This review contains spoilers
There seems to be a kind of mini trend on British TV at the moment, with almost every popular genre show made in the UK changing up its entire cast, if not every year then every couple. Bedlam, the little-loved haunted asylum series made for Sky Living last year, may just have beaten all of their competition in speed if not style, as the original cast has been ousted after just six episodes. For those unfamiliar, Bedlam sets its story within an asylum turned apartment building, where all manner of ghosts and ghoulies roamed free to haunt the residents.
The end of the first series saw Jed (Theo James), the original protagonist and resident seer of dead people, slowly discover the vastly unethical and illegal methods the doctors and nurses had subjected their patients to back in the day, and was left trapped in the building’s morgue amongst angry spirits and an unsteady structure. Kate (Charlotte Salt) was saved from the collapse by her father (Hugo Speer). Both characters return tonight, but Will Young and Ashley Madekwe seem to have bit the dust along with James.
It’s a neat move in keeping things fresh, as Being Human proved with its latest series, but I get the sense that the cast shake-up wasn’t entirely intended, at least not to the extent seen here. A big plus is the addition of Lacey Turner, former Eastenders actress and a developing genre television star (she also has witch-centric series Switch in the pipeline), who comes in as Ellie, a medium like Jed who hasn’t yet begun to understand or control her powers. Working as a paramedic, seeing ghosts can be a bit of a hazard, and she’s soon put on leave and abandoned by her scumbag fiancé.
Seeking answers, she travels to Bedlam Heights (now rebranded as Brightmoor) in search of Jed, a psychiatric patient she knows to have exhibited the same symptoms as herself. Once there, we’re introduced to fellow newcomers Dan (Nikesh Patel) and Max (Jack Roth), who welcome Ellie into their flat with hopes to either sleep with her or help her with her issues. We’re only given 45-minutes to meet the entirely new cast, and I assume we’ll get to know both a little better throughout the second series, but their introduction is brief and broad, making sure we know what types of people they are, rather than anything deeper.
Dan is Warren’s new building manager, and has more than a slight whiff of Kate’s type-A, bitchy personality. When Kate returns, the pair immediately rub each other up the wrong way, and their electric sparring made me want her to stay around a little longer (something I never thought I’d say). Max, on the other hand, is left in the background until the last minute, and occupies Will Young’s place in the cast. The only person to currently know about Ellie’s abilities, albeit someone who already knows more about it than she does, he’ll likely be what Ryan was to Jed last year, and their initial chemistry shows promise.
The ghosts in this opener are top-notch, too, with a couple of the scares proving brilliantly effective. Lacey Turner does frightened and upset really well, even if I wanted her to crack a smile at some point, and seeing her deal with such a good ghost-of-the-week cemented her likeability factor. The first is a suicide victim whom she disturbs while wondering around the building, and she’s soon ducking nooses and looking too closely at old photographs. Max helps her solve the case in the end, and from next week I’m sure they’ll add a little more mystery and investigation to the weekly case.
The second spectre looks to be part of the ongoing mystery, as a stray marble we assume is part of the suicide victim’s haunting turns up even after he’s put to rest. When Ellie first arrived at Bedlam Heights a little girl (who looks very different from the show’s ordinary ghosts) tempts her into the forbidden part of the building, and it’s heavily hinted at the end that she knows who the girl is. When the ghost tells her to shut up about her past, she accepts without question, and a flashback leads me to suspect the girl might actually be Ellie’s younger self.
We were promised answers to last year’s cliffhanger, but this premiere simply adds to the mystery surrounding the Branded Man we saw in the finale. We see him again when Kate is taken, and Ellie has the same markings on her shoulder. Was it always there? Or did it appear when she came to Bedlam? We shall presumably find out, as series two looks to have learned from some of the mistakes of its first outing. Time will tell whether the new characters can work well together, but this first outing certainly bodes well for the rest of the series.
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