The Level is a twisty British procedural on Acorn TV about a National Crime Division inspector who was secretly making investigations into her drug-trafficking father figure “go away”. When he is murdered, she is sent back to her home town of Brighton to solve the crime. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people in Brighton that could have done it. The case is complicated by several factors: she witnessed the murder but didn’t tell her superiors, she is working with a new team, and there is clearly a mole keeping the killer one step ahead of the cops. Meanwhile, she must reckon with her ex-cop, alcoholic father (Gil Devlin), who still lives in the family home.
A Painful Goodbye
DS Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome) is awarded a medal for bravery in an incident that we never see. Later that night, as she is celebrating with her co-worker DS Kevin O’Dowd (Robert James-Collier, FAR from Downtown Abbey), she gets a call that has her rushing out the door. Turns out she is meeting a man who is like a father figure to her, Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister), who tells her he needs her help because he’s really in trouble “this time”. “You mean more than just steering investigations away from you?” she says. Before he can answer, he is gunned down. She takes off, but the killer has noticed that there is a witness, although he can’t tell who it is because it’s winter and she is bundled up. While she manages to get away, she also gets shot. The bullet goes clean through, but now she has left DNA at the scene. Nonetheless, she doesn’t tell her superiors (or anyone) she was at the scene of the crime.
Nobody’s On The Level
Much to Nancy’s surprise, her boss decides to send her to Brighton, where both Le Saux and Nancy are from, to work on the case. Because Nancy grew up with Le Saux’s daughter Hayley (Laura Haddock), her boss figures she will be an asset to the investigation. I think it sounds like a conflict of interest, but hey, it’s TV! An already complicated situation gets even messier, because Nancy can’t tell Hayley she saw her dad gunned down, and her new partner, DS Gunner Martin (Noel Clarke), is watching her like a hawk, and then her almost-lover and police partner DS O’Dowd shows up to work the organized crime angle. Meanwhile, someone is leaking information about the investigation to the key suspect, shady local businessman Duncan Elliot (Geoff Bell), who manages to stay just on the right side of the law, despite his connections with Le Saux. Neither Nancy, nor the audience, know who to trust.
The Level moves at a good clip, and although there are many characters, including Frank’s developmentally disabled son, his viper of a wife, his driver, and Hayley’s menacing ex-boyfriend in the mix, it’s never confusing. Of course, there are several red herrings, but they all seem reasonable. As always, everyone has secrets they’d rather the cops not know, even if they aren’t the killer. And while Nancy is trying to hide her secret while simultaneously working to uncover everyone else’s, her mentally ill mother escapes her care facility, and she is stuck bunking with her abusive father. But she slogs through. The only part of The Level that I didn’t like was Nancy’s romantic interactions. The chemistry wasn’t there with either candidate for her affection. But that’s a small beef with an otherwise gripping series that dangles you off a cliff at the end of each episode.
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