The Honourable Woman, BBC1, Maggie Gyllenhaal

MAGGIE GYLLENHALL is THE HONOURABLE WOMAN (Nessa Stein) on BBC2
It’s a dangerous road for The Honourable Woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★½

BBC2: starts Thursday, 3 July, 9pm

Story: Nessa Stein’s father was a Zionist arms procurer. As children, she and her brother Ephra witness his assassination. Later, as an adult, inheriting her father’s company, she inverts its purpose from supplying arms to laying broadband cable networks between Israel and the West Bank – a decision that makes her many powerful enemies…

THE SHADOW LINE was not as big a hit as Broadchurch or Happy Valley, but the BBC2 cop thriller from producer/writer/director Hugo Blick was one of the most distinctive and stunning crime series of 2012.

It has been a tantalising wait to see what he would come up with next, particularly when a stellar cast was announced for his follow-up, The Honourable Woman, with names such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Andrew Buchan, Stephen Rea, Katharine Parkinson and more.

Well, the eight-parter is now just a few weeks away, and I can confirm that it’s another superb intrigue from Blick, though different from The Shadow Line.

Maggie Gyllenhall as Nessa

Maggie Gyllenhall, with a very good Brit accent for her first TV project, is Nessa Stein, who has inherited her assassinated Israeli father’s business. Where he dealt in guns, Nessa embarks on a more ethical approach to business, installing broadband cable to Palestinians and Israelis.

Nessa Stein (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL) The Honourable Woman BBC
Nessa is the enigma at the centre of the thriller

This desire to build connectivity and understanding is worthy, but it generates for Nessa a hornets’ nest of enemies and deadly dealings. To start, when she selects a Palestinian businessman to take on the next phase of the project, he commits suicide on the day she announces the deal.

Suspicious? Well, the Israeli she had previously worked with is enraged, the British secret service suspect Mossad of murder, while the Metropolitan police, the FBI and US military also stick their various oars in.

Hugo Blick’s the master of TV suspense

The first episode pulls off the feat of being hard to follow but gripping at the same time. And once again Blick proves inspired at creating a disorientating, threatening mood that draws you in.

By episode two, the story is easier to follow but still full of mystery and danger. Blick is the master of the set piece moments, and here there is a terrific sequence in which an FBI agent is not sure if she has been betrayed and has to go on the run. The writer/director loves telling the story visually, played out with music or a voiceover.

Blick also clearly relishes writing roles for Stephen Rea, who was breathtaking as the menacing Gatehouse in The Shadow Line. He steals the show again, this time as the soon-to-be-sacked spy Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle.

Lindsay Duncan and Janet McTeer

If he’s not delivering killer lines – ‘Haven’t seen anything like that since David Nixon and Ali Bongo’ – he’s pursing his lips and raising a dubious eyebrow. His scenes with Lindsay Duncan (who plays his ex-wife) and Janet McTeer (boss and ex-lover) are lip-smackingly delicious.

While The Shadow Line also had many scenes that had to be relished and was hugely entertaining, it stretched a little too far by the end.

The Honourable Woman is just as riveting, but with its interplay between several fascinating women – particularly Nessa and the nanny Atika, who were once kidnapped together and are haunted by it – and its tangled plot, it will be interesting to see if Blick’s latest drama will be resolved with more cohesion.

Either way, it is a further sign that we’re being spoiled by a glut of excellent TV dramas right now, no doubt fuelled by The Killing, Breaking Bad and other imports.

Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal Nessa Stein, Lubna Azabal Atika Halabi, Eve Best Monica Chatwin, Andrew Buchan Ephra Stein, Lindsay Duncan Anjelica Hayden-Hoyle, Janet McTeer Dame Julia Walsh, Tobias Menzies Nathaniel Bloom, Igal Naor Shlomo Zahary, Genevieve O’Reilly Frances Pirsig, Katherine Parkinson Rachel Stein, Stephen Rea Sir Hugh Hayden-Hoyle

See also…
The Shadow Line review
Hugo Blick interviewed by Bafta

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The Honourable Woman, New Tricks, Shetland, Z Cars, Inspector Nardone

Maggie Gyllenhaal has signed to appear in Hugo Blick’s new thriller, The Honourable Woman, for BBC2. Blick was behind the quirky, compelling The Shadow Line, so all-in-all this looks a bit special. Gyllenhaal will play Nessa, whose father was a Zionist arms procurer, and, as a child, she and her brother witnessed his assassination. As an adult, she inherits his business and tries to switch its purpose from arms to laying data cable between the Israel and the West Bank. The Shadow Line was convoluted but full of brilliant verbal sparring, so this new seven-parter with its spies and international setting should be thick with intrigue.

• The tenth series of New Tricks returns on Tuesday, 30 July, at 9pm. This time in the drama following the retired cold-case cops, Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is suspended after assaulting an officer he suspects of covering up a death in custody that led to his early retirement. Stalwarts Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong will be leaving during this series, following the recent departure of James Bolam. However, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst will be joining Dennis Waterman and new boy Denis Lawson, so the hit drama will be facing a bit of crunch time to see if and how the fresh characters bed in. Meanwhile, the 9th and final series of CSI: NY also launches on Tuesday, 30 July, on C5. But New Tricks, wobbling from all the departures as it may be, should still see off CSI: NY in the ratings with ease.

• Must admit, I couldn’t really understand why the Beeb decided to do another series of Shetland, such was the quiet passing of the first, but they’re certainly throwing the stars at it for the next outing of the Douglas Henshall drama. Brian Cox ( The Bourne Identity) and Julie Graham (Survivors) will be on hand for the next batch of Ann Cleeve‘s stories – Raven Black, Blue Lightning and Dead Water. If the writers manage to breath some life into the characters this time round, I’ll raise a dram to them.

• If you’re an Everton supporter the Z Cars theme tune is never far away, but for the rest of us there will be a chance to renew acquaintances with the music and accompanying series that was so hugely popular and influential during the 60s and 70s. Z Cars Collection One will be released on a two-disc DVD on 2 September. Writer Troy Kennedy Martin believed that the genre needed ‘an injection of energy and bite’ and that’s what Z Cars had in abundance. Making its TV debut on the BBC in 1962, it went on to become one of the longest-running British TV shows, airing until 1978.

• Inspector Montalbano is currently on leave of absence from BBC4. But the Sicilian is not the only Italian crime-fighter on UK telly. Ever heard of Inspector Nardone? If not, that’s probably because he is tucked away on True Movies, one of the lesser known multi-channel networks. It’s a period drama set in post-war Milan and is based on a real person. Nardone (played by Sergio Assisi) is a crusading cop who roots out corruption at the Questura despite opposition from his spineless superiors. Like Montalbano, there a strain of light-heartedness and romance running through the series, and for crime fans who like the era, it’s a fresh take on the continental cop genre. Inspector Nardone returns to True Movies 1 at 1am from Saturday, 17 August, through to Friday, 23 August, and on True Drama at 1am from 12 August through to 17 August.

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