How far would you go to get the truth? What would you be willing to do if you suspected that what you've been told about an event has all been a lie? Uncovering a government conspiracy isn't for the faint of heart and there's no guarantee that your hunch is anything but random unsettling feelings. After all, Woodward and Bernstein thought they were right when they were investigating Watergate. But so do the people who argue that Americans never landed on the moon.
RESIDUE is a new three-part pilot that just premiered on Netflix in the U.S. and U.K. It's an unsettling and artful look at what happens when you begin to suspect your government has been lying to you for months.
The series begins with an explosion at a nightclub in what I suspect is meant to be London. More than 200 people are killed, but that loss of life isn't the big story. According to the military, the nightclub sat above a forgotten weapons storage area and the resulting contamination has made a five square-mile area of the central city uninhabitable. The area has been quarantined, the buildings wrapped in plastic and the barricades are protected by large squads of troops.
But despite government assurances that the problem is confined to the quarantined area, not everyone is convinced they're getting the truth. Photographer Jennifer Preston (Natalia Tena, GAME OF THRONES) has watched several people kill themselves in spectacularly odd ways and as she examines her photographs, she begins to see something she can't quite understand. Her concerns are initially laughed off by boyfriend Jonas Flack (Iwan Rheon, GAME OF THRONES), who also turns out to be the press secretary for the Home Office. But he begins to believe that he's being shut out and lied to, although he can't imagine why.
Others are also beginning to suspect there might be more going on in the quarantine zone. Including police detective Levi Mathis (Jamie Draven), whose 14-year-old daughter died in the bombing. Unfortunately, his barely hidden addictions don't exactly make him the ideal advocate for uncovering a possible government conspiracy.
The track record for television shows with this X-FILES type of government conspiracy theme isn't especially great. Most of the attempts to create a credible story seem contrived and clumsy and given that, I didn't expect much going into watching RESIDUE.
But creator John Harrison, director Alex Garcia and producer Charlotte Walls have created a really exceptional piece of television. The look of the scenes is spectacular, with sets that include lots of dark spaces, near-empty streets and plastic-wrapped buildings. The story is gripping and perhaps it's the fact that these three episodes were originally conceived as a movie, but they fly by as you watch them. The acting is first-rate and everyone manages to create a city that feels wrapped in despair and anger.
I won't talk much about the details of the plot, other than to say that the three-episode pilot ends with a jarring and somewhat creepy cliffhanger. The hope by the cast and crew is that the pilot will be watched enough that a ten-episode second season can be financed.
I certainly hope that's the case. RESIDUE is a spectacular piece of work and the only thing I hate about it is that I'm going to have to wait awhile before I know whether I'll get the answers I'm looking for about the conspiracy. Government intrigue can be frustrating and dangerous. But done right, it can also lead to some great television.