Starring: Jim Sturgess, Agyness Deyn, Nikki Amuka-Bird
Director: Brian Kirk, Nick Rowland, Richard Senior (2 episodes each)
Writer: Neil Cross
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
What would happen if you found out that the world would end in five years? Would you aggressively pursue completing your bucket list? Would you even tell your loved ones? As the end-date got closer, would that change anything? People would react differently, and it’s something governments would be keenly aware of, as some would likely choose to break the law. The potential for chaos and societal breakdown would grow as the date got nearer. Hence their attempt at keeping such information secret as long as possible. But let’s be honest, what is the probability that information of that scale could be kept secret?
Hard Sun stars Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, Stonehearst Asylum) as DCI Charlie Hicks and Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans, The White King) as DI Elaine Renko, who, while investigating their first murder together, get their hands on a jump drive which contains a file called Hard Sun. Essentially, it details how the sun will cause the destruction of the earth in five years. MI-5 is desperate to keep that information out of the public’s hands, and for good reason, as one can only imagine the panic and chaos this would lead to.
As each episode plays out, it’s not too much to ask that we, the viewers, would want to know what is wrong with the sun. Well, turns out we don’t find out. At all. No hint whatsoever. For now, it only acts as a catalyst for the multiple stories that occur over the season’s six episodes (and perhaps more if it’s renewed).
The actors play their roles well. Jim Sturgess is broody and questionable, but seems to want to do the right thing. He’s got secrets, terrible secrets, but we’re just not sure whether he’s good or bad, though there are clues that swing toward good. Agyness Deyn is also broody, carrying the burdens of her unhappy past (she doesn’t smile much), and has her secrets as well. Partnering up with Hicks isn’t due to convenience, but rather to investigate him as it’s believed he murdered his ex-partner.
And then there’s Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending, Luther), who plays Grace, the MI-5 agent charged with retrieving the Hard Sun file. She displays very little emotion, speaking softly and monotonously. But there’s no mistaking the threat and seriousness in her tone. She is single-minded in her effort to get the file and will stop at nothing to reach that goal. She plays the two detectives against one another and threatens their families. There is nothing she wouldn’t do. And that is what makes her a villain unlike any I’ve seen in a long time on television. She is easy to hate. Completely. Every time she’s on screen, you simply wish her ill. Yet, no ill befalls her. She’s always one step ahead of everyone, and it is maddeningly frustrating.
Not every show is perfect, though some come close. As a viewer, I simply expect events and behaviours to make sense. But that isn’t always the case in Hard Sun. First, I get that there has to be a lack of trust to develop tension, but to have these partners not trust each other at all, or even avoid talking to one another about any of the issues that face them, is ridiculous, not very realistic and just plain frustrating. Also, why does Renko live in a hotel room? And an even better question, why did she set up her investigation room in the ceiling of this hotel room? It makes no sense.
But, the most problematic issue is the Hard Sun itself. Why introduce this incredibly interesting idea in the first episode, yet do nothing worthwhile with it, other than create a few ultra-violent criminals who seemingly use the end of the world scenario as grounds to commit crimes? Given the show’s title is Hard Sun, it seems misleading. And, there are other issues, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it all.
But despite the failings, the show works. Cross got the inspiration for this story from the David Bowie song, Five Years, and has planned to tell it over five seasons (though only one season was guaranteed thus far). This likely explains the lack of answers in this first, six-episode installment. Meanwhile, our two detectives embody a bit of everyone in society, good and bad. They continue to work, but at the same time, they question the point of it, knowing what’s coming. The crimes, the infidelity, the lying, the past. What’s the point of doing anything about it or worrying about it if everything will be gone in less than five years? It’s a question that they struggle with and that we would likely struggle with ourselves as well, given similar circumstances.
Verdict: Watch it. There are only six episodes, so it isn’t a huge time commitment. Furthermore, the individual cases Hicks and Renko have to work on are good stories. Just don’t expect to get answers about what the Hard Sun is. It isn’t explained. And besides, even without addressing the Hard Sun, there are enough unanswered questions about Hicks, his wife, his lover, Renko, and her son Daniel, just to bring up a few, to maintain interest. Watching episode after episode provides enough clues to want to continue watching, but no direct answers to fully satisfy. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it’s renewed for a second season, where maybe, just maybe, we’ll get more answers.