Hunted: Too clever for TV?

Razz writer, Tamar Cranford Smith, talks Hunted and the TV industry these days. What do we want from TV drama these days? Something to challenge us and get us thinking, or just mindless entertainment?

Sam Hunter is the main protagonist in the BBC’s spy drama Hunted. She is an espionage
operative for “Byzantium”, a private intelligence agency. An attempted assassination forces her to flee to her childhood home to recover. She returns to work and her first task is to infiltrate a family as an undercover nanny, not knowing who tried to kill her or who to trust.

The final episode of the BBC’s spy drama was aired last night and if suspense was what
was desired, then it did not disappoint. I am still unravelling the riddles of Sam Hunter’s life, and it would seem that I am not alone in wondering. @urbanwordsmith tweeted “Another demostration that the BBC have forgotten how to give an ending to a series.” Forgiving the typo, this chap does have a point, because there is so much that is left unresolved by this last episode that you could be forgiven for thinking that it was not actually a finale.

I am not going to list, in a Guardian-style, the catalogue of what we do and do not know at the end of the series. What is more interesting is why have we been left hanging.

Mystery is in the life-blood of good spy dramas. Take a look at Homeland, our friendly,
American and conveniently alliterative counter-part: we had all of the good answers at the
end of the first series, give or take a few dregs of intrigue. The resulting second series is a
monotone travesty of miserable plotlines strung out over an hour, at the end of which we
are no further forwards than we were previously. And Brody’s wife is irritating, which doesn’t help. By simple comparison Hunted was full of conflict and guesswork. Yes, it probably was clichéd but, for those of us who aren’t hopelessly devoted to Spooks, this series was very entertaining. Hunted was such good television that I had found the interlude between Sherlocks was much easier to bear.

I was looking forward to the next one, until I found out that the BBC had decided not to
commission a next one citing poor ratings. Discovering this was very distressing, as I had
already put a Christmas Special episode on my wish list. The rumour is that Cinemax are
taking the project on, so there is hope yet that Sam Hunter will have her peace and the audience can have theirs.

But why have so few apparently taken to it? There was suspense, the acting was good
and the script was full of Pinter-esque pauses so as to allow the actor to deliver a silent
soliloquy… And I think I may have stumbled upon the crux of it. The story was complicated, it was thoughtful and it was subtle. In using two interwoven storylines the finale could achieve one to exciting and tense conclusion while leaving the other trailing a lingering suspense. It was cleverly and masterfully executed. However, for your average TV licence payer, the combination was far too much to handle. Faster relief is required; instant gratification is more preferable.

For those of you who are like me though, preferring to take your drama as complex and
interesting as imaginable, then I urge you to turn to The Killing III, the Danish crime drama. It is subtitled, but then what’s a little more hard work when you are already unscrambling the nuances of a murder with a political, moral and fiscal backdrop.

Written for Razz by Tamar Cranford Smith.


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