Until now BritBox has been the home of no-longer-on-air British telly, the shows you run to in a crisis when you want something cosy and familiar, like the Vicar of Dibley, or Yes Minister. But now they’re joining the streaming big dogs, and dipping their toes into the pool of originals. And what better place to start than with a glossy crime drama, that does anything but comfort?
Based on Cecil Day-Lewis’s 1938 novel, this, like most crime dramas, centres around a copper who can’t get his life in order. Here that’s Detective Nigel Strangeways (Billy Howle), a handsome young chap with a jaw stronger than Johnny Bravo. But those good looks aren’t everything, as poor ol’ Nige is struggling with an as-yet-undisclosed trauma, which he chats to his therapist about, a la Tony Soprano. Though it sounds like he’s already got enough on his plate already, he’s been sent to the Isle of Wight to take over the case of a six-year-old killed in a hit and run, after the previous detective died suddenly. It turns out though, that this now-deceased officer was a bit useless, and didn’t pursue the case. Now the boy’s mother is furious, and seeking revenge.
We suspect everyone, with the locals looking dodgier and dodgier as the series goes on. And yes, there is a bit of crime cliché going on here, with the rugged landscape – very Broadchurch – and a grieving mother giving notes of Happy Valley. But despite these familiar tropes, The Beast Must Die, really ought to live another day on our screens. One big factor that makes it so compelling is the absolutely superb acting on display. Howle is cracking as our flawed detective, and Cush Jumbo, who you’ll recognise from The Good Wife/Fight is compelling as an angry, bereft mother. Add to that Jared Harris as a local wealthy businessman, and you’re onto a winner.
Honestly, we understand if you thought you were over crime dramas. We’ve had a long winter, full of crime and punishment, and over the last six months of telly watching you’ve likely had many a rural town with an unsolved crime and a washed-up copper. But we really do encourage you, if you can, to make room for one more, because this is a right cracker.
The critics think so too. Well, at least for the most part. The Telegraph’s Anita Singh gives The Beast Must Die four stars, saying “the acting is top notch and the cinematography (from Joel Devlin) is impressive. It is not, however, a great advertisement for the Isle of Wight, where the police force is useless and the general atmosphere is gloomy.” In The Financial Times, Suzi Feay matches Singh’s four stars, saying “The setting adds to the drama: all those cliffs and sudden drops…”. However writing for the Independent, Ed Cumming says that whilst “The Beast Must Die is tightly written, with a measured pace and that Nordic-noir style of direction that makes every long shot look like an advert for an expensive car,” the “murder mystery is as original as baking Nigella’s banana bread in lockdown.” Hey, what’s wrong with a good banana bread? We quite like it.
First show May 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here