‘Trigger Point’ review: Pure Pressure à la ‘Line of Duty’
There are two types of people in the world: those who have not seen or heard of the British police program “Line of Duty” and those who are rabid fans of it. It’s not a great TV series, or a very good one, necessarily. But it has a miserable, breathless intensity that sucks you in and a willingness to play with the emotions of its usual characters, and question their motives, which are dramatically suspicious but melodramatically potent. For six seasons, it is still one of the UK’s most popular and respected TV series.
Jed Mercurio, who created “Line of Duty” in 2012, created the equally batty “Bodyguard”, whose high-wire mix of bad police history and romantic soap opera made his one season in 2018 as big a hit as “Line of Duty”. . “(It also received a surprising Emmy nomination for best drama after appearing on Netflix in America.) Previously, he was known as a creator of medical dramas, and perhaps some clues to his writing style can be found in his original career as doctor; his first show was called “Cardiac arrest.”
Mercurio did not create “Trigger Point”, a new British series whose first season of six episodes came to Peacock on Friday. But he’s the showrunner, and he developed it with creator and author Daniel Brierley, and it has the Mercurio stamp: It’s crazy, in a benevolent and entertaining way that makes it easy to put aside your higher neural functions.
Where “Line of Duty” maintains a moral dimension by presenting a police unit for home affairs, “Trigger Point” goes for almost pure pressure by focusing on a member of a bomb disposal team in London. However, the “Line of Duty” associations are powerful, because the intense (natch), trauma-scarred (natural) main character in “Trigger Point” is played by one of the stars of the previous show, Vicky McClure.
McClure is not the most expressive of the performers – you tend to guess at the character’s emotions through how much she opens her eyes – but she has a way of signaling tension in movement, voice and gaze; something always goes on the last nerve. It works well for Lana Washington, the “Trigger Point” heroine, whose characteristic scene involves running at full speed into a place from which everyone else is evacuated.
The first season of the series (a second has been ordered), Lana has faced a number of explosions and near misses; from what we see, it seems that the London police are coping with a bomb squad. The identities of the perpetrators are unclear; they are terrorists, but we do not know which side of the fence they are sitting on.
McClure’s character in “Line of Duty” is part of a three-man team; on “Trigger Point” she has colleagues, but she mainly carries the dramatic weight alone, and Brierley shapes the action into the difficult, solo point of view. Lana must not only fight the faceless bombers – she must also fight the panic-induced stupidity of the people she is trying to save. Bombs and their targets have trigger points, and in one scene after another we crawl while Lana shouts to people that they just have to shut up and stand still.
“Trigger Point”, carried by the British commercial network ITV, has a slightly less insane pace than the BBC’s “Line of Duty”; which may in part have to do with the necessity of ad breaks. But the narrative jury rigging, free-spirited paranoia and benign neglect of plausibility are the same. (Viewers may also want to keep in mind Mercury’s penchant for killing big characters.) Sniping, gas networks, therapy, and problematic sex are drawn into the mix along with the frequent explosions, all culminating in a ridiculous, delicious showdown involving a death knell, for it does, of course.
That’s the Mercurio method: the show keeps blowing up in your face, and you keep coming back for more.