THE Beast Must Die kicked off with plenty of spine-tingling moments on BritBox last night.
A modern retelling of Cecil Day-Lewis's murder mystery novel of the same name, the new revenge thriller series set on the Isle of Wight follows teacher Frances Cairns (Cush Jumbo) as she sets out to avenge the death of her six-year-old son after he’s killed in a hit-and-run.
Angered by police inaction, Frances sets out to track down the driver herself. Her aim: to kill him, of course.
It seems an impossible task, but an unlikely tip-off from a local leads her to glum model Lena (Mia Tomlinson), the suspected other passenger in the vehicle.
What follows is a slightly implausible but unexpectedly gripping plot as Frances poses as a novelist researching a murder mystery to gain access to the main suspect in the hit-and-run, Lena’s rich and ruthless brother-in-law George Rattery (Jared Harris), his stunning home and, crucially, his flash car.
Screenwriter Gaby Chiappe drips in details surrounding the murder of Marty Cairns at just the right pace to increase the intensity as Frances ingratiates herself with George’s family and the island’s new detective Nigel Strangeways (Billy Howle) begins to suspect that his department covered up the businessman’s involvement in the hit-and-run.
Suspicion, flirtation and emotional turmoil abound until everything is bubbling nicely.
Cush Jumbo is superbly unpredictable as the lead role, one moment grief-stricken and vulnerable and the next unflinching in the pursuit of her son’s killer, her range mirrored perfectly by Matthew Herbert’s eerie and disorientating score.
While Jumbo’s performance makes an implausible premise entirely credible, Jared Harris is less convincing as wealthy patriarch George, who is at times so unlikeable it stretches belief.
How easy he is to hate does, however, serve to make Frances’s thirst for revenge even more compelling.
“You’re a teacher, you have to pretend to believe in fair play don’t you. In the real world, if you’re smart enough to get away with something, well, you probably deserve to,” he sneers at one point while standing at the edge of a cliff as Frances has a vision of shoving him off.
It’s one of the series’ more cliched moments as the sea groans beneath them, dark secrets threatening to surface, but that’s not to say it isn't compelling.
Will George really turn out to be her son’s killer? Given that Frances announces in the first episode that, statistically, a hit-and-run driver would be male, is it too obvious?
The series is surely promising some epic twists and, despite its flaws, we're definitely hooked to find out…
The Beast Must Die continues next Thursday, June 3 on BritBox.
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