TV review: The Victim, BBC One (4 stars)

TV Review: The Victim, BBC One

Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah star in a tense drama about a sensitive subject

'Just remember who the victim is'. Wise words from John Hannah's sombre DI Stephen Grover as he proffers a statement that reverberates throughout this sensitive four-part drama from Rob Williams. Any story about a revenge attack on a man who may or may not have killed a nine-year-old when he himself was just 13 has the capacity for being less than subtle. But the writing and performances keep The Victim just on the right side of that line.

When Craig Myers (John Harkness) is reputedly outed as child killer Eddie J Turner, the dead boy's mother, Anna Dean (Kelly Macdonald), immediately comes under suspicion for instigating a vicious assault on him. Meanwhile, Grover is determined to keep this case tied to the facts and not let emotion or a sense of justification get in the way of the law.

The notion of victimhood is, as you'd imagine, spread widely throughout the four parts so that pretty much all of the characters have something in their past that makes them either a victim or, potentially, a perpetrator. But alongside delicate acting (Hannah and Macdonald's career-long ability to be dourly sympathetic is utilised superbly here, while Harkness exudes the brilliantly confused demeanour of a man stuck in a permanent nightmare), the credible dialogue sounds like it actually belongs in real people's mouths (something the likes of Line of Duty always fail to get right). Two setpieces in which Grover puts vigilantism to rights and Anna's new husband (Jamie Sives) gives a stark definition of forgiveness are just two highlights in a drama that juggles moral dilemmas in almost every scene and reeks with credibility and compassion from the off.

Given the subject matter, there are few nods towards humour in here, though a smile should rest on some people's lips when watching Macdonald walk past a 'Choose Life' graffito on the Cowgate. Almost constant music pervades the show but whether it's 'chill music for studying' auralscapes or an Arvo Pärt-esque piano lament which punctuates throughout, the soundtrack never feels evasive and, if anything, lends this exceptional drama an extra emotional weight.

Episodes watched: Four of four

The Victim airs on BBC One, Monday 8–Thursday 11 April, 9pm


1. Shortass Fuse10 Apr 2019, 5:55pm Report

One of the most unpleasant pieces of drama I have ever seen.

2. John Ling12 Apr 2019, 5:45pm Report

There is of course a way of determining whether Craig is Eddie – by DNA test. Nobody ever suggested this, so it was clear almost from the start that the reason for not mentioning – let alone doing – a DNA test was that Craig was known to be Eddie. No other explanation of the failure to mention DNA was possible and much of the suspense was lost.

3. Janice Hamer24 Apr 2019, 6:45pm Report

Disturbing, challenging and thought provoking. One of those series that doesn’t leave you. Do not watch if you want easy answers and satisfying resolutions. Do watch if you want excellent acting

4. beth griffiths3 May 2019, 12:41pm Report

I was gripped during each episode of The Victim..but disappointed that I couldn’t make out Anna’s last words as she stood with Eddie...rewound several times🤷🏼‍♀️

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