Gritty cop drama set against a polarised society where the lines between good and bad are blurry. This could have been great, but the uneven writing at times mean it’s just pretty good.
This review of Big Dogs (Amazon Prime) is spoiler-free.
In the shadow of an economic collapse, society has fractured into two distinct camps, the haves, and the have-nots. In this dysfunctional view of an alternative reality, people are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to either advance or protect their position, including the police.
Okay, so let’s start with the obvious and slightly awkward unintended socio-economic context. Big Dogs (Amazon Prime) was clearly made before Covid-19 torpedoed the global economy and the death of George Floyd provoked a long-overdue examination of the role of police authority through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement. This unexpected and unprecedented turn of events hang heavily over a viewing of Big Dogs and unavoidably impacts our interpretation of the show. For the purposes of this review, I am going to attempt to set that aside and try and review the show on its own terms, as its creators would have presumably wanted.
So, with that dispensed with, what do we think of Big Dogs, the neo-noir crime drama that comes uncomfortably close to representing our current reality?
Striking visuals and a strong aesthetic give the show a distinctive look that ground the narrative in a believable world. The production team has done a good job of creating an alternate reality where things look and feel similar to our world but just a little different. The show strikes a good balance between slick and seedy, and grimy and desperate – representing both sides of the world that it portrays.
The characters seem to occupy varying shades of grey, no one is good, many are bad, and most somehow sit somewhere in the middle. Given the moral ambiguity at the heart of Big Dogs, it is to the show’s credit that it doesn’t plump for too many simple resolutions for the characters. That is not to say that the script is above falling back on cliché, however, with plenty of awkward exchanges between the core cast.
The pacing is an issue. In many episodes, we skip back and forth; some scenes feel rushed and undercooked whilst others outstay their welcome. The effect is occasionally somehow both frustrating and boring at the same time. There are moments in each episode, especially in the middle of the season, where it’s genuinely compelling viewing with suspense that builds to create some brilliant drama, however, that is often buttressed by some pretty weak writing in the following scene.
I would have liked to like Big Dogs more than I really did. There is a lot of promise and all the right elements are there to make an interesting social thriller/cop show. Sadly, however, the clunky writing and at times overplayed acting undermines the effect of what could have been a smart and well put together show. It’s not entirely without its pleasures, however, and If you are looking for a dystopia to distract you from the one in which we all currently find ourselves living then this could certainly be worth a whirl.
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Andy joined the Ready Steady Cut team in October 2018. A Graduate of Exeter University, he writes mainly about films and TV.