Episode 6: Written by Neil Cross / Directed by Richard Senior/ showing on BBC1 and available on the BBC iPlayer
Whatever it’s outward appearance Hard Sun has been about how far people will go to protect their family and this blistering final episode certainly amps that aspect up. It delivers another tense episode which heightens the fantasy element always lurking in the background but never to the detriment of the human drama playing out. The kind of dramas were you are persuaded to root for characters who have done bad things- check that list of what both Hicks and Renko have done in this series- are the best because they challenge your own perceptions of morality too. The episode makes us want their plan to work even though in a way they are just playing dirtier.
Spoilers past here
Giving the series its own palette Neil Cross has ensured that the crimes we see the team investigating relate to Hard Sun in one way or another and this episode we have an apparent online suicide cult which seems to have drawn in a number of victims and which Mooney, whom actor Adrian Rawlins makes very world weary decides to try and infiltrate it. The others are understandably distracted when Grace Morrigan is arrested after being set up for Butler’s murder by Renko and Hicks, now playing her at her own game. Like a lot of the scenarios the series sets up, you’re not sure how it will go and the emphasis shifts back and forth especially when respective families become involved. The actors deliver performances that match the increasingly tense mood though you have to commend the way things are edited. It pushes the tension yet never sacrifices the nuances of Cross’ script. We keep waiting for Grace to make her move and there’s a great moment when it turns out her apparent absent minded tapping on the desk is actually a morse code message to DCS Bell.
Hicks and Renko are absent at this point, pursuing Mooney which is when matters take something of an X Files style detour (they even have the same sort of torches). The revelation of the true nature of this cult is actually the only time I’ve had to look away from the screen and that’s saying something for a show this violent!
The one thing that nagged me though is that when she is snatched back by MI5, Grace never just tells them Renko has the flash drive with her. Wouldn’t that have redeemed her? No complaints though about the way Cross manages to corral the foursome of Hicks, Renko, Grace and Bell together leading to a thrilling chase and a confrontation on a somewhat picturesque balcony above London.
My theory- and this is the sort of series where most of our own theories will turn out to be wrong- is that Hicks killed Butler because of something the latter did, There’s a flashback alluding to that but the accusations are vague. Was he involved in something appalling? Was he working for MI5 to undermine the police? Presumably these are season 2 questions. Most intriguingly we find out that Butler’s widow Marie is upset with Hicks because she’s heard he didn’t kill her husband. This prompts a rare quip from Renko! It also suggests that Marie had a lot to do with the murder.
I’ve seen other reviews and comments from people finding it hard to identify with the lead characters but I think it’s easy enough to do so if the script is strong enough and I think it is. We civilians may find some of the police and MI5 behaviour depicted far fetched but perhaps it’s a bit nearer to the truth than we know. Hicks and Renko are definitely anti heroes however they’ve been changed by the experiences having gone from trying to kill each other in episode 1 to being ready to jointly kill Grace by part 6. That they don’t is because of Cross’ final very sneaky reveal which I thought was going to be Grace’s equivalent of escaping by going “Look- over there!”. Instead it is an extrordinarily radiant sunset which Grace seems to know is the Hard Sun. “They lied to me,” she despairs. Its clever because if it doesn’t get a second season then at least it’s got a sudden ending of sorts rather than finishing with no resolution at all. I really hope it does continue though because it’s grabbed me in the same way series like The Shadow Line or Breaking Bad did. Its bold, breathless, fearless, powerful and very exciting to watch. And, come on, they can’t just leave it like that….!