DS Sean Stone claims "serial killers" only exist in Hollywood, and the proper term is "multiple murderers"; and yet, ironically, he's a detective on the autistic spectrum, which is arguably even more of a fictional invention. After all, when you're dealing with grieving families and need to get into the mindset of criminals, how could it possibly help to be a social misfit who can't even car-share? Where are the sleuths with almost preternatural empathy, beyond Hannibal's Will Graham?
CHASING SHADOWS is the latest drama on the perpetual conveyor belt of detective shows. This one focuses on a missing-persons unit specialising in serial killers (sorry, "multiple murderers"), run by hard-set DCI Carl Prior (Doctor Who's Noel Clarke) with support from kindly analyst Ruth Hattersley (Doctor Who's Alex Kingston). They're joined by the aforementioned Stone (not-Doctor Who's Reece Shearsmith*), who's been transferred to them from the more high-profile homicide division after he embarrassed his bosses by speaking uncomfortable truths at a press conference.
There have been quite a few detectives like Stone on our screens just lately—best exemplified by the modernised Sherlock, and The Bridge's Saga Noren—so Chasing Shadows isn't offering much that feels new. It's so hard to make these kinds of shows stand out from the crowd, so for the most part it's just another variation on a tried-and-trusted formula. Not particularly stylish to look at, not especially twisted in tone, or darkly funny in spirit.
Obviously the casting is doing the heavy-lifting, with three well-known faces chosen to draw audiences and inject life into proceedings. Shearsmith, Kingston and Clarke are all fine, but there's only so much they can do. Stone's personality is completely informed by his condition, Clarke looks gruff and gets to do the more physical stuff, and Kingston's unsurprisingly perturbed by her unorthodox workmate—and yet already co-opting his pearls of wisdom when conversing with her killer-obsessed teenage son.
Overall, there was a certain breeziness to the script (about the possible abduction of a teenage girl who frequented suicide websites), and Shearsmith (League of Gentlemen, Psychoville) was fun to watch in an increasingly-frequent straight role, but it felt rather generic and unintentionally daft.
written by Rob Williams | directed by Christopher Menaul | 4 September 2014 | ITV