Vigil, a thriller with Suranne Jones in the lead, earned such enthusiastic comments on my Twitter timeline when it aired in the UK. I was eager to see it. It was good, but not great. I was a bit disappointed with that. I’m never entirely unhappy with anything Suranne Jones does, and I did engage with the drama and suspense of the 6 part series.
Part of my irritation with Vigil is where it’s streaming. It’s on Peacock TV. You have to pay $6 a month to see the good stuff and even then it shows ads. The best thing I can say about Peacock TV is it was easy to go back to the free plan after I finished watching Vigil.
There are a number of interrelated plot lines in the series. It’s set in Scotland. We start with a fishing trawler being pulled under the water when its nets hook a submarine. Scotland has a large activist group who want to get nuclear warheads out of Scottish waters. That includes HMS Vigil, which is a nuclear “deterrent” submarine capable of launching warheads. The drowned fishermen on the trawler added ammunition to their arguments.
At about the same time a sailor named Burke (Martin Compston) is apparently murdered on the Vigil. A civilian detective, Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) is helicoptered on board to investigate.
Initially, Amy thinks she has 3 days to solve the crime, so she works at warp speed. Glover (Shaun Evans) is put in charge of following her around and showing her where people and things are.
Back in the Glasgow police department, Amy’s ex girlfriend Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie) is working on the case there. Amy requested Kirsten to work with because the two have a verbal shorthand and understand each other.
Their communications are complicated because the boat cannot send messages for fear of being located. They can receive messages, so Kirsten keeps Amy up to date on what she’s learning via coded emails.
It took all six episodes for the full story on Amy and Kirsten’s relationship to be revealed. We learn a lot about Amy through flashbacks while she’s on the boat in various uncomfortable and dangerous situations.
Spoiler summary paragraph of some of Amy’s issues ahead. She was married to a man and helped raise his daughter, Poppy (Orla Russell). The bond between them is strong, but the father dies in an accident and Poppy is taken away from her by the grandparents. Later Amy starts a relationship with Kirsten, but isn’t comfortable being out. Kirsten leaves her over it.
Back to the murder mystery. Amy finds several suspects among the crew. She accuses them and then discovers more and realizes they weren’t guilty. It takes all the episodes for the real killer and the real motive for the murder to be revealed. In the meantime, more people die on the boat and on land.
Kirsten finds all sorts of connected crimes and potential murderers in her investigations. She is involved with the Royal Navy, MI5, the U.S. Navy and intelligence agencies. Not everyone cooperates, which doesn’t help. Security around the nuclear sub is tight. She thinks maybe it’s a Russian spy, but can’t communicate her findings to Amy.
On the boat, there’s all sorts of life-threatening sabotage and secrecy. Captain Newsome (Paterson Joseph) has different priorities and goals for the ship than Amy has. They often conflict. As the tension ramps up and Amy gets closer to finding the killer, the whole ship is in danger. The suspense level is very high.
I have to give Suranne Jones credit for being game for anything. She was put in some terrible places in this series and didn’t quit acting forever as far as I know. She’s both tough and vulnerable here, and smart about her job. The situation she was in storywise was sometimes questionable, but her talent with a line reading or a facial expression never betrayed that.
Isabelle Sieb directed 3 of the 6 episodes.