Too Close certainly makes good on its promise of an intimate, slow-burn mystery, but it’s a bit too sure of itself to notice how rife with cliche it is.
This recap of Too Close episode 1 contains spoilers.
ITV’s new three-part cat-and-mouse whydunit Too Close was advertised as a morbid bit of work, and it makes good on that promise right from the opening scenes. In them, Connie Mortensen (Denise Gough) drives her car off a bridge with two children, one of them her own, in the backseat. It’s intended to make a point, and it certainly does so, but scenes of this sort of grim power are few and far between. There’s really only one other in this opening episode, right towards the end, and the rest is interminable conversations between Connie and forensic psychologist Dr Emma Robertson (Emily Watson), a woman with her own fair share of baggage.
The British press and indeed public seem pretty mixed on Too Close – the Telegraph hated it and the Guardian loved it when it seems to be that the reality is somewhere more in the middle. It’s rife with cliché, for sure, and it’s so convinced of its own profundity that it’s difficult to like. The next we see Connie, she’s balding, bruised, and bloodshot, and suddenly a smug armchair psychologist who starts predictably psychoanalyzing Emma. This stuff goes on for so long that I was convinced the show had nothing else to offer until that chilling late scene I mentioned above, in which Connie laughs hysterically at the sight of her own daughter in intensive care before believably breaking down. Ah, I thought. So there’s the drama.
It helps that the acting is superb. Gough, in particular, is so good that you almost forget the ridiculousness of the makeup and wig as she spars with Emma, who is determinedly by the book but one suspects as a defence mechanism against dealing with the personal loss that drew her to this case. It’s a good, solid dynamic, and when it’s firing on all cylinders it really works. But when the script becomes too indulgent and fancies itself as much cleverer than it actually is, then the whole thing veers dangerously close to ridiculous tedium.
Flashbacks reveal more of Connie’s affluent former life in the suburbs of North London and her obviously important meeting with her new neighbour Vanessa (Thalissa Teixeira), a lesbian who expresses an immediate interest in Connie that is obviously reciprocated. Connie’s interest quickly becomes infatuation, though, which is as predictable as the hefty kitchen island that Emma coaxes her apathetic husband, Si (Risteard Cooper), into having sex with her on. ITV dramas all seem to exist in the same upper-middle-class microcosm.
So, it’s a mixed bag of an opener in Too Close episode 1. The gimmick of who’s really evaluating who is played out, and the more erratic side of Connie’s personality is grating, but there are powerhouse performances here, and the last-minute twist of Connie’s husband Karl (Jamie Sives) cosying up to Ness at least threatens to complicate the backstory. How successful the show ultimately ends up being will depend on whether it can rein Connie in and dig deeper into her complex interiority. Thus far, though, it seems a bit too impressed with itself.