Flesh and Blood, ITV
- Brian Donaldson
- 24 February 2020
Mystery, suspense and cops who can't bring themselves to say the victim's name in ITV's latest attempt to match its Broadchurch glory
A wealthy widow breaks the news to her three grown-up children that a new man has come into her life. One of them thinks it's a great idea, a second is on the fence and the third is utterly hostile towards the very notion. Is this man head over heels in love with their mother and completely on the level or is he simply looking to squeeze every penny out of her and possibly steal their inheritance? If that set-up seems vaguely familiar, then you probably watched last year's BBC drama Gold Digger. It's also the synopsis for Sarah Williams' Flesh and Blood, ITV's nightly four-parter which aims for intrigue and suspense from the very start with its opening scene of the murky, unclear aftermath of a deeply unpleasant incident.
As well as the full story being told in flashbacks, family and friends are interviewed by the police who are being extremely co-operative in maintaining the drama's mystery by never giving away the identity of the slain. The cops say things like 'a person's life is in danger' or 'someone is in intensive care' or describing the individual as 'the patient' or 'the victim'. This is never distracting in a Big Little Lies season-one kind of way, of course, as we try to focus on working out who is on their death bed and precisely who put them there.
Almost inevitably, everyone is a candidate for either job. Francesca Annis plays Vivien, the widow being wooed then wed by mystery stranger Mark (Stephen Rea), a retired doctor who is right on the spot early on in the show, first aid kit in hand, when she needs immediate medical assistance. The sibling trio are Helen (Claudie Blakley), Jake (Russell Tovey), and Natalie (Lydia Leonard), all of whom have their own unfeasibly complicated personal lives to navigate, with potential mortal enemies emerging from the woodwork. And what's the deal with Mary (Imelda Staunton), the family's lifelong neighbour whose actions behind everyone's backs veer from a bit sheepish to downright sinister?
ITV seems permanently on the hunt for the next Broadchurch and this could have been a contender, were it not so derivative of those that have come before it. For its audience, Flesh and Blood had one job to do: to keep everyone guessing right up until its final hour. In that regard, it's mission accomplished.
Episodes watched: 3 of 4
Flesh and Blood airs on ITV, Monday 24–Thursday 27 February, 9pm.