If I could live my life over again my plan used to be that I’d make my fortune very early, spend my winters fox hunting through the season and my summers taking loads of ecstasy in Ibiza and having meaningless sex with beautiful strangers. But having seen the first two episodes of White Lines I’m not so sure about the second part of that equation: it all looks a bit sordid and depressing and really not much fun.
‘Do you know this is not making me want to live in Ibiza AT ALL,’ said the Fawn, as we watched, morosely. And I have to admit, I agree. I so wanted to enjoy this series. Dance music, pills, violence, intrigue, gorgeous locations, my lovely mate Laurence Fox as a ridiculous hippie guru with his personal sacred cow… it has so many of the right ingredients. But watching it feels strenuous and frustrating — not unlike when you’ve dropped an E and you’re waiting for ages for it to kick in but nothing seems to be happening.
Written by Alex Pina (who also scripted the stylish Spanish bank robbery thriller Money Heist), it’s about a strait-laced northern girl’s quest to find out what really happened to her DJ brother Axel in Ibiza 20 years ago, after his long-missing body is found bashed, stabbed and desiccated on the Almerian property of a rich and faintly sinister Ibizan club-owning family.
The problem with this whodunit/whydunit genre — Twin Peaks set the template for this — is that it allows for an awful lot of self-indulgent meandering, invariably leading to a dénouement so bathetic, and involving a plot revelation so tortured and convoluted that you wonder why you bothered. That’s why it’s so important with these things that on the way to your inevitable disappointment, you at least get to hang with a few characters you care about.
But so far — okay, I’m only two episodes in, but that’s the equivalent of a decent-length feature film — I find myself spectacularly uninvolved with any of the dramatis personae. I hate irksome, gobby, bleach-blond free spirit Axel Collins and quite understand why someone, everyone actually, would want him beaten up and killed. His old friends, such as bloated, fading DJ and drug dealer Marcus, are tragic losers. And his sister Zoe (Laura Haddock) sucks the joy out of every scene like a Dementor.
As our protagonist and guide, Zoe — a librarian who blossoms — just doesn’t work. I get the theory: female perspective; emotional journey; couples drama, rather than just boysy thriller. But that’s exactly the problem. It just feminises and waters down (with grisly themes like Zoe’s personal growth trajectory) what should essentially be a stylised, punchy, laddish caper in the spirit of the infinitely more exciting and edgier (and better acted) Mad Dogs.
Like White Lines, Mad Dogs was set in the Balearics, but it much more successfully captured the islands’ beauty and exotic glamour even as it had you continually on the edge of your seat wondering if any of the boys were going to get out of the spiralling chaos alive. Yes, there’s violence and gangsters too in White Lines but we’re almost in A-Team territory: when one character gets harpooned and another gets his leg broken by thugs, you’re never quite sure whether to scream or laugh cynically.
Oh, and there’s far too much sex in it. I feel awfully prudish saying this but whenever there’s an orgy sequence or whatever I keep having to fast-forward, which I suppose at least has the virtue of getting each episode over faster. I do want to know what happens, I suppose. But I wish it didn’t have to involve eight more hours of this mildly tedious caper going through its twisty-turny motions.
On the upside, I’ve now finished Fauda 3 and can reassure anyone who was worried that this season didn’t start quite as well as its predecessors: don’t fret, this is another cracker.
It’ll be a long, long time before Fauda 4 appears, though, and this — I fear — is going to be one of the worst consequences of the lockdown. So many productions of our favourite series have been put on hold that there is at some stage soon going to be a massive drama drought.