Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Blackout: 'A stylishly bleak urban-frown drama'

If ever you've wondered what Christopher Eccleston might look like had he been cast as an alcoholic Batman but without the costume or physique, while holding down a job in local government in the north west of England, than BBC One's stylishly bleak urban-frown drama Blackout might have provided a clue about what to expect.

Set in an unidentified British city - all 'City Hall' this, 'Metropolitan Hall' that, and achingly stylish warehouse conversions competing for the viewers' attention whenever they appeared - a brooding Eccleston played Daniel Demoys, whose disintegrating life was grimly captured over the story's three hours.

Beginning with cleverly-filmed rain-soaked aerial shots of illuminated sky scrapers at night, like a Gotham City without the dark knight, we see Demoys standing on the edge of a high rise, possibly considering jumping to his grisly doom.

He didn't, of course - it was episode one - but we returned to this moment several times throughout the three parts, as it became clear it represented a 'pivotal' moment in the character's journey, as the story unfolded.

That journey, beginning with his drunken and ultimately murderous attack on a colleague, Henry Pulis, during a dodgy back-alley deal after Pulis had threatened to expose Demoys as a 'whore-loving scumbag', was followed by an apparent act of heroism when he took a bullet intended for a former gang member - when he actually just wanted to die.
Christopher Eccleston and Myanna Buring in Blackout:

He's then singled out as an ideal mayoral candidate, becomes mayor, but then it slowly dawns on him that other powers - later revealed to be a senior police figure and Demoy's communications chief - are working to protect him from being discovered as the killer, ensuring his accidental murder didn't get out. Or his appetite for visiting a prostitute called Sylvie in a seedy club.

In the end, while standing dramatically on the edge (you see?) of that high-rise like a version of Batman weighing up his options, following pressure from his wife (Dervla Kirwan), who had found crucial evidence he'd not-very-sensibly hidden in the boiler cupboard, and from the daughter of his victim intent of finding justice, as well as from his scene-stealing three children, he decided to come clean.

He nearly ripped his family apart in the process mind you (remember it's a drama) - but in his confession he went some way to restoring everyone's faith in local politics, himself, and the inevitability of dramatic redemption as a satisfying ending. Or something like that anyway.

Full of style and atmosphere, Blackout was a story of one man's demons and the spiralling effect of his actions on those around him, driven by a slightly glossed-over addiction to alcohol (apparently he just stopped drinking?), and the realisation he was just a pawn in someone else's much bigger game all along.

It may have have struck a few chords, may have had a bit of timely resonance, or may have just made you think about an English-version of Batman (if only because of the setting).

Either way, no-one does brooding quite like Eccleston, which, as a casting decision, is a sure indication that you can probably expect something quite quite dark and intense - and here he was doing all dark and intense not only in the actual dark, but in rain too. Heavy rain.

But does he ever get offered a panto?

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