In the Dark
In the past year, I have watched, roundabout, five British TV thriller dramas led by women, but women whose entire identity has been consumed by their pregnancy. It's becoming a trend that is flooding television; a program can only have a female lead if she continues to keep her maternal nature. In the Dark is the latest program that has fallen victim to this horrendous trend.
DI Helen Weeks is thrust back in time when her childhood best friend gets wrapped up in the abduction of two young girls. She is compelled to return to her despised home town in Derbyshire to investigate how this could happen to someone who was once so close to her. Demons from Helen's past come back to haunt her while she struggles while unanswered questions.
Why can't a television drama feature a female lead without her entire existence relying on her need to bear children? This is an unfortunate question that I have asked myself far too many times while watching the latest television programs. Last year's The Replacement and this year's Paranoia and Paula are prime examples of female characters that have lost their dominant lead because the screenwriter decided that they needed to be more feminine for the audience's sake. Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood is a perfect example of a powerful female character that dominates the story because screenwriter Sally Wainwright doesn't rely on female stereotypes to ensure audiences can "relate" to a female lead.
In the Dark's screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst, like many other male screenwriters, confuses the idea of what makes a strong female character. Just because a character is female doesn't mean she must bear children or worry about her hair or dream of a fairytale wedding. The audience, I hope, is smart enough to appreciate a female without having her femininity shoved down their throats. Brocklehurst doesn't completely destroy the character of Helen; she does have some redeeming qualities that make her independent of the men that surround her, but it's the persistence reminder that she is a woman that lessens her ability to standout has a powerful lead.
Aside from his inability to create a worthwhile lead, Brocklehurst's story relies on conventional tropes to build drama, but it does help to bring some life to the program. The drama unfolds fairly conventionally, but there seems to be something enticing and sinister about the small town in Derbyshire. But the inclusion of random scenes to, I assume, "build character" does nothing for the story except disrupt the pace of the drama. It's by far not a perfect screenplay, but it is interesting enough to keep you watching.
A positive standout of the program is MyAnna Buring as Helen. She leads the cast with a strong performance and does the best she can with a fairly one-dimensional character.
Overall, In the Dark delivers on causal drama, but struggles to create a believable and relevant female lead.
In the Dark airs on BBC One on Tuesday nights at 9