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Thorne: Sleepyhead - First episode reviewed

Thorne, Sleepyhead

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

What’s the story? Following the discovery of a young woman’s body, who apparently died from a suspected stroke, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne comes to suspect she was the victim of an imaginative psychopath who kills victims using pressure points on their neck. However, once he leaves one in a “locked-in” state, where her senses are functioning but she is paralysed, Thorne comes to believe there’s an even more sinister plan at play.

Our verdict: By its own admission, Sky1’s Thorne series is an attempt to expand the British crime drama into the kind of sharply written, fast moving territory that is the mainstay of successful US TV.

On the strength of first episode, Sleepyheadwe’d say mission accomplished.

Thorne: Sleepyhead is tough, bleak viewing – but one that arrives with the sheen of its US counterparts. It boasts a top British cast of mostly familiar names and a US director who, in Stephen Hopkins, can also lay claim to having helmed some of the show’s that Thorne, stylistically, at least is pursuing (24, Californication).

It’s also based on the popular best-sellers by Mark Billingham, which in themselves bring with them an in-built audience.

Admittedly, this opening episode did nothing particularly new within the genre, given that brilliant but world-weary, haunted cops are two a penny in it.

And the visual style – edgy camera-work, rapid-fire scene changes, quick dialogue – is nothing particularly special to TV connoisseurs who have perhaps cut their teeth on the likes of 24, The Shield or The Wire.

But Thorne cannot be faulted for ambition, or even quality. It’s gripping, brilliantly acted and looks good – painting London in a somewhat more beguiling light and relying less on traditional British cliche than American ones.

The story, too, is pretty damn good: sick, compelling and nicely slow-building. The idea of being ‘locked in’ is a terrifying one, and given that Thorne’s nemesis is striking each victim with such regularity makes the search for the killer increasingly more desperate.

The final moment revelation that Thorne may even know the killer was a nice last act twist that made tuning in for next week’s instalment an easy option, particularly as it entailed Thorne himself falling prey (or so it seems) to his latest nemesis.

Of the cast, David Morrissey in the central role of Thorne is a great presence: wise, haunted, sympathetic and vaguely charismatic. He has a lived in style that brings about a real humanity in his character; a man driven by a desire to do right and a fierce instinct, but who is clearly carrying a weighty emotional burden.

Eddie Marsan is a great colleague whenever he is on-screen and provides Morrissey with some quick-witted repartee whenever the script allows, Natascha McElhone a suitably sympathetic nurse and appealing possible love interest.

Both The Wire‘s Aidan Gillen and rookie detective O.T. Fagbenle show signs of potential, despite limited screen-time, but Stephen Campbell Moore has already made his mark as an obnoxious surgeon and possible suspect, who has a way with putting the police down.

As director, Hopkins is also a strong choice for signalling the show’s intent, and he hit the ground running (literally) with a thrilling foot-chase scene that had echoes of Point Break and Narc in its hand-held style.

But then he’s adept at the type of slickness Thorne‘s producers undoubtedly want to achieve and ensures the show’s pacing is such that, once hooked, we’re duty-bound and willing to keep up with each episode’s frantic pace.

Credit, then, to both Hopkins and Morrissey – who also executive produces – for achieving their objectives and turning Thorne into such compulsive Sunday night viewing and an undoubted hit for Sky.

Thorne: Sleepyhead is on Sky1 and Sky 1 HD on Sunday nights from 9pm. It is also repeated throughout the week.