Bill Gallagher’s Paranoid aims to reach higher than the local ‘whodunnit’ of British detective dramas and focuses instead on treachery and deception on a global scale;
Whether this works for the better is a case to be argued. Following the theme of the title, paranoia looms large and threads itself throughout the narrative, linking to a big message that never really feels grounded or connected to the characters we’ve spent so much time with. Certainly a poignant issue, yet the emotion is missing, as it fails to bring a sense satisfaction as everything comes together, or hangs from a cliff, in the conclusion.
After a local doctor is murdered in a children’s playground, investigating detectives anxious Bobby (Robert Glenister), brash Nina (Indira Varma), and wide-eyed Alec (Dino Fetscher) are drawn into a more complicated case when mysterious notes start appearing to help and sometimes hinder, the solving of the murder. Alongside the notes delivered by the ‘Ghost Detective’, the group must also deal with a compulsive liar mother, shady psychiatrist, non-committal partner, and new-age Quaker plus witness to the murder, Lucy (Lesley Sharp).
The mystery, at least for the first half of the series, leaves enough questions unanswered to keep curious, but the characters do not earn much in the way of an audience’s emotional investment, and the build-up to any kind of revelations in the story dwindles into a lacklustre finale. The central cast of characters aren’t layered enough to make this more than a ’Scooby Doo’ adventure at times, their problems and personalities are established but not explored with enough nuance to stop them feeling two-dimensional on the screen before you.
Obnoxious, cocky, and quite frankly annoying Nina, is probably the character with the most depth, but the mood whiplash between her brazen temperament and displays of sheer emotional outbursts about her personal affairs just makes the character unrelatable. With a little more subtlety, this complicated character could’ve been the highlight of the programme, as certain scenes when she grows in confidence and stands up to threats, show a lot of promise. Not so much can be said for Alec, though. While all the actors clearly do what they can with the roles written, Alec’s giddy, naive, school-boy act is bland and serves no purpose other than to bounce off Nina.
The pacing, for the most part is rewarding, developing and unfolding the story with every scene; but once we reach episode 6, it seems like the story has now been unwrapped, yet the next two episodes continue, diluting the plot so it loses all impact and thrill. The show is ambitious but it seems the challenge it sets for itself is a little too demanding; had they reigned in the widening story, it may not have spread so thin as to not allow for effective character development.
PARANOID comes to DVD and Digital Download on 30th January, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.