Coming Soon: Honour

Next month Sky’s BBC UKTV channel will premiere a controversial true-crime dramatisation about the “honour” killing of a young Iraqi Kurdish woman for kissing her boyfriend outside a tube station in London.

Honour (9.35 Mondays from January 18) stars Keeley Hawes as the newly promoted DCI Caroline Goode, who vowed justice for Banaz Mahmod after she learned her colleagues had missed multiple chances to prevent her murder.

“Thankfully, this is no white-saviour narrative,” said The Guardian. “The central theme of Gwyneth Hughes’ taut and nuanced two-parter is the police force’s abject failure to protect a terrified British citizen who sought their help on five separate occasions. Yes, five.

“There are two deep-rooted cankers at work here: the misogyny that feeds ‘honour-based’ violence in a small number of communities, and the racial bias and institutional racism that festers in the police force.”

Radio Times thought it “heart-rending” but wondered if critics of the production had a point when they argued it should have focused on Mahmod rather than Goode, who was awarded a medal for her investigation.

A statement by Hughes, in which she described the drama as an “ultimately… uplifting [story]” due to “the sheer heroism and dedication of the police officers who hunted down her killers,” was also met with criticism. Actor and writer Furquan Akhtar tweeted: “It shifts the story from being about [Mahmod] to the white detective who ‘got her justice’. The project has a white lead, writer and director.”

Even The Telegraph was troubled: “A victim allowed no agency in life, here reduced to a bit part in a star vehicle for Keeley Hawes.”

The Daily Mail rated Honour four out of five stars, even though it “veers from methodical reconstruction to cop-shop clichés. Keeley has to strike a balance between the dialogue, straight out of a detective novel, and the plot, which often feels like a crime report.

“But, by the end of the hour, she’d succeeded in making us believe that nothing in her career could ever matter as much as finding justice for Banaz.”

Said The Times: “The power and momentum of Gwyneth Hughes’s drama rested in the emotional shocks that such human depravity instinctively provokes. If so-called white saviour syndrome is what makes anyone angry watching this, some self-reflection may be required.”

Mark Stanley (Sandition, White House Farm), Alexa Davies (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and Rhianne Barreto (Hanna) co-star.

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