Critical Condition: The Level

The Level (TVNZ 1, 8.30 Sunday-Thursday)

“The shadow of Nordic noir continues to hang over British crime drama with The Level, the latest homegrown procedural looking to the gloomy far north for inspiration. Downton Abbey’s dashing Rob James-Collier is the marquee name here, though the reliably geezerish Philip Glenister is perhaps a more predictable fit for the gritty drama. However, as the six-part series got underway, both played second fiddle to Karla Crome’s DS Nancy Devlin, a plucky drugs squad detective trying to outrun a murky past … The Level is atmospheric and mournfully beautiful, with a haunting recurring motif of Brighton’s burnt out West Pier looming in the mist. Until the next Scandi crime sensation swoops in to sweep us off our feet, it will do nicely.” — The Telegraph.

“Don’t you hate it when that happens? You’re a police officer, and you find yourself on a dead interesting case, a murder investigation. But it also happens to be a case you have a close personal – and potentially seriously dodgy – connection to. It’s happened before – most recently in ITV crime series Marcella. And it’s happening here … Yes, there is the requisite claret and gruesomeness but don’t expect to be lying awake at night worrying too much about it. It’s more like a ride at the end of Brighton pier – fast, thrilling, fun.” — The Guardian.

“The characters are stronger than the plot, consequently the real drama comes from character interaction and development. The final episode is by far the most exciting of the six episodes which makes it hard not to wonder if the show would have been improved through telling the story in four episodes. The Level wishes to be a twisty thriller but offers only a few surprises, this has mostly been seen before and delivered with greater skill. The show is still engaging and watchable but it lacks the crucial ingredients of proper suspense and real surprise.” — VultureHound.

“It’s a strong cast with some good performances and intriguing characters. Occasionally it strays into slightly predictable territory … But those are small points and actually half-an-hour-in, I was thoroughly gripped by this tightly written, well-performed drama. At its heart, it’s a great whodunit with enough intriguing suspects to keep you guessing and a central character that you’re cheering on despite her shortcomings. A pretty good start to drama on free-to-air.” — The Dominion Post.

Sunday night theatre returns to form at 8.30pm, hopefully setting the crime pace for the year ahead, with the cracking five-part British crime drama The Level … It’s one of the most promising beginnings we’ve had to a Sunday crime procedural from the Brits, who appear to be putting up a good fight here against the onslaught of Nordic noir and, in an interesting twist, TVNZ are going to play it out over the next four consecutive nights.” — Stuff.

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