It's been a long time since I've been inspired to write a blog (or anything, to be honest) out of nowhere, so cheers Lennie James. The only decent thing I've watched recently was also on Sky Atlantic (and was also available in one long binge), which was Tin Star, with the amazing Tim Roth. And I didn't write a blog about that. But I literally just finished watching Save Me and have not read a thing about it, so here are my pure thoughts.
Save Me had something special. Firstly, do not read this blog if you haven't seen it, because it's really fucking good and the less you know, the better.
At first glance from the advert I thought, oh a drama starring Lennie James (of Snatch and Walking Dead fame) and Suranne Jones (of Corrie and Doctor Foster) about a missing girl, that could be worth a watch as they're both good actors. I was totally off with my idea of what I thought it would be and what it was.
I watched the first one and was gripped. It was a combination of things, the acting, the characters, the world Lennie James had created (did I mention he wrote it, too?) It felt truly like a story about Londoners, about real people.
Lennie James's character is very interesting, a man about town, sleeping with half his tower block. I love the iconic yellow coat he wears throughout; something about it just adds to his quirkiness and charm (and when they give him the yellow snooker ball... fucking hell). I've been looking to invest in a mustard coat all winter, and in swaggers Lennie James with all the panache in his yellow bomber jacket, while I'm already moving onto 'spring jacket' territory (well, hoping to). His character is charming, a wide boy, a user... and feels really real. It feels like he's based on a real person.
We're first introduced to Lennie's through his various women, but Suranne Jones doesn't feature for quite a while, until her daughter goes missing, and the police arrest Lennie (well, Nelly as he's called in the show).
When they are together on screen, they are fantastic - in fact every character in it is a brilliant actor and unique. What is going on with Nelly and the woman behind the bar? Did the Avon deliveries ever get done in the end? What were those mysterious caramel eggs and where can I buy them? (Serious echos of the yellow pool ball there... a LITERAL Easter egg, as much as I usually hate that expression when used about secret clues/ codes in films or programmes - although I fucking love real easter eggs, obviously.)
Talking of shows with 'easter eggs' how can Lennie show up for work as Morgan on The Walking Dead and read out those drossy lines and scripts and play the wooden character he's become. I can only guess he must be getting a huge paycheck he must be getting for Fear The Walking Dead (Is that even what it's called?! I think he called it Fear Of The Walking Dead on The Talking Dead, ha) And that huge paycheck went towards making this brilliant series. Scott M Gimple, read Save Me's screenplay and go take a long hard look in the mirror, mate.
I digress. There are too many characters to delve into (this is how you do an ensemble cast, The Walking Dead) but one of the most intriguing was Nelly's paedophile mate, who Nelly has to use to try and find his daughter. Their relationship (and the relationship between the paedophile mate and his younger girlfriend) was so compelling. When Nelly has to go to the paedo club to try and track down his daughter, you can feel the disgust in the air, yet his friend is on his own turf, conflicted, but tempted. It is horrific to watch, and fascinating. I would love to know where their friendship stood at the end. It seemed to me Nelly actually did care for him, and his relationship. I mean, that's pretty brave, to have a paedophile as a character you (almost) want to root for, who is helping someone find his daughter... but also capitalising on the situation by getting to 'do stuff' (barely, as he said) with young girls... that is dark, and that is very, very interesting. It's something you don't see very often as most shows wouldn't touch it.
So many more interesting sub plots and characters; the transvestite/ drag queen neighbour, the indie kids, the paedo drug owner, Nelly's various bits on the side... just so good. Some of Nelly's speeches were so powerful, even his ringtone was a character - 'you what, you what, you what' - and if you're not answering your phone with 'who dis?' from now on, why not?
This is the first thing I've watched in over a year that made my put my phone down, and that in the final half an hour had my heart beating through my chest (only Big Brother US HOH competitions and Breaking Bad's last series have done that to me in the last five years).
Which brings us to the ending. I was so hoping for the ending I wanted, I could see it in my head, the rescue mission, the reuniting. Of course, I suspected it wouldn't be that easy, or that schmaltzy for a show that had been pretty gritty. When Suranne Jones' character Claire nearly gets raped by the indie kid trying to get information out of him and ends up nearly raping HIM, I was on the edge of my seat. When Nelly was at the auction to buy his daughter and Adrian fucking Edmonson was the auctioneer, I was gripped. But when he found her... I knew it wasn't her straight away! Why didn't he! And then I got scared. I got scared when I typed 'save me' as a hashtag and 'save me ending' was the first thing that came up. I got scared we were going into dream sequence territory. Or that he was going to be talking to a dead body. And I didn't like the little flashback things. It felt cheap. It felt Walking Dead. And it felt like it was setting up series two.
The music playing at the end was perfect though, something it also had in common with Tin Star.
And like Tin Star, this would have been SO GOOD as a one off series. That last episode of Tin Star also went off the rails, although way worse than this.
So what happened? Obviously Sky Atlantic wanted to do another series. I don't blame them, with such an excellent cast and fantastic writing. But it leaves us unsatisfied, and after such a thrill ride, we deserved a pay off, be it good or bad. It felt too much like bait and switch, and was not in keeping with the integrity of the rest of the show. But on the whole, it was NEARLY perfect. It was 9/10.
Will I be watching series two? Of course I will! I'd watch it right now if I could! Who dis?
It's Lennie fucking James and he's a legend.