It’s the latest project from World Productions, the company responsible for both Line of Duty and Bodyguard. Martin Compston appears right at the start – in the thick of an action set-piece, half-drowned in CGI – swapping Steve Arnott’s London voice for Compston's own Scottish accent. And then there's an attempted cover-up in the Trident submarine (i.e. HMS Vigil) which, despite being way outside of AC-12’s reach, would likely raise a hungry eyebrow from Ted Hastings.
DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) descends into the politically contentious nuclear sub after one of the crew dies in questionable circumstances. And it’s down in that deep, dark steel forest under the sea, thick with bruising pipes and stairways, where the atmosphere separates from Line of Duty and swims on its own terms. But that addictive quality remains: turning Vigil into the latest weekly event that will have the nation superglued to the box.
Paterson Joseph and Suranne James as Newsome and DCI Amy Silva. Photo: BBC
In light of shows with higher budgets, chiefly in America, the CGI involved in the exciting opening scene is a tad lacklustre. Maybe any CGI would've been transparent, since the BBC can't just raise or control Trident for the sake of good drama. But as this critic was watching, he already imagined the behind-the-scenes side-by-side comparison on YouTube – revealing that, actually, a green screen was there the entire time! In any case, this doesn't harm the thrill of the sequence.
Suranne Jones gives an arresting performance as Amy. She's anxious, authoritative, and funny all at once. She also brilliantly captures her character’s difficult concealment of anything that would weaken her position on Vigil, especially in the minds of a mostly male platoon. She represses her own traumas, and can't let anybody see.
And despite being an astute and driven detective, Amy is literally out of her depth. Her jurisdiction blurs on this military vessel, which holds around 150 officials, only eight of whom are women. The first-in-command, Newsome (Paterson Joseph), is bad enough, but Lt. Commander Prentice (Adam James) is a classically antagonistic presence – blocking Amy at every opportunity. As such, the submarine turns into a metal coffin of communal trust and conspiracy.
Rose Leslie as DS Kirsten Longacre. Photo: BBC
Keeping secret matters secret tangles with high-ranking orders, which are unwavering and unbreakable, obeyed with a Full Metal Jacket-like devotion. The friction between the police and the Navy isn’t restricted to the water, as Amy’s detective partner DS Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie) investigates the situation on land – where even more cover-ups can be found. Leslie carries this B-plot with a firm strength and, like Amy, Kirsten doesn’t bend to the Navy.
As Amy's scepticism about the dead crew member intensifies, the series grows into an enticingly claustrophobic whodunnit wrapped in the chill of Cold War paranoia. Thrilling Sunday nights are back. Let the scrupulous and delightful guessing games begin!
Vigil airs on Sunday 29 August at 9pm on BBC One, and continues on Monday 30 August at the same time.
|What||Vigil, BBC One, first-look review|
29 Aug 21 – 29 Aug 22, ON BBC ONE
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