Saturday, 30 June 2012

HIT & MISS - episode six

Saturday, 30 June 2012
** (out of four)

Sky Atlantic's first original drama comes to the end of its first series, where the biggest surprise was how the story didn't have the decency to conclude. Hit & Miss appears to be another show I've mistaken for a miniseries, unfortunately, ending on a cliffhanger to be resolved whenever ChloĆ« Sevigny finds a gap in her schedule and memories of grim Manchester have faded. It's been a bizarre six-week viewing experience, but one that held my interest—even if much of the reason was a peculiar fascination with the show's odd style and failings. In the end, I think I know why Paul Abbott is only credited with creating this show, and left the writing to Sean Conway: the idea's attention-grabbing but unwieldy, so perhaps always doomed to failure.

The finale was exactly what we've come to expect from Hit & Miss. Nonsense; but with enough good moments to make it palatable. That said, so much about this episode infuriated me. Why wait until now to introduce Mia's (Sevigny) mother and low-life brother? Beyond revealing the reason Mia would occasionally wear a pig's nose and chant "I'm a real boy" (a common taunt from her carnie brother when she was a boy struggling with her gender identity), it just came out of nowhere. Another example of how the UK system doesn't always have enough time to tell a story in a way that feels natural and cleverly drawn out. And why give Mia's mother almost exactly the same aloof personality as mute uncle Liam? Speaking of whom, having Liam take the fall for murdering John to protect Riley (Karla Crome) elicited nothing but a groan from me. The character existed entirely to make this grand gesture for his niece, which I wasn't very happy about.

It was also obvious that the finale would pit Mia against her boss Eddie (Peter Wight), and having Mia fail to pull off a hit for one of Eddie's clients, forcing him to go after her to make amends, was a decent enough way for that to come about. It's just a shame it was another story that lurched to that point, which made it feel rather convoluted. If they had more episodes to play with, it might have been nice to actually see some of the the people who pay for Eddie's services, and make us care that he's been forced to kill Mia (who in many ways is a surrogate daughter in his eyes). But, as it was, it just came across as a manipulation to arrive at the episode's final Mexican stand-off tableau: Eddie aiming a gun at Mia, while her innocent son Ryan (Jordan Bennie) pointed a rifle on Eddie. Like father, like son.

The biggest annoyance with Hit & Miss was undoubtedly the lack of subtlety on display. The scripts gave us some incredibly lame ways to symbolize things, or create subtext. In this finale alone, we had Mia standing naked in front of a dress mirror, penis on show, spitting at her own reflection; and a butterfly landed on the scope of Mia's gun, causing her to miss her quarry. (Do butterflies even come out at night?) Things always felt so heavy-handed that you couldn't take much of it seriously, as it was always a whisker away from parody. And I'm still confused when it comes to Levi (Reece Noi), Ryan and Riley's reactions to Mia—who came across as a lunatic on many occasions but was never held accountable for her erratic behaviour. In this episode, from their perspective, Mia was suddenly ordering them to pack their bags and go on the run with her, and it didn't feel plausible that none of the kids would demand to know why. They undoubtedly knew that Mia was a strange woman with secrets who does a shady job for the equally sketchy Eddie, but why weren't they asking more questions?

And yet, for all its faults, Hit & Miss remained oddly entertaining. Perhaps it was because you couldn't take it seriously enough to be deeply insulted by its stupidity, or that some surprisingly strong performances and memorable sequences flowed through these six episodes. It may not have hung together as an all-encompassing idea (the show's "transgender hitman" USP, as many have complained, wasn't necessary for the most part), but it was at least something very different to the original dramas that are currently being made by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Sky Atlantic have a long way to go before they succeed in becoming a British HBO (making original TV programmes that people want to pay a premium for), but Hit & Miss was an intriguing first attempt.

I can't say I'm excited by the prospect of a second series, however, even if there are definitely questions left to explore (mainly how nobody knows Mia's a contract killer), because the show hasn't proven it can tackle things in a way that's satisfying. Still, maybe Sean Conway will sit back, take stock of where the show went wrong, and get his mate Paul Abbott's advice about how to turn this into a unqualified hit by avoiding the many misses.

written by Sean Conway / directed by Sheree Folkson / 26 June 2012 / Sky Atlantic