Thirteen, episode 1 – review

“Comer plays Ivy’s fragility and distance to great effect.”

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© BBC

Written by Michael Lee.

Thirteen years is a very long time indeed. If you were to be cut off from the world in 2003 and re-emerge now you’d be shocked to find a world where Girls Aloud have split and flip phones with 2 megapixel cameras are extinct as Dinosaurs. Thirteen, BBC3’s first major drama in its online form has more pressing matters at its heart. Ivy Moxam’s escape from her captor in the opening scene sets in motion a series of suspicion, family dysfunction and reunions with former friends who have moved on since she went missing.

It comes as a great compliment to say, that despite being a work of fiction from upcoming writer Marnie Dickens, if it wasn’t known otherwise you’d be convinced you were watching a biopic. In style it has clear influences of nordic noir in its slow, sweeping shots, tinkling piano and bass that rattles the ear during the especially tense moments à la Broadchurch. Despite this it does not fall into caricature because tonally it feels in keeping with the story being told.

Jodie Comer plays Ivy’s fragility and distance to great effect, never letting the viewer in, in just the same way she keeps her family at arm’s length. She doesn’t feel wonderment at the outside world but fear and confusion and Jodie’s jittery performance shows all this laid bare. DI Elliot Carne (Richard Rankin) may be a man caught up in her headlights. He is clearly affected by her situation while she might be offering a different form of affection in return.  There are strong hints this could take a very bad turn in time. When he tells Ivy to stop “living on pause” we see the first glimmer of a spark in her eyes but this most unexpected of returns has had a very different effect on her family. They’ve all pressed rewind, including her dad whose left his lover and moved back in to portray the illusion that nothing has changed.

This being a drama there will be many threads to keep us occupied. Tim (Aneurin Barnard) her childhood sweetheart is in a relationship, the headmaster of the school has been tangled up in the investigation and we have plenty more to discover about best friend Eloise. On top of all that there’s a kidnapper on the loose too. The next four episodes look set to be a double-handed adventure of crime drama and a young women’s recovery from the abyss.  Thank goodness we don’t have to wait thirteen years until episode two.