The Escape Artist is a BBC mini series written by David Wolstencroft and directed by Brian Welsh. It’s main star is David Tennant which if you read my recent post of doctor who it’s not hard to work out that he was the main reason I watched the series. As far as David Tennant goes he is a fairly reliable quality check, if he is in the show then it’s probably worth the watch. Just like ITV’s brilliant crime drama Broadchurch earlier this year. But after seeing the trailers for the show I wasn’t sure if I’d actually enjoy it, however with trust in Tennant’s acting, and a friend who had also seen it and urged me to watch it, I reluctantly gave the show a try.
To make a long story short I loved the first episode. It starts off seemingly innocent with Will Burton (David Tennant) talking to a class of children including his son about law and there is room for quite a bit of humour and warmth in this first half of the episode. We also get shown that he is a very talented lawyer, one of the best lawyers in fact and that his rival lawyer Maggie is extremely envious of him. However while enjoying a weekend with his wife and son Burton is given a case that changes the tone of the show completely due to it’s extreme nature. This case involves the dangerous and very creepy Liam Foyle who Burton defends and ultimately saves from being prosecuted however due to Burton leaving Foyle hanging by not shaking his hand, Foyle then kills Burton’s wife. The rest of the series is then trying to prosecute Foyle for Burton’s wife’s murder, David Tennant having a little cry, sleep, then another little cry while listening to voicemail messages and eventually the series reaches a climax when Burton avenges his wife in a perfect crime and then saves himself from being locked up (like an ESCAPE ARTIST, see, yeah the title basically spoils the ending).
The show had a way of leaving me wanting more every episode and I never quite knew what was going to happen next. The pace of the show was more of a thriller and this helped keep it exciting throughout. My only criticism is that not as much happens in episode 2 and you could pretty much cut the whole episode out and the story would still working with the remaining two episodes. However it is in this episode that you see Burton grieve over his wife and in that way I suppose it is important for character development. Also because the characters are all quite interesting it’s nice to spend more time with them.
Episode 2 see’s a lot of Tony Gardner who I wonder has been type cast a little bit as his character in this seems to be exactly the same as his character from channel 4’s Fresh Meat. It appears like this because of the mannerisms his characters both use seem very similar and both characters (I think his character in Fresh Meat was Tony Shales?) are bumbling rather daft and useless at their job. They are both also easily manipulated by other characters in their show. It’s not much of a niggle but I suppose if he’s good at doing a role like this then he was a safe choice for the role.
As I said the main pull to this series for me was David Tennant and his acting was top notch as always. I wonder if despite how interesting the plot was, the show would probably suffer if someone else had been cast in the role. No matter what show David is in he seems to be able to captivate the audience (or atleast me) and he is brilliant at displaying raw emotion that looks incredibly real and allows the audience to feel genuine empathy towards any character he plays. Even though Doctor who is one of my favourite shows and David Tennant was my doctor, I kind of prefer him in drama’s like this. His doctor was great but it’s drama’s like this and Broadchurch which showcase the full range of his acting in a more meaningful way than doctor who ever could.
Special mentions must also go to Ashley Jenson who plays Burton’s wife. She manages to create such a likeable character in the small amount of screen time which emphasises the tragedy of when she dies in the first episode.
Ofcourse I must also mention Toby Kebbell who plays Liam Foyle. Foyle is such a creepy character even when he isn’t doing or saying anything and it’s thanks to Toby’s acting that this comes across so well. Because of how weird Foyle is portrayed by Toby it justifies the constructed murder that Burton does to Foyle. The audience feels little empathy towards Foyle because of how disturbing he is and are behind Burton’s decision to strategically kill him.
In addition one subtle thing I noticed while watching it was certain shots and music that reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock. There was a hitchcock esque to much of the program. Particularly the sequence of shots that form the title sequence for episode 2 and 3 that focus on birds in cages in Foyle’s house. In the background there is some horror esque music that definitely feel’s like a call back to the classic horror films of the past. It’s subtle images and music like this and the building up of tension that eventually leads to nothing most of the time that makes the show feel fairly disturbing and uneasy.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the series and found a lot in the show to be interested and engaged with to keep me eager for the next episode. I’m not sure if this is the kind of show that will get or needs another series but if the BBC do comission another one I will definetly be there to watch it.