“In the beginning, there was death.” This is the mantra of BBC America’s new series Intruders, and the show makes good on that promise from the outset. The body-snatching drama based on British novelist Michael Marshall Smith’s work spans multiple genres, from the ever-popular police procedural, to the vogue of supernatural deaths and rebirths, with elements of classic crowd-pleasers like secret societies, conspiracies, and yes, even creepy children. While Intruders is sure to draw comparisons to The X-Files (which makes sense considering that the hit show’s producer Glen Morgan is both writer and executive producer of the new series), it’s much less episodic in nature and skews more toward the cult series Twin Peaks than anything else, thanks in part to its Pacific Northwest setting and layered mystery spiraling around its central plot.
Hit the jump for my Intruders review, and for why you should welcome this show into your home when it debuts on BBC America tonight at 10pm ET.
Intruders wastes no time in plunging viewers into its internal mythology. Within moments of the first episode’s opening, we’re introduced to the core question the series aims to explore: Is death final? As it turns out, the answer is apparently “No,” as long as you’re very well connected and can afford the price of immortality. However, this is no modern take on zombies, vampires or any similar version of a deceased person returning to assume their previous form. Instead, it’s much more in line with possession, as the consciousness of the deceased reawakens in a new body and wrestles with the current occupant’s soul for control. As you might imagine, this makes things rather complicated for both the person suffering the affliction and for their loved ones who witness the change, but are powerless to help.
Former LAPD detective Jack Whalen (John Simm) is drawn into the story, not because of a murder, but due to the disappearance of his wife, Amy (Mira Sorvino). Before she left on a business trip, Jack noticed some strange behavior on her part. Of course, as audience members, we’re only privy to this contrast thanks to flashbacks to moments in their shared past or exposition from Jack himself. While her disappearance was the impetus for Jack’s search in Seattle, a double-murder of a missing professor’s wife and son is soon laid at his feet by his former friend and colleague, Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles). Jack soon discovers that his wife’s disappearance and the murders are connected, albeit in the strangest and most unexpected of ways.
Hampering Jack’s investigation is a supernatural assassin by the name of Richard Shepherd (James Frain), who not only eliminates extraneous witnesses and other roadblocks to his goal with dispassionate violence, but also shepherds (::ahem::) departed souls back into their new bodies. He’s not alone in this task, as his mentor Frank Shepherd (Robert Forster) shows him the ropes early on. But when his mark – the missing professor – goes into hiding, Richard’s troubles begin to compound. Further complicating matters is another mark on his list, a presumably innocent nine-year-old girl.
Madison O’Donnell (Millie Brown) flees from her parents’ beach house and makes her way to Seattle to settle some long-awaited business. You see, Madison is not herself. Much like Amy, this little girl is waging an internal battle for possession of her own body, and her opponent is much, much stronger and centuries wiser. The upside is that Brown gets to channel a psychopathic deviant into her character through dialogue and behavior that’s wildly inappropriate for a nine-year-old girl, and makes her a standout because of her performance. Simm is great as the everyman who has some innate abilities to benefit him, but is certainly no superhero. (He also kept reminding me of a more action-oriented Martin Freeman.) Frain is okay in his role, showing the most emotion when interacting with Madison or her alter-ego, though how much can you expect from a character who fears (almost) nothing and is seemingly unstoppable by mere mortals? If arrogance is his fatal flaw, Frain wears it well (along with a unique double-barrel handgun as his weapon of choice). Sorvino also complements Jack’s stoicism well through her schizophrenic performance as Amy; her vacillation between free-spirited and reserved personalities likely frustrates Jack as much as it does the viewing audience.
Unlike some shows, Intruders seems ready and willing to share its internal mythology with viewers, though it’s doled out in small portions over time. There are the mysterious tokens the Shepherds use to communicate with the returned souls, the strange music (thanks to composer Bear McCreary) that’s likely tied into the missing professor’s research on infrasonic sounds, the secret society known as Qui Reverti, and the significance of the number 9, among other things. There’s enough familiar storytelling to make audiences comfortable so that they can settle in to puzzle out the increasingly tangled web of mysteries of the show’s mythology, which appears to be rooted in ancient times.
Intruders starts of strong enough to hold your attention and certainly builds steam over the first few episodes as more mysteries are uncovered. It remains to be seen just how much they reveal by the end of their eight-episode first season, but as of the half-way mark, it’s already a satisfying watch, so I think you’ll be safe from too many frustrating cliffhangers. Intruders premieres tonight at 10pm ET on BBC America.