In Thorne: Sleepyhead (2010), DI Tom Thorne (David Morrissey)is a detective that works on instinct. It was said of his first big collar, a serial killer named Frank Calvert. DI Tughan (Eddie Marsan) is more of your traditional, witness-grilling copper. There’s medical examiner, and Thorne’s best gay buddy, Hendricks (Aidan Gillen) and the rookie Holland (O.T. Fagbenle) who mumbles. It comes to police attention that there may be a serial killer out there who manually induces stroke. One victim, Alison (Sara Lloyd-Gregory), survives but is left in a locked-in coma and struggles to communicate with Thorne. Eventually, though, Thorne’s past comes back to haunt him when this killer somehow knows his secret. Also on offer is a snarky doctor (Stephen Campbell Moore) and a beautiful doctor (Natascha McElhone).
Thorne: Scaredy Cat (2010), Thorne’s instincts are back in full force. There’s another serial killer and this time, Thorne is joined by a new addition, Sarah Chen (Sandra Oh), who wants to work homicide despite her strengths in the fraud squad. The killer savagely beat a woman to death, but left her young son alive who won’t talk to anyone but Thorne. When they run into trouble, Thorne resorts to desperately risky tactics. And relations with Hendricks are strained.
Thorne is a new—if 2010 is new—addition to the brilliant yet hard-core detective in the vein of Luther (2010). Like Luther, it tends towards the cliché and recycled stories, unlike more brutal serial series like Messiah (2001), relying on character and thrills to keep interest. And there is plenty of character with Throne being like a Liam Neeson-version of Luther who has a virtually identical secret to his, he’s not too keen on procedure, has distinct musical tastes, and always brings the job home. Okay, so those last three are the same for every detective show. But there’s also Hendricks and Tughan who are quite distinctive (even if Tughan is a ludicrous figure). Gillen is quite pleasing as a free-wheeling medical examiner. When character flails, there’s always a fresh corpse or chase to entertain.
For mystery lovers, like myself, shows like Thorne and Luther appeal to the baser instincts. It’s well produced, has an appealing leading man, and goes too fast to think too deeply. They search for clues, but that’s just to keep things going. Eventually, they never really needed any evidence. It’s like an Americanization of the British staple. With serial killer stories, shows like Wire in the Blood (2002-08) and Cracker (1993-96) covered so much ground that originality comes with difficulty. All you can hope for is a good jumble so you don’t know exactly what’s going on. Thorne provides.
It isn’t the best, but it’s good enough.