Please note: although the entire series is available now on BBC iPlayer, our reviews will appear weekly. Please keep spoilers for future episodes out of the comments section, thanks!
This review contains spoilers.
After an opening hour that chucked a kilo of cooked plot-spaghetti at several walls to see what stuck, Hard Sun settled on an identity in episode two. It’s going to be The X-Files, but instead of conspiracy aliens investigated by Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, it’s conspiracy truthers investigated by Danny Dyer and Annie Lennox.
There’s the potential for countless case offshoots from the central government cover-up. As Hicks sensitively puts it, the now-discredited Hard Sun leak will bring “all the freaks and the nutters, the religious fanatics and the psychos” out of the woodwork. And who’s going to have to deal with them? Him and Renko.
This week’s Hard Sun-inspired psycho is Chris Chapel (Jamie Sives), a nasty piece of work who uses the excuse of Earth’s impending destruction to slaughter his ex-wife’s lover, family, and—if he’d been allowed to get away with it—their kids too.
Chapel is a ticking time bomb whose murderous instincts are ignited by Renko’s partial leak of the file. He believes the ‘hoax’ is true, and rape and murder is what he chooses to do about it. No wonder MI5 is so keen to keep Hard Sun under wraps. ‘Dotard’ week last September was enough for me to stop recycling and blow my savings on takeaways from Zizzi. Imagine if everyone believed there was no future. It’d be chaos.
At the crime scene, DI Renko continued to be excellent at her job, as unhesitant and knowledgeable as a walking, talking Amazon Alexa. Before Forensics had time to take a swab, she’d mentally scanned the room, assessed the situation and delivered her verdict on the culprit: “He’s lost some traditional male status role, husband, father, provider… so he’s looking to reassert his identity as a man, to be physically and sexually dominant.” A walking, talking Alexa who took a module in feminist theory at police school.
She was right about all of it, although she left out the part about Chapel also being a massive c-word. I mean, he totally ruined those birthday balloons.
In line with this series’ box-set release, episode two picked up immediately that episode one ended. A battered Hicks was abducted by MI5 and driven to their cool abandoned factory headquarters where they tied him to some garden furniture, battered him some more and came a hair’s breadth from executing his wife. Renko came to their aid with her video threat promising to leak the rest of the file if anything happened to her or Hicks or their loved ones.
Protecting loved ones was the theme of the episode – whether by distancing yourself from them (Renko), them distancing themselves from you (Hicks), or driving them to a remote countryside cottage, drugging and attempting to murder them (Chapel). “All you want to do is protect the people you love but how are you supposed to deal with it?” asked Hicks, whose nut is being done by this whole business.
Renko’s video threat may have warned MI5 off, but didn’t stop them messing with the pair. Four weeks after Hicks was tasered, Grace Morrigan (Nikki Amuka-Bird) ambushed his mistress Mari (Aisling Bea) at her university library, then paid a visit to Renko’s son Daniel (Jojo Macari) at his psychiatric hospital.
Daniel is no ordinary severely mentally ill young man. He’s a severely mentally ill young man in a TV police thriller, which means he has magical powers. Specifically, the power to tell when people are lying, and also, possibly, the ability to stare down the sun. At least, that’s what we have to assume he was trying to do on that hospital roof. Keep trying, Daniel, someone needs to show that big yellow bastard who’s boss.
Numbering among the “freaks, nutters, religious weirdos and psychos”, Daniel knows instinctively that Hard Sun is real and wants to talk to his mum about it, a conversation she’s trying to avoid harder than the one about how come they’re the same age.
Renko’s too busy chasing serial killers and sticking Post-Its on her Hicks-killed-his-partner wall to pick up the phone to her son. By the end of episode two, she has the evidence she needs to nick Hicks, but not the desire. Being the only two people in England who know that every spin of planet Earth is counting down to the end of days creates a bond.
Renko and Hicks discussed that bond across the river from MI5 (a building full of truth-origamists making swans and frogs with mouths that open and close out of the truth) in a conversation that contained episode two’s best idea, if not necessarily its best dialogue. “Five years,” said Hicks, “what’s the point?”. “The point is everything that’s here now,” Renko answered. And she’s right. Five years, ten years, twenty, forty… none of us lives forever. This whole Hard Sun deadline could be read as a metaphor for the deadline on all our lives. All we really have is what we love here and now, a fine sentiment in a batty but entertaining show.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.
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