Paradox episode 4 review

It’s the penultimate episode of Paradox! The one where all the pieces are cunningly slid into place in time for a rip-roaring finale! Er….

Dr King from Paradox

Before I went off and made the usual tit of myself that I tend to do with these reviews, I did some extra homework this week. I wanted to be absolutely clear about something that’s been bugging me since Paradox began. So I went and looked up what the exact definition of a paradox is.

According to Dictionary.com, here’s what you get:

1.    a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in        reality expresses a possible truth.2.    a self-contradictory and false proposition.3.    any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.4.    an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.

I had to check, because I wasn’t actually aware I’d seen much of a paradox at all after four episodes of, er, Paradox. Unless you count the fact that the team of crack crap detectives had managed to change future events foretold to them by the wormhole/conspirator/Spacebook/Marty McFly.

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But are we seeing false propositions? It seems not, as the events that are presented by the weekly downloading of fresh pictures are all pretty much going to happen, without intervention. The proposition is therefore correct. I might be thinking too hard about this, but this is a show where not even the title yet seems to make much sense (unless you squeeze it in under definition one, perhaps?). The story, as you might have gathered if you’ve got this far with the series, isn’t far behind.

The plot this week soon got down to sliding the episode’s eventual last-reel conundrum into place. On the one hand, there was a man with his wife and young child. He was lovely, and very kind. You’d hate him to die. But – what’s this? – there’s a single mum who’s struggling to do her best for her teenage daughter? And they’re not really getting on brilliantly? Aw. You can’t help but feel for her.

You can just imagine the script meeting can’t you? “Wouldn’t it be great if we could, by however strained and obvious a path as possible, put them both in positions of peril, and somehow steal all of the fire brigade’s equipment?”, someone would say.

“No – hang on!”, interjected someone else. “We could leave one special gravity-defying platform, that could save one of them before the Big Red Clock (our faithful reader, nicko21, you know we love you) counted down to zero! Never mind that the audience never gets to see said platform – nor its necessary levitational powers – and thus it seems you can be saved without it anyway! We could, basically, get Tamzin to choose who dies! Wowzers!”.

Drinks all round, clearly.

And, to be fair, via a subplot about a travel agent that also allows DS Holt to fall foul of the serious crime squad (in quite a good sequence), the building blocks are eventually stacked passably well. Granted, you have to discount some of the odd face-pulling and half-sentences that get us there, but this is an episode of the show that has a start, middle and end, and one or two good sequences thrown in too. It’d be folly to grumble about that.

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As for the denouement, let’s not forget that a good conundrum is, of course, at the heart of a good drama. But, ultimately, this is Paradox. So when the show made its way to its eventual very signposted conclusion, it went back to its clunky old ways. A bit of dialogue to plaster over a convenient logic bypass here, and a suddenly forced decision to make for DI Flint there. Bluntly, some of the good work was chucked on the bonfire.

Sadly too, the episode’s big moment rested on the shoulders of Tamzin Outhwaite, rather than the far superior Mark Bonnar. Her character, DI Flint, may as well have rolled a dice to make the decision as to who lives and dies, such is the moral dilemma she seems to be suffering. We get a couple of lines of speech, a bit of face pulling, and what should have been a conscience-crushing choice was made as easily as deciding whether she wanted cheese on her sandwich or not.

Paradox, sadly, needed someone better than Outhwaite to lead it. A terrific actor can paper over the cracks in material, and make you buy a character come what may. Outhwaite? I’ve never thought she’s bad, but she’s asked to hold the show together, and she’s not once come close to doing so. Bonnar, and Emun Elliott, are Paradox’s main acting assets, yet too often, they’re tucked away on what appear to be errands compared to the main thrust of the story.

They do get to deal with some work exploring the apparent bigger issues at work, but Emun Elliott’s Dr King in particular is, by this penultimate episode, still a two-dimensional nut-job rather than the sinister, ambiguous character who could hold the key to Paradox’s mystery. There’s a scene in this episode when he explains wormholes to DI Flint, and it may as well have been set in the Queen Vic. This, surely, was vital exposition. This was a point where we got clues to understanding what the show was actually about. Instead, they had a chat, and that was seemingly that. Are there actually bigger forces at play here, and do the show’s creators know what’s sending the mysterious pictures to Dr King’s computer? I’m not actually sure that they do.

The tease to next week’s finale looks promising, and says all the right things. There are some guns, some cars driving quickly, and the line that offers real hope: “It’s all been leading to this from the very first day.”

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I really hope so. I’m convinced that there are the guts to an interesting show in the four episodes of Paradox that we’ve had to date, and I’m hoping that the last episode will tie together clues from the show thus far, and show that it’s been layering things in place from day one to build to a clever ending. I’m certainly intrigued as to how the arrival of the photographs is explained.

Paradox’s last episode, ultimately, has a lot of work on its shoulders. It doesn’t get much help from this functional-at-best penultimate instalment, and it surely has a lot to cram in next week. But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt, and we’ll see you again in seven days’ time to see whether the rug is about to pulled from under our feet….

Find our review of episode 3 here.