Starz | Sky Atlantic | Peacock | Release Date: September 6, 2018
8.0
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Generally favorable reviews based on 6 Ratings
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steveymeAug 24, 2020
Can't understand the good critical reviews. Laughable shark jumping story and full of obnoxious chavvy characters. So, so bad.
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8
Bertaut1Dec 3, 2020
Nelson "Nelly" Rowe (Lennie James) is a popular self-styled womaniser living on a Deptford council estate in London, whose life is turned upside down when he is arrested on suspicion of kidnapping his thirteen-year-old daughter JodyNelson "Nelly" Rowe (Lennie James) is a popular self-styled womaniser living on a Deptford council estate in London, whose life is turned upside down when he is arrested on suspicion of kidnapping his thirteen-year-old daughter Jody (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), whom he hasn't seen in ten years. After convincing the police of his innocence, and frustrated with the way the case is progressing, Nelly decides to take matters into his own hands and try to track down Jody himself.

From a plot perspective, the first season of Save Me starts very slowly, but what it does do extremely well is build up a background of small details that help establish the milieu as authentic and lived-in. The housing estate in Deptford is essentially a character in itself, and the glimpses of the denizens going about their idiosyncratic ways gives an almost documentarian tone – from the guy doing tai chi on his balcony to the kids kicking a football at one another, to the young lesbian couple stealing a kiss against a wall, to the meditating Buddhist, to the couple dancing slowly on a basketball court, to the woman in a burka carrying a skateboard, to the older folk watching it all happen day after day, it's a paean to the real lives that people lead in this kind of community. Indeed, one of the most consistent themes is the importance community in general. Elsewhere, the penultimate episode features a 'rape' scene that's exceptionally difficult to watch, but not for the reasons you'd think, and which offers a fascinating portrayal of how potent sexual power dynamics can be.

Lennie James, who also wrote the show, is predictably enthralling, with a simmering rage just below the surface, which is constantly threatening to boil over. Stephen Graham plays Fabio "Melon" Melonzola, a convicted sex offender trying to put the past behind him, bringing his usual chameleonic abilities to a difficult part. Suranne Jones as Claire McGory, Jody's mother, isn't really given a huge amount to do beyond a few generic scenes as the quintessential worried parent, it she plays the part well, going with subtlety and shock rather than histrionics. Strangely, a subplot involving her husband Barry (Barry Ward) is inexplicably dropped in the penultimate episode. These missteps notwithstanding, the season is a fine amalgamation of a Ken Loach warts-and-all tone with a more thriller-esque core that's well directed by Nick Murphy.

Picking up eighteen months after the end of the first season, the second season, dubbed Save Me Too, also starts with slow early episodes which almost imperceptibly ramp up the tension, and once again, the last two episodes are exceptional. With this season's directorial duties split evenly between Jim Loach (son of Ken) and Coky Giedroyc, the show's aesthetic becomes slightly more adventurous (the second episode, for example, is primarily a flashback, whilst other episodes place us more directly in Nelly's head, with a more noticeable sense of subjectivity), but not to the point of distracting from what remains the core of the story – realistic characterisation.

Just as with the first season, the second is far more interested in characters than plot, and once again, James and Graham are exceptional. James goes all-in on Nelly's bull-in-a-china-shop mentality, making the character, if anything, less attractive than he was in the first season. He's still got the twinkle in the eye, but the events of the last year and a half have definitely had an impact on him. Never the most tactful character, his tendency to shout first and ask questions the next day after he's calmed down is even more apparent than before. And although characters such as Clair and Barry drop into the background a little, others come to the fore and help to expand the milieu; there's Tam (Jason Flemyng), Nelly's kind-hearted cross-dressing friend; Bernie (Alice May Feetham), Melon's conflicted wife; Stace (Susan Lynch, who may or may not be in love with Nelly; Zita (Camilla Beeput, Nelly's girlfriend; and, especially, Grace (an exceptional and emotionally devastating performance from Olive Gray), who was once held by the same people who took Jody.
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