Paradox episode 5 review

Simon sees the Paradox finale turn into a begging letter for a second series commission...

My first, instant reaction to Paradox’s finale: it was sheer bad manners.

I don’t think I’m going out on much of a limb to suggest that, at  the very least, those of us who have battled to the end of the show expected at least some kind of explanation and/or resolution. That, or a box of very expensive chocolates delivered to our doors. But, the realists that we are, we’d have taken just the courtesy of an ending.

Did we get it? If we did, it’s been picked up by some intergalactic firewall that’s stood between the unexplained pictures coming from the unexplained location to the unexplained character’s computer. Not only did we not get an ending, the show dared instead to try and tease us with a cliffhanger. Tease us! They’re taking the piss, surely?

But apparently not. According to one of the commenters on the last review (nate1970, thank you very much), Paradox has a two-series story arc, which is why we didn’t get a proper resolution here. In fact, we don’t get much at all, in a relatively promising episode that ultimately barely goes anywhere. What’s more, some elements felt like the show was taking two steps back, too.

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Take the early scene with Holt and Flint, who for some reason had started banging their brains out again.

I’d like to think that if I was DS Holt, and I was humping DI Flint in my own time, my attention post-necessities would be on how I ended up back in bed with a woman that nobody guessed I was with in the first place. A woman nobody could understand why she dumped me anyway, and a woman there’s no obvious reason to get back together with. Instead, just when DS Holt was reaching for his packet of Silk Cut, for no logical reason the pair’s boss walked in. What this was achieving is mysterious. Surely a phone call would have done, rather than breaking down their door? Can’t she get porn on the Internet at work? Clearly not. Instead, the scene was at best a clumsy attempt to reinforce to the pair that they were at their boss’ beck and call.

“I need you functioning,” said badly-acted boss woman (out of interest, does anyone know her character’s name? We’ve never caught it). Well, DI Flint was functioning before you burst into the bedroom, you dozy fool. If HR caught wind of what you’d just done, you’d be in for an extra-long meeting and at least two days of training.

Still, this was the catalyst for DS Holt to go and cook his kids breakfast, and then generally look moodier than he’s managed to look all series. Some achievement. Mark Bonnar continues to impress in the acting stakes, though, especially given the slight material, and here he’s warning the local scumbag to stay away from his daughter. We’d listen to such advice, as he’s the only character who feels in any way unpredictable. And protecting his family is his mission for the episode.

In case you thought we’d forgotten, the mysterious pictures appeared again too in the midst of all of this. But what’s this? One of them has reappeared! Has the BBC’s stock photo library had a day off, leading the Paradox team needing to reuse an image? Nope, it’s a plot device, with the usual clues leading to the usual puzzled faces around the screens, before everyone goes off to prevent whatever disaster is coming. It’s become like the briefing scene in Hill Street Blues only, er, not as good.

There was some cracking dialogue in the midst of it all, though. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d be heading towards “If an extraterrestrial is sending you a message, it’s the equivalent of two plus two equals four.” They really did say that.

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Inevitably, these were the words of Dr King. I’m not quite sure what the extraterrestrial for WTF is, but I’m all-too-familiar with the English explanation for it, and it was mighty apt here. Still, given that the characters continued just to primarily slam statements at each other rather than have much of a chat, this was about as clear as things got.

To be fair, King and Flint did dig at deeper things in a sort-of-conversation they had, as they worked out that there’s too much here for it just to be coincidence. But who is sending the messages? How do they know what’s coming in the future?

Nobody seems to know. But Flint did offer to take her watch off, which had appeared in one of the latest intergalactic photos. Apparently, that’d make no difference whatsoever to events. I’m not even going to attempt to dig into what that could mean to the logic of the show. Credit to DI Flint for trying to pull of the “We’re not the players, we’re the game” line, though. Shit, did I laugh at that.

But back to Dr King, who wasn’t finished. We next saw him explaining his wormhole theory to the non-voyeuristic, non-sinister boss person. Distortions? Wormholes? The man in the pin-striped shirt then said “it actually exists”. It seemed that we were getting somewhere. Someone had a theory, someone else agreed, and thus I was all set to sit back to have the clever condundrum of Paradox explained to me.

Yet, then I looked at my watch. Half the episode gone already, with still the big event to prevent at the end? I resigned myself to the fact that the show, instead of exploring this genuinely intriguing thread, was about to brush it all under the carpet so Tamzin could pull a few faces. Who needs answers to genuine plot points when there’s nonsense to focus on instead, after all?

The same frustration applied to the glimpse into Dr King’s background. This hinted at depths we hadn’t seen, but we were quickly directed back to the shallow end before we could get our hopes up. As it stood, did the background info on King help much? Nope, not at all. It hinted at things, stuck its tongue out at us, and got back to being Paradox instead.

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Elsewhere, if you could forgive the hokum dialogue, the darkest part of the episode saw DC Gada murdering Stuart Taylor, the criminal he’s been pursuing since the third episode. We were expecting some twist in the take there, but again, the brakes were applied. Thus, the episode left Gada with his arms around Taylor’s neck. Then the carpet brush came back out, and we never got to see Gada again. Tamzin, though, was really looking worried by now. It was clearly best to focus on her again instead. Sigh.

The episode itself up until the ending was decent and daft enough, though (if you took it with the usual pinch of salt and two or three pints of really very good beer), and it’s clear that some of the budget had been held back for it. There was a car chase, guns, and a big finale in a school.

For DI Flint, this posed another conundrum. Does she put herself in the line of fire to potentially save five students, while ending her own life? After furrowing her brow a little, the answer was obvious, and thus she leapt into action. We never, wonderfully, got to see the end result of the incident in the school, as the writers went with the cliffhanger in the hope of getting a second series approach itself. We’re still reeling from it to be honest. Not the cliffhanger itself, more the sheer nerve of leaving so many threads open.

Still, given that Merlin has just picked up a third series commission, Paradox, we suspect ,has a stab at a second run. Especially so given that the last half hour of its finale was basically a begging letter to let the makers have some more episodes. There’s King dying, Gada murdering and the strange voice asking for help, which is basically throwing three darts in the direction of the BBC commissioning editor’s office door. People will want to know the answers to these questions, the makers will reason.

Er, you will, won’t you?

Ultimately Paradox has, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here, not been the BBC’s finest hour. It’s too often fallen between deciding whether it wants to play sci-fi or police procedural, and its sporadic signs of bursting into life have been tempered by some utterly daft story decisions, and too many dim moments.

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A second series isn’t a torturous prospect, to be fair. But we can’t help thinking that on the evidence of the five episodes of Paradox to date, that stuck in the BBC’s cupboards are far better series waiting to be made. It might be an idea to go with one of those instead…

Catch the review of the last episode here.