Zak Gist - Samuel West
Tom Greening - Ukweli Roach
Mrs Sheringham - Orla Brady
Hannah English - Hattie Morahan
Richard Pembroke - Tobias Menzies
ANGELS ON EARTH
Episode 1 - first transmitted 5th January 2012
Zak Gist is an experienced, if somewhat rebellious, angel sent to Earth with his innocent and unknowing partner Tom Greening to help those in need, specifically by acting as their lawyers. They first case is a man who shoots at his ex on her wedding day.
ETERNAL LAW comes with some high expectations, coming as it does from the writers of LIFE ON MARS and ASHES TO ASHES. This opening episode, however, fails to hit any of the high notes of either of those two previous shows, both of which managed to get off to flying starts whilst this one stutters on its takeoff run.
It's not the cast's fault either. There are some good actors here and they manage to inject some life into characters that are too stereotyped for their own good. There's a fallen angel lurking about being far too obvious and villainous, there's the true believer whose faith is to be tested and there's the cynical experienced one who is only inches away from falling into the dark side himself.
If the characters are stock, then the mystery they are served up as their first case is equally disappointing and flat. To say that the resolution of the mystery takes some swallowing is to understate the case and there are far too few twists along the way. This, though, would be acceptable if it took a back seat to the more supernatural elements, but there isn't that much going on there either.
Fortunately there is some humour and, though it does get a bit po-faced at times, it isn't too preachy. It's a little early to write the show off, but it will need to pull its heavenly socks up and pretty quickly if it wants to succeed.Top
Episode 2 - first transmitted 12th January 2012
The angelic legal team take on the case of a young boy whose mother walked out of the house and left him and his father alone. The bitter custody battle is made all the worse by Zak having to go up against the woman he would have fallen from Heaven for.
For a look at a marriage falling apart, this is admirably even-handed and doesn't let either of the parents off lightly, each of them having reason for their bitterness and disappointment, but it doesn't get anywhere near the real depth of pain in such situations.
Much more interesting are the revelations about Mrs Sheringham, surely one of the most interesting of the characters. They at least make up for the flat drama and the flat playing of some of the other roles. Orla Brady is certainly turning in the best performance so far.
Considering the nature of the case, the humour is kept low key and is mainly aimed at Tom's naivete.Top
Episode 3 - first transmitted 19th January 2012
Mack is the terror of the care home, but when he poisons the owner he has gone too far. When Pembroke tries to hang an attempted murder charge on him Zak must find out why the owner hates Mack so much. Tom learns about girls and hangovers.
A story about ageing, about losing your faculties, about becoming dependent and about dying. That's a lot to get into a light entertainment show, but the legal drama here is pushed back and the human drama takes its place. Admittedly, the plot is a bit silly and the coincidental links between the characters fuelling the dispute is utter nonsense, but that's not what the story is about.
This is a story about dying alone and the scene in which that doesn't happen is a strong one at least, thanks mainly to Orla Brady's nailing Mrs Sheringham's caring nature.
Tom's night out is fun, and the pain that Zak has being close to Hannah as their 'friendship' grows has potential, but there's still no sense of anything building towards a point.Top
Episode 4 - first transmitted 26th January 2012
Zack and Tom are the prosecuting team in the case of a woman who killed her stalker with a knife. This tests Tom's faith to the limit and starts the doomsday clock ticking.
The angels are sent to Earth to help people in their hour of need and sometimes that doesn't mean getting them off whatever it is they're charged with. That makes for a nice change of pace from the usual template of the show, but it's all a bit too clunky to really work.
The testing of Tom's faith is becoming more andmore tiresome in its one note state. The show may not have a lot of episodes to play with and so can't be quite as subtle as it would like to be, but the consistent banging home of this aspect of the plot is just getting a bit too much.
Samuel West's casting as the lead, and cynical, leader of the team is also called into question as he fails to project the authority that would be needed to make the final, tearful confrontation even remotely believable.
The ticking of the doomsday clock is the only nice touch, even though it's as predictable as Christmas Day falling on December 25th.Top
Episode 5 - first transmitted 2nd February 2012
Zack takes Hannah on as co-counsel in a court martial case against a young female officer saved by Tom. This is part of a scheme to get her to fall for a soldier herself and leave Zack free to fight the good fight.
The unlikeliness of this entire story is a bit heavy for the suspension of disbelief. Tom happens to go skywatching in the middle of military exercise, one of the soldiers had an issue with another's father, and Tom just happens to fall on an unexploded bomb that brings everyone together to risk their lives. Oh, and Mrs Sheringham falls for her dead husband's twin.
Leaving aside the unbelievability of it all, the story of Zack's wartime experience is nicely handled with memories coming out of the woods in a spooky sequence.Top
Episode 6 - first transmitted 9th February 2012
Zack and Tom take on the case of a man accused of killing his brother. Mrs Sheringham gets an offer that might take her away from York and Hannah grows closer to her soldier lover.
It's the final episode, so the standalone story of the brothers and the business that comes between them is pure filler in the background of the season arcs coming together. Orla Brady tries hard to convince as Mrs Sheringham finding love with her man's brother, but the plotting is so obvious and unlikely that even she cannot make it work.
The main story, though, is Zack and Hannah. Just at the point where he is to give her up, she makes a realisation about him that sets up the big cliffhanger. It is, however, the confrontation with the demonic Richard that ought to have been the high point. Unfortunately, Tobias Menzies' playing to the camera makes him more of a pantomime demon and the whole thing a bit of a damp squib - a fitting summary of the whole series.Top
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