TV reviews

Curfew 1×04 – Review

“Well, insanity’s relative. Just depends what side of the cage you’re on.”

Where’s the real Curfew, and what have you done with it?

So help me, I’ve just enjoyed my second episode in a row. I think that I may need some professional help. Which is very good timing, really, seeing as how this week’s episode is focused for the most part on a professional therapist, played by Billy Zane. Once again, Curfew has played a real blinder by leaving aside most of the lead characters (who are, all things considered, essentially just moving wallpaper at this point), and letting the background players have their moment in the sun (at least metaphorically, as pretty much everything right now is taking place at night).

Zane’s ‘Team Awesome’ has had little to no screen time for most of the previous three episodes, so when they finally get their time to shine, it’s refreshing to see that their story doesn’t in fact take us in the direction we might expect. Based on what little we’ve seen so far, you would have been forgiven for taking them all just at face value, mistaking them as being just a bunch of substance-abusing party animals. Finding out Zane is (or, at least, was at one time) a respected professional figure comes out of left field, and we get to see his personal journey through the use of flashbacks which take us to three years previous, where Zane’s Dr. Jones is treating a government official.

We learn the individual in question – one Tom Weston (Douglas Hodge) – has made some difficult decisions, including the use of strategic weapon strikes on Scotland, following the outbreak of the November 13th virus. However, despite giving us a slight chink in the armour, we soon get to see Weston for just what he is – an odious, pompous, arrogant individual whose few brief moments of humanity are quickly quashed. Clearly not one for whom such introspection comes easily – or, perhaps, at all. Jones’ interactions with Weston are part of the reason he chooses to drop out of society, and establish ‘Team Awesome’, who are maybe best described as Jackass on Mescaline, becoming infamous from doing crazy stunts which go viral though social media.

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Having been lead to believe that mother Jenny Donohue (Andi Osho) was a goner after encountering one of the creatures in last week’s episode, we last saw her being snatched up by ‘Team Awesome’ as their VW Camper Van roared past. It’s rather a surprise to see her strapped to the roof of said Camper Van when we next encounter her, having been laced with narcotics by one of Jones’ associates, El Capitano (Jason Thorpe); it turns out this was done partly out of morbid curiosity to see what effect it would have one one of the creatures, and partly to ease her suffering. It’s not a standard NHS prescription, I’ll grant you.

However, it all seems to have been done for naught, as we learn Jenny’s only been scratched, not bitten, and she’s not in fact going to change. It leads to some rather interesting exchanges, as Jones attempts to counsel Jenny, helping her with trying to come to terms as to why she wanted to effectively sacrifice herself; in the process of doing so, we actually get to see both of these characters as being deeper and far more rounded than we might have first thought. Curfew‘s upped its game over the last two weeks, working so hard on confounding our expectations, and it’s all coming together beautifully.

The writers have really nailed their use of flashbacks, having helped to flesh out the previously incidental character of Faith (Rose Williams) last week. Although less prominent here, we still get to see her in a set piece, where she uses a smoke grenade to lay an ambush for unwary entrants in the race, taking them out with an assault rifle one by one. The only thing that stops her is what appears to be labour pains, letting the rest of the pack through as she ends up doubled over in agony. At least we get to see Miranda Richardson doing something, albeit briefly, as she stops to see if she can do anything, only to have a gun pointed at her. I’d wager hers will be possibly the next backstory we see filled in, as she’s had virtually no attention so far, and it’s long overdue (unlike Faith’s baby, it seems).

Meanwhile, back at the main narrative, Dr. Helen Newman (Harriet Walter) has been brought out of her zombie-like state by Government agents who are pumping her for any information about Michael Garwick (Malachi Kirby), boyfriend of her daughter Ruby (Aimée Ffion Edwards), and ex of other daughter Kaye (Phoebe Fox) – it seems he may hold the key after all, having antibodies which could cure the virus. Cue a hilariously OTT action sequence where a member of the security services catches up with Michael and Kaye – it’s patently ripped straight from Terminator 2, even down to the weird, robotic run he does while chasing down the ambulance on foot. He also seems to be indestructible, as he easily takes being zapped with a defibrillator and tossed out of a moving vehicle in his stride. All in a day’s work, apparently.

Curfew has started to find its way at last, and shows that last week’s form wasn’t a glitch or aberration, but definite signs of improvement. Having been rather leaden footed and stodgy the first two episodes, it looks like the writers have started to fully embrace the more ludicrous elements of the show and play up to them, rather than shying away. Absurdity does seem to be right in Curfew‘s wheelhouse, so more power to their elbow for playing up to the campiness and silliness inherent in the concept. It’s certainly a lot of fun, and eminently more watchable than the sheer torture of all the po-faced, self-important dricel we had to break us in with initially.

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One thing you can definitely say about Curfew after this latest episode is their soundtrack game is strong: early on, we get the freneticism of Plastic Bertrand’s ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ to accompany the main intro of ‘Team Awesome’, and it fits them just perfectly. Iron Butterfly’s ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ – best known for being in The Simpsons episode ‘Bart Sells His Soul’ – pops up throughout, and suits the very counterculture nature of Dr. Jones and his team. We also get ‘Drive’ by The Cars at one point – it’s surprising we’ve not had more motoring-themed music this far, but the eclecticism on display is much better than just popping on a drivetime CD to play over the top of the action, so props to the production team for actually putting a bit of thought into what they’re choosing.

The perfect fusion of some kicking tunes and this newly-found inner madness on the part of the writers is best reflected in this episode’s true showstopping moment near the climax, involving Dr. Jones and Jenny. After last week’s vision of a heavily pregnant chav singlehandedly taking out an entire security checkpoint before then shooting Sean Bean through the head, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that they couldn’t manage to top that, with its sheer ballsiness and insane brilliance. However, you’d actually find there’s something here which manages to virtually rival that very same level of inspired lunacy.

If you’d have told me at the start of this that one of my favourite TV moments of the year so far would be the sight of Andi Osho riding a surfboard on wheels down an A-road to the strains of ‘The Hustle’ by Van McCoy and the Soul City, then I would have most likely laughed in your face. Yet here we are. Finally, Curfew has found its niche, and realised it needs to embrace the madness. If we’d seen just this kind of utter lovable daftness from episode one, it wouldn’t have seemed like such a slog to get through the chaff, and overcome what was a false start.

Maybe Dr. Jones is right, and insanity is relative. Well, I’m certainly relating very much to this new-found bonkers take on the show, and the foregrounding of those previously overlooked characters, who are actually turning out to be some of the most compelling.

In the words of Dr. Jones: Vaya con Dios.

Curfew airs weekly on Sky in the UK.

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