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Life: Season 1 - Review

Life: Season 1

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BRITAIN’S Damian Lewis excels as a former police officer who, after years of false imprisonment, returns to the force with a decidedly different philosophy…. to catch those responsible for framing him and to use his prison-based skills to assist in his crime detection.

Detective Charlie Crews was one of the more interesting police characters to emerge from the past 12 months – a fruit-loving, zen fixated law enforcer with a tough streak.

As played by Lewis, he was an enigmatic presence to be around throughout the first season of Life, which aired on ITV2 late last year (2008), and his arrival on DVD gives law and order buffs the chance to catch up on a classic new character in the making.

Although only 11 episodes in length, season one provided many highlights… not least in Lewis’ layered performance, which – though subtle – imbued Crews with a wonderful ambiguity. Calm and collected, even quirky, one minute, the detective was fiercely driven by a desire to uncover the truth behind the murder that sent him to prison – and as the season reached its climax, his decision-making veered towards the more risk-taking.

No less impressive, meanwhile, was Crews’ tough, street-wise partner Dani Reese (played by the really rather lovely Sarah Shahi), a detective battling demons of her own, who regularly displayed a strong loyalty to her partner despite not particularly liking him.

Their banter was often funny… and both looked comfortable in each other’s company.

Life wasn’t just about “a case of the week”, either, mixing some strong stand-alone stories with an unfolding conspiracy and some intriguing insights into its central characters personal lives.

For Crews, in particular, there was the presence of an ex-wife he clearly still had feelings for, a love-smitten lawyer with the hots for him, and a loyal best friend (Adam Arkin) who had been placed in charge of his financial interests. All embellished several of the episodes they appeared in, nicely adding to the complexity of Crews’ life.

The conspiracy, meanwhile, built nicely towards the two-part season finale, Dig A Hole and Fill It Up, which found Crews having to balance the desire for personal revenge against some of those responsible for framing him, with his desire to follow procedure and do the right thing – we won’t ruin things here by revealing his decisions!

Of the stand-alone stories, Farthingale, in which an IRS agent leading a double life became the victim of a gas explosion, provided plenty of fun as the detectives attempted to make sense of the agent’s existence, while The Fallen Woman was a tightly scripted story about Russian mail order brides.

Powerless, meanwhile, allowed Dani Reese her moment in the spotlight (an opportunity she seized), as she doggedly investigated a male charmer she met at an AA meeting who could have been a rapist.

As with all good shows, the final episode of Life left viewers with some tantalising questions unanswered for the advent of season 2… the prospect of which is very appealing indeed.

If you didn’t manage to catch it during its ITV run, there’s another chance on F/X or – best of all – when this DVD box set is released on February 2. You won’t be disappointed in this excellent new show.

Certificate: 15
Episodes: 12
UK Release Date: February 2, 2009