TV reviews

Curfew 1×06 – Review

If you’d have told me six weeks ago that I’d learn all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from Curfew, I’d still be laughing about it six weeks later. And yet here we are. Curfew is, it transpires, a relatively intelligent dumb programme. Believe me, no-one’s as surprised about it as I am.

When we left our motley band of racers, Kaye (Phoebe Fox) has just ventilated her sister Ruby (Aimée-Ffion Edwards) with extreme prejudice, after she’d been bitten by a creature and ended up infected with the November 13th virus, causing her to start changing into one of them. Kaye’s now taken to wearing Ruby’s leather jacket in what happens to the the closest she’s come to character development – it seems that this is shorthand, intended to reflect her newly-found badass attitude, as she’s in hot pursuit of a prison van which contains her ex, Michael (Malachi Kirby), who may contain the cure to the virus, and is being taken back to Brooke Heath for, well, dissection.

If faces were gears on a car, Kaye’s would have been stuck firmly in neutral for the previous five episodes, as she’s not really come close to emoting in any substantial way – the odd hint of a smile, particularly in the flashbacks, but mostly it’s just been sullen and dour. Now that the stakes have been raised, however, and she’s been left unexpectedly on her own, Kaye’s finally started to show expressions. Apparently, offing your semi-zombie sister and then wearing her clothes afterwards while tying to rescue your ex will do that to a person. Who knew?

The old saying goes that there’s no honour amongst thieves; however, it does appear there’s some honour amongst the racers, as other entrants do what they can to try and help Kaye with getting Michael back – Lou Collins (Miranda Richardson) and her adoptive daughter Hanmei (Thaddea Graham) put out a call for assistance, and Team Donahue decide to let Kaye borrow their bazooka, which was used all the way back in episode 2. I bet Chekhov didn’t expect that his literary gun would end up being one with armour-piercing shells.

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In the last few weeks, Curfew has given in to the crazy, and become endearingly bonkers – a full-term expectant mother taking out a fortified checkpoint all by herself; another mother riding a wheeled surfboard along an A-road accompanied by the strains of 1970s disco; and now a paramedic toting a bazooka, playing a game of chicken with a heavily-armoured prison van. It’s all in a night’s work (as we need to remember this is all taking place doing the same dusk-til-dawn period) for Curfew. Given my utter antipathy all the way back at the start of the series, it felt as though it would be an endurance race in more ways than one, but it’s turned out to be enjoyable – if not essential – viewing.

Another example of just how totally and utterly cuckoo bananas (that’s a technical term for reviewers, trust me) Curfew has become can be seen in the interaction between Faith (Rose Williams) and ‘Team Awesome’, led by Dr. ‘Joker’ Jones (Billy Zane) – Faith gets a flat tyre, and ends up being helped by Jones and his associates, despite her having tried to run all of them down in an earlier episode. Jones explains the team’s simple philosophy as to how the near-death experience gave them a new appreciation for life, so they’re just returning the favour by helping her out, even though she’s a rival. Surely one of the oddest examples of quid pro quo that you’re likely to see, but almost everything about Curfew is out of the ordinary.

However, things get utterly batty when this whole bit of soliloquising suddenly morphs into ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ from The Blues Brothers, dance moves and all. Yes, Billy Zane doing a full-on tribute to Jake and Elwood. Nothing should surprise me about Curfew now, yet it still ends up throwing curveball after curveball, from out of left field. Which is, I think, something of a mixed sporting analogy. I dunno, I don’t really do sports: my stock-in-trade appears to be limp puns to pad out reviews of bizarre television shows. And I hesitate to claim that things couldn’t get any more bizarre than what we’ve seen so far, as there’s still two weeks to go, and we’ve only got as far as Manchester.

Curfew has consistently been at the top of its game when it’s come to its soundtrack – from the original score with its electronic sound, reminiscent of Vangelis or Walter / Wendy Carlos at times, to its judicious use of mainstream music, from psychedelic rock to drive time classics, and all points in between. Even at the times when it’s not felt worth watching, Curfew‘s always been deserving of listening to. So how else to best signify that we’re in Manc land? Why, with a burst of the Happy Mondays, of course. I can only hope that Bez turned into a zombie, and is now busy terrorising the Greater Manchester area with a pair of maracas and a shambling dance of the undead.

While I’m mad for it in terms of the music they’ve used, what I’m not so mad for is the absolutely execrable turn by Ryan Pope as the crooked Officer Darby, who’s in charge of the checkpoint at the entry to Manchester. It’s the sort of wildly broad performance that looks as though he’s walked out of an am-dram production of Life On Mars. I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to do a Manc swagger, or if he has some sort of neurological condition which impairs his motor functions. Okay, so we’re taking about Curfew, not some production of Shakespeare or Pinter, but you’d hope they could scrape together enough competent actors to pad out the cast. Pope’s accent is indescribably bad, the sort of thing that makes you want to chew your own ears off.

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With the prison van containing Michael having already gone through, Lou tells Kaye that she’s dealt with Darby before, as she has a factory in Salford. That happens to be awfully convenient, and a little bit of lazy writing, which is an awful shame, as the scripts have been improving over the last few weeks. It also indicates why Lou should have actually been given her own flashback episode before now, as instead of that, there seems to be an awful lot of exposition in its place; we could’ve seen Lou’s factory well in advance, rather than it being something which suddenly turns up unexpectedly to help move the story along without any foreshadowing. Such a pity, and a wasted opportunity.

Anyway, we end up with Lou giving Darby her factory as a bribe so that he can divert the prison van to there from its appointed pick-up location, so that Kaye, Lou and the others can set an ambush. As with pretty much all things in Curfew, things don’t go quite as they should, and it all ends up in one of the most wonderfully daft Mexican standoffs seen on our screens. The whole show is just endearingly off-kilter, and is hitting all the right notes more often than not, which is a welcome change from the opening two instalments.

There’s just two weeks left, and all to play for. Whatever happens, on current evidence it’s going to be far from dull.

Curfew airs weekly on Sky in the UK.

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