Save Me was a visceral character drama about people driven to extremes

save me lennie james suranne jones stephen graham sky atlantic jason flemyng

Immediately, comparisons to a particular tradition of crime drama spring to mind; on paper, it feels as though Save Me shares similarities with programmes like Broadchurch or Kiri, centred as they all are around a child that’s missing or dead. However, Save Me neatly elucidates and overcomes a problem that thus far has seemed endemic to the genre: structured, as these programmes are, around a child that’s always defined by their absence, at times it feels like the characters are responding to the idea of the child moreso than anything else. There’s a distance there, inherently positioning the child at a remove – how much do you ever know Danny Latimer?

Save Me cleverly takes what can be a failing of the genre and builds it into the premise, presenting the series from the perspective of a character who was only ever dimly aware of his daughter anyway. Not only does it remove this potential flaw, it elevates it; the father-daughter relationship at the heart of Save Me genuinely feels like a new addition to the genre, a clear demonstration that there’s still new stories to tell.

I really, really enjoyed Save Me – it was a massively compelling programme. It was certainly much better than I expected; that’s not to say I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but rather that it was of a much higher level than the trailers and such suggested. I was genuinely quite taken with it in the end.

Admittedly, however, I wasn’t particularly pleased with this article I wrote about the show. That’s always frustrating, the feeling that a piece of writing I’ve done didn’t quite serve the show well – something like Save Me deserves a better article than this. My wasn’t quite right; it’s not, I don’t think, a brilliant piece of writing, or even exactly a particularly good one.

At the time I wanted to do a sort of Writer’s Notes type thing, breaking down how I wrote it and what went wrong, though I never quite managed it. There’s a couple of things, I think – part of it is that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to discuss but couldn’t quite work in, like just how good the dialogue was. (There’s a line where Lennie James’ character Nelly is talking about his daughter’s injuries, and describes “claret down her top”, and I’d never heard “claret” used like that in that context. It felt so distinct and idiosyncratic, it just really stayed with me.) Also, though, I think the article is almost in two halves that are sort of fighting one another; it’s a victim, I think, of the fact I didn’t quite have the title in mind when I started, which meant it wasn’t all written around one central point the way it should have been. The first half is about the clever reframing of the missing child format, while the second half is about how Save Me pushes characters to extremes, and the two halves together add up to less than the sum of their parts. (Or whatever the phrase should be.) It ends up scattered and a little unfocused, though there are some good ideas in there – one of the things I tried to do with this article was engage a bit more with the actual camera, and I think I did a decent job of that.

Still! Live and learn. I might try and revisit the first series of Save Me and write a new article on it if and when the second eventually comes out.

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