The BBC has been a fertile breeding ground for top-quality drama of late – what with The Night Manager, And Then There Were None and War And Peace all impressing of late – and The Living And The Dead makes a decent enough fist of following in this tradition, telling a multi-layered story that weaves a sturdy web of mystery, trauma and paranormal happenings.
Amid all this are young couple Nathan (Colin Morgan) and Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), who move to his family estate after the death of his mother, taking the reins of the family farm, only to find that their pasts refuse to stay buried.
Despite this description, this isn’t your average ghost story; all throughout, the distinction between reality and the imagination remains blurry, and Nathan’s psyche fittingly ambiguous.
However, ultimately the story is hamstrung by its inconsistency. Having established an intriguing back story and a fertile setting in the first episode, it turns into a mystery-of-the-week thriller – which is fine, as said mysteries are actually quite intriguing – before jarringly returning focus to the central mystery for the final two instalments.
Coupled with this are some script choices that finally don’t work: characters behave in unbelievable ways compared to their previous actions, one particular twist had the effect of pulling us out of the story entirely, and we’re still not sold on the final scene. If this doesn’t get a second season then it’s note exactly a final act that will be remembered fondly.
This is TV drama at its most ambitious, so it’s inevitable that some elements don’t quite work – the lack of a truly memorably supporting cast being yet another. Luckily, the excellent performances from leads Morgan and Spencer render it not the problem it could have been, and just about make The Living And The Dead worth your time.