James Walton

Quietly radiates a wholly justified confidence: BBC 1’s The Pact reviewed

Plus: unhinged Victoriana from Sky and Important Television from Amazon Prime

Unhinged Victoriana: Laura Donnelly as Amalia True in The Nevers. Credit: ©2021 Warner Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved

There was certainly no lack of variety among new TV dramas this week, with a standard British thriller up against more glamorous American competition in the shape of some extravagant Victorian sci-fi and an adaption by an Oscar-winning director of a Pulitzer-winning novel. (All three, mind you, did naturally feature a one-dimensional white bloke as the embodiment of sexist and/or racist villainy.) The surprising thing at this stage is that it’s the plucky British show that looks most promising.

The Pact began, like many a thriller before it, with a frightened woman running through some dark woods. So far we still don’t know why — unless it was just force of TV habit. Then again, this is a programme that’s in no hurry to divulge its secrets, with the big revelations deployed mainly as end-of-episode cliffhangers.

Somehow pleasingly, the action kicked off with a piss-up in a brewery. (Cue several shots of people having several shots.) The fun, however, was soon undermined by the brewery’s new boss, Jack, who broke off from snorting coke only to insult the women he didn’t consider attractive and to sexually assault the ones he did. Fortunately, he then passed out in mid-assault — at which point four of his female employees decided to teach him a lesson by driving him to the woods, pulling his trousers down, taking photos and leaving him there. Less fortunately, when two of them returned in a fit of conscience to bring him back, they found him dead. And with that, the quartet formed the pact of the title to say nothing about what they’d done.

The surprising thing at this stage is that it’s the plucky British show that looks most promising

In practical terms, this meant that they huddled together as a nervous foursome in different parts of the brewery, while glancing round suspiciously (in both senses) and whispering a lot.

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