Just caught up with episode one of ITV1’s new supernatural drama series “Eternal Law”. I’d been looking forward to it ever since the series was announced. It comes from a highly credible writing stable as its creators, Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah, were responsible for two of the BBC’s most popular series: “Life on Mars” and “Ashes to Ashes”. Also, “Eternal Law’s” central characters are heavenly angels…and we all love angels, right? Oh, and it’s all set in the beautiful city of York.
The premise is that two angels, Zak Gist (Sam West) and Tom Greening (Ukweli Roach) are sent to Earth to work as lawyers. Their brief is to help humans redeem themselves, while all the while respecting their boss Mr Mountjoy’s (aka God’s) insistence that people must be allowed to exercise free will. As their housekeeper Mrs Sheringham (Orla Brady), keeps reminding them, Zak & Tom can “guide”, “advise” and “comfort” humans but must otherwise “not intervene” in their choices.
Heavenly chorister Tom is a rookie on Earth, however, Zak’s been before (in a different body). Trouble is, last time he was here he broke the rules and fell in love with a human (“Hannah”), who oh-so-coincidentally, shows up in his life again within 5 mins of the angels landing. Cue lots of angelic angst.
Zak & Tom’s first case is to defend a man who’s accused of attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend on her wedding day during a sniper attack. Up against them is Richard Pembroke, the prosecution counsel, who it turns out is also an angel…but a fallen one (played with relish by Tobias Menzies).
So effectively what we have here is a ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ scenario set in a court room, with humans playing the unwitting piggies in the middle.
Now here’s my problem. By the end of the episode I felt……..well, I’m not sure how I felt. So, let’s instead examine some of the good and bad points….
- York: To be honest, the city of York was the real star of the show. It just looked gorgeous!
- The Premise: Angels as lawyers/advocates for humankind. Not an entirely original idea but here it’s been given a modern setting.
- Mrs Sheringham, the housekeeper: We’re left to assume that she’s also an angel but there’s enough of an air of mystery surrounding her at the moment to keep her interesting for a while longer…and just whose were those wings in the trunk? However, I’m really hoping that “DON’T intervene!” doesn’t become her catchphrase…….
- Richard Pembroke: A fallen angel and prosecution counsel. Tobias Menzies could have taken him into pantomime territory but thankfully kept things just on the right side of that and surpressed any temptation to go “BWAHAHAHAHA!!” in every scene. We know Richard got kicked out of heaven for questioning “Mr Mountjoy” but for now I’m hoping that’s not the full story and we’ll get to learn more.
- Sam West: A fantastic actor and here I think he made the best of some mediocre dialogue.
- The script: This simply doesn’t have the level of wit, speed and cleverness as “Life on Mars” & “Ashes to Ashes”. The plot itself should have been drawn out over a couple of episodes to give the characters a bit more room to breathe and let the tension build. As it was, it was full of holes (how did the shooter get into the courtroom WITH A GUN? What exactly happened on the sniper’s rooftop?) and just felt rushed and predictable (I saw the ending a mile off). There were one or two nice lines though – e.g: Zak, (on seeing a stained glass angel): “TERRY!! My God, whoever did that hasn’t seen him recently. He should be holding a pie not a dove!”
- Tom Greening: Yes, he’s new to Earth and yes he’s not been around humans before but his whole “isn’t everything brilliant?” and cutesy misunderstanding schtick, soon got annoying very quickly.
- No flying: They have wings…huge ones… but we don’t get to see them so much as hover above ground (though I assume they flew to the top of the Minster). Early on, when Tom went after the gunman, I did wonder whether there’d be some Superman-style reveal and we’d see him fly up to catch the sniper….but no. Shame.
- The love story: Not an entirely bad thing but did Zak & Hannah really have to be thrown together quite so quickly? Might it not have been better to keep Zak’s past more of a mystery and just have glimpses of Hannah every now and again before revealing the truth later on? Now I’m worried that Zak’s just going to spend the series like some moping lovelorn teenager.
- Sweary angels: “bloody hell!”, “buggery”…..Really?….Seriously?
- “NOOOOO!!!”: Oh dear. That scene was terrible. It’s not even original to compare it with Darth Vader’s pitiful cry at the end of “Revenge of the Sith” (although at least Zak didn’t do the ridiculous stilted walk!)
I’ll keep watching for now but I really hope the series picks up. It would be such a shame to feel that all that talent had gone to waste……