From writer Neil Cross, who masterminded Luther, comes a series that gives a twist to the tradition of quintessentially British escapist police drama. The story follows Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) and Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess), two detectives who stumble upon a government leak describing ‘Hard Sun’ – a catastrophic event that will cause the end of the world in 5 years’ time. Set in an alternative present, the six-part series weaves a flush of expected cop-drama themes with a looming doomsday plot.
But while it tries to seem gritty and rough around the edges, with a flavoursome array of colloquial accents and over-the-top violence, it falls short in establishing a realism in all the kerfuffle. The characters are drawn out in a rudimental and clumsy fashion, but Sturgess and Deyn have fun with the hammy affair, evident in their performances. We just go along with it. What you get is an enjoyable yet clichéd detective-melodrama with a refreshing, albeit side-lined, set-up. What ensues is a slick drama that appreciates its premise but isn’t in love with it; there are many different back alleys the plot could’ve taken but it cops-out and strays away from the enormous potential in its premise. Neil Cross sticks to what he knows, and this can be frustrating.
The whole series has a certain visual style as if it were adapted from a graphic novel, but not enough substance to justify its aesthetic. Its ambitions are clearly set high, as it tries to delve into an intelligent exploration on morality, religion, and justice, but the frequent pantomime-y dialogue lets itself down. If you expect anything more than a standard police drama, it is pedestrian and dissatisfactory.
Hard Sun is bonkers, starting with the unconventional set-up, but a part of its indulgence is seeing how everything works out in the end, apocalypse and all. It is a lot of fun for the most part: each episode follows a loose formula presenting a different murder case that somehow, unconvincingly, relates to the ‘Hard Sun’ of the title. The overdramatic universe of Hard Sun is life as we know it, but on Class A opioids— and that is its pleasure. The six episodes rivet along sweetly at a rewarding pace. Neil Cross goes all out this pet project, eager to please the fans, to flex his detective drama muscles and Hard Sun makes a cute addition to his expanding résumé. The whole series was released on BBC iPlayer from 6th January, made available for a month. With the rise in popularity of on-demand TV and a growing culture of binge watching, more more content seems to be moving online with all episodes released at the same time.
While it’s unlikely that we will see any further of Hard Sun and its world in the near future, I think it has enough of a certain charm about it to become an underappreciated gem for fans of the current wave of contemporary British crime drama.
Hard Sun is available on BBC iPlayer now.
Creator: Neil Cross. Starring: Agyness Deyn, Jim Sturgess, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Owain Arthur.