In theory, a cop drama disguised as a social commentary on the political and cultural crisis engulfing Britain written by playwright extraordinary David Hare and starring one of the best collection of British actors is bound to be brilliant. In practice, Collateral becomes an overwhelming, almost on the verge of suffocating, drama that relies less on the subtleties of injustice and instead shoves its demanding social agenda drown your throat.
When a pizza delivery man is shot dead in a posh London street, a chain of characters (in a tragic Love, Actually manner) feel the effects. DI Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan), a fresh-faced new detective who is haunted by some traumatic past event (that everyone in the entirety of London seems to know about), plays the lone good guy in this tricky case dealing with a family of illegal immigrants. In the bad guys corner, there is just about everyone else in the police department and military, who, in the complete opposite of nuanced, hates immigrants (if this is the future of a television in a post-Brexit Britain, I'm devastated).
Next up, we have the poor pitiful posh woman (Billie Piper) and her MP ex-husband (John Simm). Enough said. Next, a female priest's girlfriend (surprise, also an illegal immigrant - except this one is a student, not a Middle Eastern, so there's a difference) witnesses the murder but was too off her head to notice. Finally, we have the shady manager (Hayley Squires) of the pizza place that employed the, now dead, driver, who, like, continues to serve pizzas even though one of her staff members was just murder. Normal. The episodes unfold as the entanglement of these poorly written characters, played by some of the finest talents in Britain, fight the British institutions and, for some reason, the Labour party to bring peace and tranquility back to a nation engulfed in fire.
Collateral has a lot of ideas - it's a piece that, if executed differently, could have had a strong resonance with the current state of Britain's political crisis. But instead, the story is so scattered and inconsistent that it's hard to focus on anything (seeing as you can't have one thought before the next agenda item is shoved down your throat). CoIlateral's problem isn't its themes or messages; its that is trying to capture over three years of outrage, disappointments, and injustices into just four hours, all the while having the characters spell out the reasons why these acts are "problematic" instead of allowing the viewer to contextualize the issues on their own.
If there is one good thing about Collateral it is its wonderful cast. Lead by the always fantastic Carey Mulligan, Collateral brings together some of Britain's most underrated actors, making the jarring screenplay almost bearable. Mulligan, who you wouldn't typically associate with playing a hard London detective, is beautifully refreshing. She doesn't play DI Glaspie as the typical rough, emotionally cut off, hyper-masculine female detective we see too often. Rather she embraces her femininity but doesn't let it define her character. John Simm, Nicola Walker, Billie Piper, and Hayley Squires, likewise, bring their best to this characters - if only we were given the time to appreciate them. Finally, with London playing one of the most integral roles in the series, it sets the perfect atmosphere and represents the bleak and destructive crisis Britain is in.
I desperately wanted to like Collateral, but, at least in the first episode, it assumed me to be hyper-intelligent enough to follow this whiplash of character and plot movement, while also viewing me as too stupid to understand the social and cultural implications on my own.
Collateral continues on BBC Two Monday nights at 9