(Warning – contains spoilers, so turn away now if you haven’t seen the episode)
The third and final episode of The Escape Artist was strange. In a way, it was extremely satisfying to see the way that Will took control of things, and used his famed intelligence and acute legal mind to engineer the perfect revenge.
Looking back at the first episode, though, I’m not sure the climax lived up to the situation that had been set up. Liam Foyle was one of the most frightening villains I’ve seen in a long time. He carried that air of menace that Hannibal Lecter had in The Silence of the Lambs – you would be terrified to be alone with him. You’d be terrified just knowing he was in the world, out there somewhere.
I expected a massive showdown between Foyle and Will – Foyle had shown such an aptitude for psychological torture – but when the confrontation came it was over fairly briefly. Foyle’s death was suitably nasty, with the camera in so close we could see little flecks of spit shooting up as he spluttered for air, and he did the usual monster thing of getting up for one last swing at our hero, but essentially he was dealt with far too easily.
It came back to the title, I think. “The Escape Artist” is the kind of nickname that serial killers are given (Buffalo Bill, the Zodiac Killer), but in this case it applied to the hero, never-beaten defence lawyer Will Burton. He got the name because he could find a loophole or a way out of any difficult situation and win a case. The case he had to win in this episode was his own, defending himself against a charge of murder, which he did by planning the murder so well that the escape was already built in, even though it relied heavily on coincidences and implausibilities. In the end, it was Will’s story, and because Will was David Tennant it was never less than watchable and at times was completely gripping. I couldn’t help thinking it was a waste of a very scary villain, though.
Since The Escape Artist is a three-parter, I suppose we could call this episode the quiet movement. After the horror and shocks of last week’s opener, this one dealt with the aftermath of Kate’s death and its effect on Will and his son.
With Liam Foyle charged with the murder but very little actual evidence against him, it was going to take the finest legal mind in the country to get a conviction. The finest legal mind is, of course, Will – but as he’s a witness, he isn’t allowed to be part of the legal team.
Will is good at finding loopholes and he found a way round this problem as well. By secretly passing information to and fro a less high-flying member of his Chambers, he can be involved in the case without seeming to be involved.
Meanwhile Maggie Gardner, the second finest legal mind in the country, defending Foyle, gets the court to grant him bail. Like Will before her, she takes no pleasure in seeing Foyle go free and spends the rest of the episode being spooked by random sounds around her home.
The random sounds may have been Foyle, or they may not. He did have a busy episode, following Will’s son around in one very scary sequence and having a deranged rant at his solicitor in another. His alibi has been provided by a woman who seems to be completely in his thrall, and his treatment of her wasn’t nice at all.
But nobody died, because this was the quiet middle episode. Judging by the trailer for the final part, it looks like it’s all going to kick off next week. Will might get the justice he wants, but possibly not by legal means.
David Tennant plays hot-shot successful barrister Will Burton in this three-part drama, the first episode of which was on BBC1 last night. Specialising in defence work, he’s never lost a case even though he knows this means that some guilty people are now walking free thanks to his efforts. He also knows his career has meant him neglecting his wife and son, which he tries to put right with cosy family trips to a country cottage and birthday parties at his swanky all-glass-and-concrete London home.
Then he gets extremely nasty suspected killer Liam Foyle to defend. It seems like an unwinnable case as there’s so much evidence against Foyle, but winning is Will’s middle name and he finds holes in the prosecution’s case and the trial collapses. Will knows that Foyle is guilty, though, so he doesn’t shake his hand.
And that’s where the horror begins. Foyle is apparently a man who doesn’t like being snubbed – frankly, he’s a complete psychopath – and he turns up at the Burtons’ holiday cottage and murders his (pregnant) wife. I don’t jump easily at things on TV, but I lost contact with my chair for a second when Foyle suddenly appeared at the bathroom window. This was even spookier when we discovered that the bathroom was on the first floor.
To further heap trouble on Will, Foyle is arrested and Will discovers that he’s going to be defended by Will’s old sparring partner, colleague and possibly ex-girlfriend Maggie (Sophie Okonedo), who resents always coming second to Will and fancies a go at defence work.
It was an interesting set-up with some genuinely scary moments. Toby Kebbell plays Foyle as a Michael Moon from EastEnders sort of psychopath – I kept seeing Steve John Shepherd in every twitch of the cheek and still, watchful pause. David Tennant is never less than brilliant. He started the episode all glossy and successful, and by the end he was a shattered, bereaved man finding the beliefs he’d formerly held at work (that everyone deserves a decent defence) coming back to haunt him.