British Detective Show 'Thorne' Goes Deep Into The Dark
Although it's another police procedural with deranged serial killers on the loose, Thorne, a two-part 2010 British import from Encore, brings some new blood to the game.
Airing on Encore Monday and Tuesday, June 12 and 13 at 9 p.m. ET, Thorne is set in present-day London and has as its lead actor David Morrissey. He's a young Liam Neeson-type and thoroughly inhabits the Tom Thorne character — a detective who is gifted in his intuition, and sometimes way off the rails in his obsession to catch his prey.
Morrissey's intensity isn't just an actor's commitment to the role; he's also executive producer of the project. That care and craft is evident in the styling and details of the four-hour production. (It's been edited down from the original six-hour British miniseries version.) Morrissey's Thorne is a conflicted stew of righteousness and extreme tactics that seem more appropriate to the crooks he chases than the law he represents.
The Thorne series, based on the best-selling novels by Mark Billingham, starts with Part One, Thorne: Sleepyhead. In it, Thorne leads the investigation into the serial killing of three young women. A fourth victim is in the hospital in a paralyzed state.
Eventually the girl is able to communicate with Thorne and neurologist Anne Cobourn (Natascha McElhone; Solaris, Californication) using eye movements. Viewers are able to hear her trapped and frantic thoughts. It's a chilling narrative device used by Dalton Trumbo in his novel, Johnny Got His Gun, way back in 1938. (Trumbo directed the 1971 film version himself) and remains an unnerving experience in Thorne.
In Part Two, Thorne: Scaredy Cat, (airing June 13), the detective is on the trail of two killers who seem to be working together, yet are committing their crimes separately. Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) stars as Thorne colleague Detective Sarah McEvoy.
The two-hour episodes allow time to excavate the darker depths of the Thorne character, and that's a plus here. In Sleepyhead, the better of the two, the screenplay is elaborate and orchestrated, and it's a credit to Morrissey and director Stephen Hopkins (Californication, House of Lies) that Thorne himself is unpeeled as the case also unravels. Like his suspects, Thorne is not without some psychological twists of his own, and something from an old case comes back to haunt him.
The modern London backdrop — under reconstruction at the time of filming in preparation for this year's Summer Olympics — feels very much like the future here, with video intercoms at Thorne's glassy high-rise apartment, and a state-of-the-art digital equipment at police headquarters and the hospital.
Thorne's London is, of course, still the historical home of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, and Billingham — in the manner of the great British crime writers who came before him — is willing to explore the depths that the mind can descend to and illustrate how far some are willing to go to excavate their thoughts. As baroque as the killers' methods are, you're not left feeling that this is another labyrinthine with a lot of implausible plot twists. It's quite the opposite, in fact.
With Thorne and other imports, you get the sense that the British do not underestimate their audiences and aim high with plot points and details, much like Mad Men does here in the States. It also occurs that as high as this and other British procedurals aim (Prime Suspect comes to mind), there are just as many American examples (Criminal Minds, CSI) that aim equally as low.
With Thorne, we now have another example that can point our tastes for crime and punishment, once again, in the right — and smart — direction.