Zen – Vendetta (BBC TV, produced by Left Bank Pictures)

Zen Many discover the ability to apply more patience as they get older; they might even learn to treasure this new found virtue.  On first viewing of Vendetta, I found the launch episode of Zen to be a little dull, with all the slow burn scenarios delivering dying embers within the all-encompassing sepia frames of Italy presented.  (Where was the colour?)  But on a second viewing, courtesy of BBC’s iplayer, I saw much more and appreciated the contrast.  It wasn’t perfection, but hey, it was promising.

Vendetta offered two plot strands, opening with the thriller element of a man pursuing his plan of vendetta executions. Before we could say ‘Who? Why? Can he be stopped?’, the second strand sputtered in by Piaggio and here we had a tidy crime puzzle requiring Aurelio Zen’s investigative attention: a man convicted of murder had found God and was now declaring he had not committed the murder.  As they’d had a confession for the conviction and Zen admitted he’d considered the investigation ‘lax’, he had his work cut out on the re-investigation.  Political interest only added to the stresses of honest Aurelio.


The producers of Zen also made the UK’s successful Wallander series and, as with Wallander, they decided the setting should speak for itself and that the British actors should keep their home accents.  Again, as with Wallander, I found this a trial requiring some bedding-in to accept.  (In my case, two viewings of the first episode and a single viewing of the second for Zen.)  What made it worse was the presence of regional accents, from London to Yorkshire, and with Ben Miles delivering his lines in ‘to Whitehall born’ format.  By the time we were introduced to a feral young woman, if and when she spoke, I was expecting cockney rhyming slang.

In interviews, Rufus Sewell (Zen) promised an element of fun with the character.  He said he hadn’t wanted to play him without some laughs.  And they came.  The best one had to be when the recently separated Zen was propositioned by an interviewee.  Shocked, he politely declines and is asked ‘What’s the matter? You don’t like sex?’  Zen replies ‘No, I remember it very fondly, I just…’

These were perfectly executed lines from Sewell.

On first sight this was all chiselled cheekbones in Italy and a very high gloss production, albeit in temperate sepia or darkened rooms.  On second viewing, I really enjoyed it and started to want to know more about the characters.  Patience can indeed be a virtue that delivers many times.

3 thoughts on “Zen – Vendetta (BBC TV, produced by Left Bank Pictures)

  1. Yvonne Johnston

    Have to say I found the 2nd episode a lot better than the 1st. But what I really want to see is the return of the Italian TV series Mantalbano to BBC4. I loved the 1st series which was shown 3/4 years ago but there has been no mention of a second series to be shown on UK TV.

  2. L C Tyler

    I tend to read rather than watch crime fiction, but I’ve seen all three episodes of Zen and think that it is great fun – for all the reasons you mention. I certainly hope that the BBC give us more of it.

  3. Ian Synge

    Just watched the 1st one – almost in two parts (1st half on plane back from Oslo, before sleep took precedence then a full run through tonight) and loved it. I figured it took the Wallander format and polished it a bit more, perhaps making the most of the humour running through Dibdin’s writing. It’s also reassuring that the character of Zen is a little bit of a worm, but not so unbelievably flawed as to stretch credibility. Sincerely resisting temptation to mainline remaining two and instead ration them out!

Comments are closed.