This review contains spoilers.
A clever person once explained to me the difference between something being complex (comprising several different but connected parts), and complicated (made difficult and/or confusing by comprising several different but connected parts). Enjoy Hunted as I do, it’s a distinction that the show’s makers may want to ponder if they reach a second series.
Complex shows, audiences can deal with. The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire… are all complex and eminently watchable, because their complexity is driven by characters we believe in. Complicated shows that feature more twist and turn than character however, are simply tiring.
At episode five, just when Hunted should be ramping up our interest, its increasingly spiralling narrative and piling on of underwritten character after character (Meera Syal’s just popped up as a Pakistani presidential candidate, Aidan’s living under an assumed identity, the fake Dr Goebel is actually on Hunter’s side, the list goes on…) just feels exhausting.
What started out as a Tangier café shooting has spun into a global conspiracy worthy (and reminiscent, in parts) of The Da Vinci Code. Hunter and her hat collection are implicated in a series of events that’s expanding by the minute, as it’s revealed that Hourglass, the shady group who want her dead, not only own the world’s most powerful corporations, but have been pulling the planet’s strings for over five centuries. Ambition, it should be said, is not something Hunted’s writers lack.
What they’ve a less strong grip on is containing Hunted’s overarching themes – money, power, free market capitalism – inside an engaging human story. Viewers don’t need to like our TV protagonists (Breaking Bad and the aforementioned The Wire are more than proof of that), but we do have to feel as if we know them for the story to mean something. After spending five hours in her kickass, pouting presence though, do we know any more about Sam Hunter than in episode one? I’d have to say no.
None of that is to say Hunted doesn’t have its moments. The stunts and fight scenes are glossily entertaining, and this week’s episode saw the body count rise more rapidly than usual. George Ballard was blow-darted off this mortal coil (but not before supplying Sam with the next piece in her slowly-assembling Hourglass puzzle), the Belfastian Godfather was shot in the head, and Sam and Aidan cut through a crowd of gun-wielding henchmen like an unarmed knife through butter.
Hunted undeniably looks great too. A joint US/UK production, it’s evidently keen to show off the London skyline to its American viewers (so much so that even Hunter’s hospital bed has panoramic views), an insistence which, combined with the show’s icy blue colour palette, brings to mind those glittering aerial shots in the BBC’s The Apprentice.
It was an eventful episode that moved apace, and left us sure that Hourglass was behind Hunter’s much-revisited childhood Oast House trauma. Hunter and Stephen’s kiss was another uncomfortable reminder of how ‘sex-worker’ seems to fall under the job description of Byzantium’s best operative, though her blank page character gives no indication of her feeling either compromised, or actually having affection for Eddie’s father. One way or the other, it would be nice to know.
The acid-test with slowly unspooling thrillers is how urgently you want to get to the next episode once the credits have rolled. It’s telling then, that after an hour of Hunted, good-looking and enjoyably bonkers as it is, I’m quite happy to wait another week to see what happens next.
Read Louisa’s review of episode four, here.
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