all of the major leaps were achieved by hunch and not investigation. Episode two taught us very little, aside from the fact that the very worst kind of poetry is the poetry read out at a stripper’s funeral.

It'll take a few more episodes to see whether this one can reconcile its pulp heart with its crime thriller trappings. Its likeable cast, James Nesbitt and Amara Karan (as brainbox DS Chohan) are enough reason to allow it at least that kind of commitment. Until next week.

Read Louisa's review of the previous episode, More Yin Than Yang, here.

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