‘The Escape Artist’ – Episode 1 Review

The fate of The Escape Artist’s family is quite literally in his hands.

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Sitting down to watch the preview of David Wolstencroft‘s The Escape Artist – the creator of one of my all-time favourite shows (Spooks) – I was optimistic. Not because of Spooks but because I admire his writing. The drama is well-written, acted and thought-provoking, quite scary (I’m sure that relaxing bath no longer looks so appealing), but above all made the audience question what I’d like to term the middle ground of justice. Which I shall explain as the review progresses…

The series focuses on Will Burton (David Tennant), a unbeaten junior defence barrister who has masterminded manipulating the loop holes and legalities of the system to get his guilty clients cases overthrown, earning himself the nickname ‘The Escape Artist.’ Tennant plays with the magnificent range we’ve come to expect of him, perfectly cast as a barrister who knows how to hold the room, yet displays such vulnerability when needed. Sophie Okoneno also stars as Maggie Gardner a ambitiously driven prosecution barrister vying to beat Will.

Will’s perfect life, which consists of his loving wife Kate (played by Ashley Jensen) and their young son Jamie (Gus Barry), is shattered when he takes on the case of Liam Foyle (played brilliantly by Toby Kebbell), a man who I’d describe as a chillingly polite psychopath. Liam is accused of brutally murdering a women. With seemingly tight evidence against him, Will again weaves his magic and gets him off but makes the vital mistake of avoiding shaking Liam’s hand after (Will’s moral line differs out of the court room it would seem?), a dismissal Liam doesn’t take too kindly. Manners don’t cost anything as they say, and Will soon finds out at a shocking price when he returns to find Liam has brutally murdered Will’s wife Kate in their holiday cottage with his son Jamie hiding. Maggie, much to Will’s anger takes on the case of representing Liam in Kate’s murder trial.

David Wolstencroft describes this 3-parter as a personal journey because it comes after his own feelings towards the justice system after having experienced it in a civil case. I myself have also experienced the court system (again a civil case) and you quickly learn that the law isn’t about justice; it’s about playing the game and fitting a certain criteria regardless of guilt, justice or humanity.

And this is where the middle ground of justice rears it’s head. I had to think long and hard how I wanted the series to progress and my initial thoughts were I wanted Liam of course to pay for his crimes. But I also felt there was blame attributed to Will because if he hadn’t helped a guilty man evade the law, then his wife and any further victims would’ve been saved. Should Will expect justice when he’s cheated so many others? That’s not to say he or his wife deserved their fate and I’d still want Liam caught. So then the conclusion, however hypocritical is still yes he should. But then I became more annoyed at the legal system itself for allowing these loop holes to exist to be exploited. It’s full of questions and intrigue but highly frustrating too. I have no idea how David Wolstencroft plans to end the story, I have my theories… But they could yet be well off the mark if I’ve misread the intention of the story. I’m enjoying the mystery so far though.

Does justice prevail? That would depend on your own experiences. On the whole I don’t think it does, because the legal system from my experience isn’t really about justice anymore. But one things for certain the thrilling ride of The Escape Artist is enough to keep me coming back for more to see if how the story fuses together the moral and legal implications and what the outcome of the trial will be and how realistically it’s resolved (in the confines of drama obviously).