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Vigil - Episode 2 - Review

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Vigil wasted no time in getting into the thick of things in its second episode, that gave us our first proper red herring of the series. The main focus of this was still the investigation of the maybe murder that led to Prentice’s arrest – with Prentice getting fed up with one too many enquiries by Silva and locking her in a closed, tight space. Big mistake – Silva’s smart enough to record evidence damning Prentice that accuses Burke as a “traitor” – and it’s enough for the Newsome to be swung around to Silva’s side. But it turns out Prentice is just a red herring. Yes, he got into a fight with Burke moments before his death, leaving bruises on both men, but did he kill him? Prentice thinks he did when Burke did turn up dead, but after hounding him relentlessly with all the interrogation skills Ted Hastings would be proud of, Silva suddenly thinks no – the real cause of death was poison. Certainly, creates a fascinating display of sense of paranoia onboard HMS Vigil and the “Trust Nobody” stigma is in full effect.

This episode saw us learn both sides of the Prentice/Silva coin. Prentice has spent his whole life in the navy, to him there is no other – and the culture of nepotism has seen him rise on the ranks. Prior the investigation and the wilful obtrusion of a police investigation, Prentice even had a shot at getting promoted whilst tearing Captain Newsome down. On HMS Vigil, everyone has agendas. But he’s quickly put in his place by Silva – arrested in full public view of the staff on duty, in a sure-fire bid to create gossip amongst the staff. Prentice with his ego damaged comes clean about his actions in hiding the green jacket. But then Silva spots the poison on it. And then she puts the pieces together. And then she learns maybe, just maybe, Prentice isn’t the real killer.

With six episodes in the series' run, it was never going to be that easy. Having been on a crime-watching spree this summer watching shows new and old like Mare of Easttown, Broadchurch and the mother of them all, Line of Duty, red herrings can only be expected. Prentice was the first and he won’t be the last. This episode does use Prentice locking Silva in a closed quarters situation as a cruel way to make her relive her trauma, with Silva crawling out of a ventilation shaft in a frantic bid to escape. We learn through a flashback that Silva was forced to make a terrible choice: her husband or her child? She’s now not living with the child, so what happened to her? There’s likely more flashbacks to explore the turbulent past to come.

Vigil episode 2 is pretty exciting and breakneck in terms of pace. After killing off Steve Arnott in the previous episode it feels tame by comparison, but no less action-packed. The fact that there’s not another new episode on tonight makes Sunday’s wait all the more unbearable. It’s proper edge of your seat storytelling, appointment television at its finest. The best part of it all is that there’s nothing new in the storytelling, the mystery is run-of-the-mill drama that you would indeed, expect to find in shows like Mare of Easttown, Broadchurch and Line of Duty. But the submarine setting adds an extra degree of tension to it – HMS Vigil is being hounded by an anonymous enemy (The Terror, anyone?), and a collision course with a tanker almost forced a major incident. There’s also the nuclear arsenal onboard that put Newsome in a do-or-die situation, switching the nuclear reactor back on.

And that raises questions about Newsome. He’s got more to do than first appeared, is he more connected to the murder of Burke than we were previously aware of? It would certainly lend credence to the fact that Connor Swindells’ (Sex Education) Hadlow was still unwilling to come clean about his true role in Burke’s death even when faced with disciplinary action – a “chain of command” if you will - when Prentice is there on a platter. It’s the outward hostility from pretty much everyone involved that makes a hard job for Silva even harder.

Longacre is having a much better time at putting the pieces together but not without running into faults of her own. After retrieving the memory stick, she finds out that the two sailors who beat up Burke were in fact, Hadlow and Gary Walsh (Daniel Portman). We learn that Walsh had two brothers – with Douglas being one who had committed suicide after being dishonourably discharged for bullying, with Burke giving evidence. To make it even more convenient, Silva comes across traces of heroin in the form of junkie Gary’s bed. Heroin that was used to kill Steve. But it’s a denial of knowingly bringing it abroad for Gary and a clear alibi that gives him the all-clear for now, despite taking a urine test and deliberately spilling it on her. Ugh.

But the evidence in the USB stick leads to suggest that there’s a wider conspiracy at play and Burke may have been a whistle-blower. But no less than 24 hours later is Longacre attacked at her own flat, but displaying a fire that the attackers weren’t expecting, forces them into a rapid retreat as the police arrive for support. These were trained professionals who weren’t afraid to go against a police officer knowing full well that Longacre was police. Vigil borrows from the Line of Duty playbook of keeping us guessing about the Balaclava Men and their identity. But this time the answer is pretty straightforward. Navy?

It’s enough for Colin Robertson (Gary Lewis), Longacre’s boss, to have a go at Rear Admiral Shaw (Stephen Dillane) with accusations of obstruction of police justice. Shaw passes on the blame to MoD – but lets them know that there’s a boat lined up as a Vigil replacement act. Silva’s stay on board Vigil might just get extended – putting her in a claustrophobic, tense and unwelcome situation for even longer. But at least Silva has an ally – the kind, caring walking HR department, Glover, played by Shaun Francis Evans. Glover breaks the no touching rule to help Burke get back on her feet after a close encounter. He’s playing nice – whilst keeping Newsome in the loop at every turn.

Jade’s number was up from the moment we learnt that she wasn’t afraid to investigate navy bases and get herself into trouble. After befriending Longacre she reveals that MI5 have been watching activist groups like the ones that she belongs to and that a greater conspiracy is at work. Could it have been MI5, and not the navy, that infiltrated her flat? To reassure her, Longacre takes Jade’s number. But it’s not enough to stop Jade from meeting an anonymous source on her own in the middle of the night (really poor planning, Jade). Too late Jade realises she made a mistake – and is found dead in a loch. She gives Longacre one parting gift, the code-word “PURITY”, which accesses Burke’s files.

Prentice might have been the most obvious suspect early on and he was never going to be the final one. The plot moments are increasingly venturing into the realm of predictability here and there, it almost feels a bit too blockbuster-BBC-y that’s revelling in the tropes of the format. Whilst these tropes are given a fresh take because it’s happening ON A SUBMARINE – a sure-fire way for drama, there’s still plenty of tropes, and there’s only a limit to crime drama cliches that I can stomach. But these crime drama cliches are indeed very engrossing, and Vigil knows it can certainly keep you in the loop at all times. There’s an interesting question as to who brought down the trawler in the first place. Newsome seems to be passing it off as an enemy vessel – but could it be Vigil, with dodgy navigation systems, that took it out?

Yes, Vigil may not be the most realistic show ever – a lot of complaints have mainly been about the implausibility of the show (unauthentic CPR and all), but it’s good solid escapism fair all the same. There are also the A Few Good Men comparisons (Edge of Darkness too)– that can’t help but be shaken for anyone who has watched it. I’ve also got a lingering hunch that Glover knows way more than he appears at this point – he’s either a dead man walking when he ends up helping Silva find out something she shouldn’t, or he’s ultimately the man involved. Given his connections to pretty much everyone on board, he at least knows more than he appears to.

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