Review: SS-GB (Series 1, Episode 1)


Not for the faint of hearted, this series has the potential if you don't like being treated like an idiot, cos this one sure as hell assumes you're a genius.

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Appreciated as it was when the cast of SS-GB spoke in German so they’d have to stick on the subtitles, the black lash received after the series premiere is a repeat of the now cautionary tale Jamaica Inn, the mumbling master class of 2014. However, SS-GB’s main issue is not the husky tones of Sam Riley, the 2007 biopic Control star, but its time slot. Wind down Sunday became wake up and bloody well pay attention Sunday, and it was not the smoothest of transitions for the average sleep deprived and alcohol-addled student noggin.

Adapted from the novel by Len Deighton of the same name, SS-GB plays out as if the Germans had won the Battle of Britain. Douglas Archer (Riley) is a detective working for Scotland Yard, and begrudgingly with the SS, while the rest of the country tries to acclimatise to the Occupation. The Resistance are hanging on, while Archer opts for the keep-your-head-down method for the sake of the future stability of the country, seemingly waiting for it all to blow over. Harry (James Cosmo), his old mentor, is now working with our detective who, as the plot opens, is sleeping with secretary Sylvia (Maeve Dermody). Kate Bosworth plays Barbara Barga, femme fatale cum journalist cum New Yorker who is sure to poke her nose thoroughly around the plot, Rainer Bock is Kellermann, Archer’s slightly incompetent boss, and then finally there’s big bad Huth, played by Lars Eidinger. I wouldn’t usually go into so much detail, but you need it.

This has the makings of a great show. Penned by two of the James Bond scriptwriters, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, featuring a brilliant and authentic cast and scrupulously and stylistically directed by Phillip Kadelbach. It’s all on the ground, location shots, real life intimacy, with drama and intrigue thrown in. It has a whiff of real artistry about it, and is different enough to bother sticking your head above the sand to give it a watch.

There was some real tension with senior officer Huth’s arrival and unsettlement of the status quo, and the characters are rich and diverse. If they play it out right, Superintendent Archer can string everyone along with his is he?/isn’t he? Resistance parlour trick. His character is bound to be pulled in several directions by interested parties wanting to use his position to further their own plans, similarly to Peaky Blinders’ protagonist Tommy, which is sure to wreck anyone’s nerves.

However, you’re battling against a dense but well written script, and episode one made for an information overload that I can only hope will pay off later in the season. The punch line to the solution of the first murder case was a little deflated, and the intro was super duper long – like, abnormally long and nowhere near the standard of the Band of Brothers or Game of Thrones themes to warrant it being that long – but it could be a great show. It’s just not a great show yet, but I’m happy to wait a little longer.

Watch SS-GB on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1, and catch up on iPlayer.


About Author

Fourth year French and English student and 2018/19 Live Editor for The Edge.

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