One of a few things may have just happened there. Paradox might have got a bit cleverer, and spun a plot narrative that was far smarter than it has been managing for its first two weeks. That, or I might have been having a dim day, and was having more trouble than usual connecting the dots. Or I found the third episode of Paradox – still the show about paradoxes without an obvious paradox in it yet – just struggling to entertain a little, and thus tuned out.
Can I cop out and say a combination of the three? I say that with the tempered caveat that I thought the show pulled its socks up just a little this week. Oh sure, you could still see where every pound hadn’t been spent, and I’m increasingly dubious about hinging a key role on Tamzin Outhwaite’s shoulders. But the batshit crazy moments were fewer in number, some of the logic gaps had been closed up, and in their place was more of a police procedural. Not a great police procedural, but a police procedural nonetheless. And one that I, you might have guessed, didn’t easily follow.
We got the usual suspects, of course. The episode took very little time to download another seven more random pictures (were there eight really? This was hinted at, but ultimately left, potentially to come back to in future weeks) off intergalactic Flickr, and then assemble everybody around them to gormlessly gawp in their direction (was it just us who thought that one of the pictures wasn’t actually used in the detection, though? Is that building towards something bigger? Or did they just forget?)
Emun Elliot’s Dr Christian King continues to take on something of a ringmaster role, even though there’s a sneaking suspicion that he’s none the wiser as to what’s going on himself. But bugger it, why not have some fun with it, he’s reasoning. We like his style.
Once more, of course, you’re asked to buy that this a deathly secret mission that the group have to tackle, where the team of crack detectives seem unable to call on any assistance for even the most mundane of jobs. We get it, it’s cheaper that way. And one quick aside, while we’re talking budget. How is it that E4’s Misfits is made on a shoestring and hides it well, while Paradox has had a more generous cash injection, yet looks so, well, ‘underfunded’…?
But I digress. With the big ticking LCD screen set (and it’s a lovely looking big ticking LCD screen: that’s especially for the reader – nicko71 – who commented last week), and the countdown going in a pseudo-24 kind of way, the race was on to stop another crime being committed (complete with lots of flashbacks if you ever dared to miss the link between a picture and what was happening on screen).
This time, it was a potential rape and assault, with a telegraphed and not well-acted main suspect, that was the focal point. It wasn’t densely plotted, but it did have some more solid foundations. And it did have a few bumps along the way. Furthermore, it didn’t have a tidy conclusion, leaving a character out in the open to revisit next week (as the ‘teaser’ trailer at the end hinted).
What lifted the episode slightly is that Paradox spent some time exploring a story ramification. I’m still not quite sure why DS Holt wasn’t told that he was on the hit list last week (and while we’re theorising, could his number still be up? Could the picture they were looking at of his body last week be one still from the future?), but thanks to a fairly clumsy scene, he found out here, and was a bit pissed about it. I like to think I’d be a bit pissed about it too, and here, for my money, was a human being reacting in a way I’d expect them to.
I only point that out because that’s not what Paradox has been about thus far. And when you factor in that Mark Bonnar’s acting is believable and well-rounded in the face of being given some ludicrous things to do, there’s are buds of quality here. The narrative following him was the best part of this episode, and he makes a far more interesting detective than MENSA chief DI Flint.
While Paradox got its act together a little, the problem, though, is that the investigation itself wasn’t really that interesting to follow. If I hadn’t known beforehand that it was the middle episode in a series, I’d have probably twigged it. It was competent box ticking, and given that there are only two episodes of this left, I was expecting some of the bigger ideas to have kicked in by now.
At the moment, we get Dr King offering some Mystic Meg-esque titbits, and Callum remarking about his feeling of how he fits in, but we’re not really closer to finding out who is using the satellite, which of the cast of characters is inevitably working against the others, and – ultimately – what the whole show is about. It might be chucking out a few subtle hints, but – let’s face it – it’s hardly Lost, is it?
And here’s the ultimate problem. I remember at this point in Torchwood: Children Of Earth being utterly compelled, after three of five episodes, to rearrange my life to make sure I was sat in front of the telly come the start of episode four. With Paradox, that’s not even close to happening. At the moment, it’s fighting my Sky+ box for a repeat of Only Fools and Horses on Dave, just in case they never show the latter again.
Given that Paradox has asked a lot of its audience to stick with so much stupidity to get this far, it’s hardly compulsive viewing. But now that I’ve made it this far, I’m hoping that it starts to tie some strands to the show’s title for next week.
Could this be the show where all of a sudden, someone comes off the bench and scores a corking goal with just minutes left on the big red counting down clock? I’m doubting it, but as I’ve got this far, I’m damned if I’m not going to find out.
Read our review of episode 2 here.