Review: The Level

Laura Haddock and Karla Crome in The Level

The Level is a police thriller from the UK. It’s currently available on Acorn TV. I watched all 6 episodes of season 1 with interest. It wasn’t renewed for a second season, and for good reasons. It’s an acceptable mystery for fans of the genre.  Flawed but watchable.

Karla Crome in The Level

Karla Crome stars as Nancy Devlin, the police officer at the center of the story. We get into events when she responds to a phone call from Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister). She meets him in a wooded area where he is shot. She’s wounded as she runs from the scene.

She doesn’t call the police or tell anyone she was the mystery witness on the case. She is assigned to work on the case because it happened in her home town and because she knew Frank Le Saux. She still keeps her secret.

Someone is after her as the witness and she’s in danger because of her silence.

There are many reasons for her silence. The ones we learn early on – that she’d covered for him with the police and that she spent her childhood wishing he was her father – are only part of the story. Her childhood was not happy. Her father, a cop himself, Gil Devlin (Gary Lewis) was an alcoholic. Her mother Teresa (Suzanne Packer) had mental health issues and was currently in a care facility.

How Nancy deals with her parents now is an important aspect of the series.

The other major female character was Le Saux’s daughter Hayley (Laura Haddock). Nancy and Hayley had been best friends in childhood. They reconnected after some awkward moments when they were thrown together again during this case. The connection between them was clear and strong and they were glad to have found each other again.

Before she was assigned to this case, Nancy’s partner was Kevin O’Dowd (Robert James-Collier). He ended up working on the same case, but Nancy was partnered with a cop she didn’t know, Gunner Martin (Noel Clarke). Both these cops were in love with her, but Karla Crome showed zero chemistry with either of them. The romance aspects of the story were among the parts that didn’t work for me. Plus, both men were made to look suspicious at various times in the story.

There was misdirection and the casting of suspicion in typical mystery red herring style throughout the series. The number of potential villains was large and varied. The number of things the police did that would probably never happen that way was rather large, as well.

None of the characters really reached out to grab you and make you root for them. Nancy was not a good cop. She broke the rules, she broke the law, she didn’t reveal what she knew, she lied. But none of the other characters were any more admirable. Some of them were downright creepy – especially the characters played by Joe Absolom and Geoff Bell.

I know there’s a lot of criticism of film and TV right now that female characters are always likeable. When they aren’t, the show fails. Critics argue that women should able to be as flawed and imperfect as male characters. Maybe that’s why this series didn’t reach as high as I’d hoped, but I’d like to blame it more on the plot than the female lead.

Nancy was at least consistent in character through The Level. Some of the other characters seemed to change personality completely depending on where the suspicions were cast from one episode to the next. There was a change in Hayley tacked on at the very end that felt meant to lead us into a series 2 that really didn’t work for me.

The character I most appreciated was the police woman in a wheel chair who did research in the police station. I’d like to give you her name but I’m not able to pick it out from the cast list. My fault entirely.

I do have high praise for the look of this series. Beautifully filmed with some stunning imagery that made watching the action a pleasure. Ben Wheeler did the cinematography.

In spite of its flaws, The Level kept me coming back for more. Have you seen it? What was your reaction to it?

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