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Tin Star - Finale reviewed (what went wrong)

Tin Star

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

YOU really have to wonder what went wrong with Tin Star, the Sky Atlantic drama fronted by Tim Roth.

On the evidence of the first episode, all of the elements were in place for a gritty, striking, slightly offbeat thriller that wasn’t afraid to pull its punches. The premise appeared simple.

A small-town sheriff with a shady past finds his past catching up with him when killers come calling. Instead of killing him, however, a lone gunman in a white mask accidentally took out his five-year-old son. It seemed the chilling launch pad for an expertly executed slice of revenge that posed ethical and moral questions, whilst also boasting the ability to shock (if a kid got killed in the first episode, who was really safe?).

What’s more, in Tim Roth it had a brilliant leading man, capable of toying with a character’s likeability, not to mention a supporting cast that included rising young star Abigail Lawrie (in what could be a career-defining role) as well as Genevieve O’Reilly.

But while all three certainly emerged from the wreckage of Tin Star with reputations intact (and in Lawrie’s case enhanced), the series itself never came close to realising its potential or gripping in the way that it should.

For starters, it meandered for too long. The show took at least four or five episodes before anything really striking happened.

It also didn’t know whether it wanted to be shocking and urgent (as with some moments during latter episodes) or knowingly quirky and eccentric (in the way that it deployed its characters). It was also prone to baffling lapses in logic that eventually felt more like stupidity.

The final episode, My Love Is Vengeance, was a classic case in point. Early on, Angela (O’Reilly), the wife of Roth’s Jack Devlin, was seen frantically attempting to clean up her blood-stained home, following the home invasion by big oil enforcer Gagnon, as her accomplices in his slaying, Jaclyn (Michelle Thrush) and Elizabeth (Christina Hendricks), bury him in the woods.

When these attempts are threatened by Constable Denise Minahik (Sarah Podemski), who offers to make a house call, Angela blows up her home rather than have the blood stains discovered.

Moments later, however, she and Jack are torturing two people in a bar, apparently not worried that one of the two (Lynda Boyd’s roadhouse owner Randy) is innocent, or that their actions might be discovered. Once content with finally finding out who shot their son, they don’t even bother to clean up their mess – either by setting Randy free or killing long-time nemesis Frank (Ian Puleston-Davies).

Later on, Jack eventually gets to confront his son’s killer, Whitey (Oliver Coopersmith), who has now enlisted his daughter, Anna (Abigail Lawrie), to his side by telling her the truth about Jack’s past and, in particular, the way he ruined his own life, as well as that of his mother, Helen (Leanne Best). The two profess love for each other before Jack puts two bullets in his chest.

This, in turn, makes Anna pick up Whitey’s gun and, as the screen turns black, presumably shoot and kill Jack – painfully aware that her own father is something of a monster.

Questions, inevitably, remain unanswered. But then a second season has apparently been commissioned. But why bother, we’d ask?

Aside from its pedestrian pacing and myriad loose ends, Tin Star is over-populated by characters that simply don’t engage. Roth, for instance, may be a formidable actor in his own right, but he’s badly let down by the flimsy nature of the material. His Jack, aka Jim Worth (as he is known to his current colleagues), is just plain nasty. There isn’t enough back story to make him remotely complex, and no attempt to explore the duality of a life spent undercover, which in turn led to addictions and darkness.

Rather, Jack/Jim seemed to exist in a drunken haze, prone to heinous acts of violence, random sex with strangers and booty calls to his own wife whenever the mood suited.

Similarly, O’Reilly’s wife, Angela, never seemed to get to her explore her own character’s motivations as she should. Angela was never really afforded the time to grieve for her son; while her continued devotion to Jack/Jim – in spite of the revelations concerning his infidelities and ruthlessness – felt unlikely. O’Reilly gave it her all but, like Roth, had little to work with.

The ‘villains’, meanwhile, never really took any coherent shape. Quite often, they had Jack in their sights, only to find reasons not to pull the trigger. Their ineptitude became frustrating. While attempts to invest them with quirky elements never really felt authentic or in keeping with their characters.

Coopersmith’s Whitey, in particular, fell victim to this. Early on, his character was wildly eccentric, often gyrating his body to peculiar effect. But late on, as the show attempted to make you switch sympathies (or at least feel conflicted), his transition felt contrived and out of keeping with his character. Whitey’s arc should have felt a lot more sympathetic – his own death a lot more shocking.

We could go on… but suffice to say that none of the characters in Tin Star resonated in the way that they should have. If writer Rowan Joffe was going for weird and/or quirky in a Twin PeaksmeetsFargo kind of way, then he singularly failed. Everyone became annoying, mostly because so many of their actions were driven by stupidity.

The inconsistency of tone, the lack of urgency, and even the incomplete nature of the storytelling (a second season already feels like a strain), made Tin Star a colossal waste of time and talent. A show that began with so much potential, quickly lost its way and didn’t even have the decency to deliver a definitive and worthwhile ending.

Given the relentlessly nasty tone established by the second half of the series, the prospect of revisiting any of these characters feels completely unappealing.

Tin Star: Season 2 finale (what went right)?

Tin Star: Season 2, Episode 5 (Consequences) – was this the best episode the series has delivered yet?

Read our verdict on the first episode of season 2