The Level tells the story of the investigation into the murder of Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister), focussing on D.S. Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome) who is both an investigating officer and the unknown mystery witness the police are searching for. This classic set up sets off a thriller that is often fun and sometimes far-fetched, requiring the audience not to ask too many questions as the plot unravels.
The strongest aspect of this production are the actors; their performances are universally convincing. The cast do very well indeed, delivering huge amounts of expository dialogue while keeping their characters believable. There are some nicely drawn and affecting relationships, particularly between D.S. Devlin and her retired Police Officer Father played by the always reliable Gary Lewis. They have strained and antagonistic relationship, he used to drink and abuse her mother, however his love for her is always clear. The scenes between the two actors feel real, his desire to make amends for his past and her difficulty to forgive him is palpable.
Secrets and the past catching up with the characters are central themes of this drama, this is true of Police and criminals alike. Joe Absolom plays Shay Nash with the required menace, Nash is manipulative and totally unreasonable, which makes him an imposing force within the drama. Noel Clarke is a good actor but Gunner Martin is the least interesting character, although he does have some engrossing scenes as the show progresses. The “gold mine” at the centre of the mystery is revealed to be a very timely criminal enterprise which is cleverly thought through. Brighton is nicely used and a well-chosen setting for the story to unfold. The subject of mental health is handled maturely and sensitively, particularly in the portrayal of Nancy’s Mother.
The characters are stronger than the plot, consequently the real drama comes from character interaction and development. The final episode is by far the most exciting of the six episodes which makes it hard not to wonder if the show would have been improved through telling the story in four episodes. The Level wishes to be a twisty thriller but offers only a few surprises, this has mostly been seen before and delivered with greater skill. The show is still engaging and watchable but it lacks the crucial ingredients of proper suspense and real surprise. This is not a TV show that leaves an audience on the edge of their seat, staying up late on a work night to watch the next episode. It is enjoyable while it lasts but fails to make any lasting impression.
Dir: Marc Everest and Andy Goddard
Scr: Gaby Chiappe and Alexander Perrin
Starring: Karla Crome, Laura Haddock, Noel Clarke, Rob James-Collier, Lindsay Coulson, Amanda Burton, Geoff Bell, Gary Lewis and Philip Glenister.
DOP: Ben Wheeler
Music: Jack C. Arnold
Number of Episodes: 6
Episode Runtime: 45 mins
The Level is available on DVD now.