A catastrophic follow-up to what was already a poor start, Eternal Law confirmed my worst fears. This is another of the UK's genre disasters, perhaps the cosmic balance to Doctor Who and Misfits, but it's so frustrating because the writers have proven they're capable of great work with Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. But this show is just awful on every level; an embarrassing production full of clunky direction, horrible editing, hackneyed performances, and dull storytelling.
There isn't anything to focus condemnation on, because everything's infected by a certain ineptitude. The opening titles, now with a redundant and ridiculous voice-over from Orla Brady, make the show feel like a children's drama. In fact, if it wasn't for the dry backdrop of courts and lawyers, Eternal Law might have worked better as one. There are many terrible directorial flourishes, too—the worst being the moment when the camera reversed down a corridor, as actors stepped out on cue to have fake-looking arguments. Or moment that are just so laughable you wonder how they made it to the screen—like head angel Zak (Samuel West) puffing on a fat cigar in his wings, creating fireworks by way of celebration. Or how about when "fallen angel" Pembroke (Tobias Menzies) pushed a homeless man into a river after he'd asked for money a second time? Oooh, evil.
Throw in an awful plinky-plonk soundtrack, general apathy towards the week's case (two parents after custody of the world's worst child actor), and a reveal of Mrs Sheringham's (Brady) back-story that was predictable (she gave up being an angel to be with a human man she loved), and this episode was a resounding flop. It's not even logical that Mrs Sheringham would be so upset by her lover Billy's death, because she's living proof that there is an afterlife! Surely that should bring her peace of mind. And I didn't like the suggestion from Zak that a world without angels would result in death, war, famine and pestilence. We've had plenty of that with these do-gooding angels hanging around...
Overall, I have little to say that's positive after just two episodes. Eternal Law feels cheap, the drama's unearned, the characters are lifeless, the stories are boring, and the setups for an ongoing mytharc (the Zak/Hannah relationship, God sending the angels a doomsday clock from the Cuban Missile Crisis) aren't very interesting—and you have no faith they'll develop into anything worthwhile. I wish I could be more upbeat, because I was hoping for a charming and intelligent legal drama with an added supernatural twist... but something's gone very wrong. Maybe it all works better on the page... but the execution on-screen wobbles from inept to mediocre, at best.
written by Ashley Pharaoh / directed by Adrian Shergold / 12 January 2012 / ITV1