This is what I like to see. Murder drama that actually is fresh.
This is the first of three episodes due to air on BBC 2. We all know it’s got to be good if they put it on BBC 2, and we have reassurance it isn’t going to be rubbish as they didn’t put it on BBC 3.
Moses Jones is set in the heart of London’s multicultural community, and chooses to focus mainly on it’s Ugandan inhabitants; along with a healthy sprinkling of token Whites and Asians.
Our protagonist comes in the shape of detective Moses Jones. He’s played by a certain Shaun Parkes, and he really does deliver in his character as well as characterisation.
Jones is cocky, cockney and straight talking as well as straight to the point. He’s sarcastic, impatient and touchy. He is black, he’s definitely black – but of course it isn’t that simple. His mum is Ugandan, and that’s where he tells himself it ends. He sees himself as British and refuses to go about his job purely fulfilling the label placed upon him.
So, inevitably when a brutally mutilated body of an old Ugandan man is discovered in the Thames, Moses is put on the case. It seems that this is purely because his superiors think he ‘knows all about their culture’. But he reacts strongly to a request from his boss to go out asking to Ugandans about spiritual death rituals, as well as staying in the closet about his apparent understanding of Swahili.
He’s paired with token white Dan Twentyman (played by new Doctor Who – Matt Smith) a character who offers some racial relief to the viewer, suffering from a slight bout of culture shock in my own city. Basically at times I felt really white watching this.
But that’s one of the reasons I loved it. It’s saturated in African culture, but actually it isn’t African culture, it’s London culture we’re seeing here.
About half way through, writer Joe Penhall seemed to remind himself that this drama needed to be incontestably hard, so it was definitely necessary to put in some swear words, whereas before this scene there seemed to not be an f-bomb in sight. So there is one scene, when they have a little spew of expletives, which do nothing but to distract the viewer from plot, and act as a deterant of respect for the writer.
On the larger part this is written brilliantly. It’s well researched and genuine. Penhall has a good track record as a playwright, as well as adapting Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love in 2004, which remains a highlight for me as an example of powerful cinema.
Another theme that is touched upon is demon possession, albeit perhaps simply mental illness. They debate whether one man is suffering purely from his own demons or worse.
There’s a well timed appearance from Dennis Waterman, who plays Frank Costello, a former boxing champion and brothel owner. This comes just as Channel Five set themselves up for a slating with their remake of 80’s comedy crime series, Minder.
So, you’ve been warned, this lives up to it’s gritty status. But if you can handle or even dare I say it; enjoy new drama, it’s well worth a watch. You can watch it on the old BBCi player below, if you get there within the next 21 days. The next part is on in a week.
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