The Level: Episode 1
It wasn’t until this week that I realised that Robert Glenister and Philip Glenister are actually two different people. The latter stars in Thursday night’s ITV conspiracy crime drama Paranoid, and the former stars in Friday night’s ITV conspiracy crime drama The Level. Apparently, the two shows have a lot in common, so perhaps differentiating between them will become difficult. Phil’s appearance in The Level, however, was rather short-lived – he was killed off within the first ten minutes of tonight’s premiere; so that’s one less Glenister to worry about. And it is true that The Level is immediately more intriguing than the insipid cast of coppers that investigate on Thursday evenings.
Set in the seaside city of Brighton (for no other reason than the fact that all the other locations in England have been used up by other crime dramas), The Level follows DS Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome) and her investigation into the murder of haulage giant Frank le Saux (Philip Glenister). Devlin, unbeknownst to her fellow fuzzies, was in conversation with le Saux when he was shot, so she’s both part of the investigation and the cover-up. After having used her position in the force to sweep under the rug his past offences, Devlin couldn’t admit to having known le Saux before he was shot. This meant that the bullet wounds she received in fleeing the scene of le Saux’s murder couldn’t be treated medically, adding further turmoil to a predictably dark crime drama. Devlin isn’t unlike any other crime drama protagonist in that her inner turmoil extends even to her family life with her ill mother and abusive father. Oh, and she’s having it off with her boss.
The fact that Devlin knows more than she’s letting on is an interesting dimension, but it isn’t anything new. The “someone’s in on it” element has been the pivot of countless procedurals since the popularisation of the technique in 2006’s Dexter. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed The Level’s premiere tonight, but it doesn’t break the mould. It’s a fairly well put together cast: Noel Clarke plays the unnecessarily frosty sidekick, Lindsey Coulson plays the office-prowling bowl-cut boss, and Robert James-Collier plays the sexy yet vulnerable and misunderstood bobby. But it does becomes clear that they’re characters we’ve seen endlessly before in this kind of drama.
Why is it called The Level? I don’t know. Maybe the creators thought it sounded ‘gritty’, a quality that’s deemed valuable in the primetime drama of today. Grittiness is so essential in the genre that Broadchurch even managed to make David Tennant licking an ice cream look ‘gritty’. Anyway, I will continue to watch The Level because I did enjoy it (despite the fact that I seem to have just completed a 500 word critique on how predictable it is). Someone’s pursuing Devlin now, and I’m going to stick around to find out who that is.
The Level continues next Friday (07/09/16) at 9pm on ITV.