In 2010, BBC2 brought us Vexed which might have been better titled ‘Flummoxed’. All it proved was satire and slapstick don’t mate well for cop shows.
Similarly, last night’s Eternal Law threw up a legal drama with a difference. We were asked to believe that the finest legal eagles in the City of York are angels. (Yes, there’s no typo there. That does say ‘angels’.) Zak Gist (Samuel West) and Tom Greening (Ukweli Roach) arrived on earth one night, dropping into the corn fields of Yorkshire. They were suitably attired for the office so it was quite handy that Yorkshire’s fields of corn are immaculate and perfectly manicured as there was not a mark on either of them. They then appeared to walk into York where they were greeted by their housekeeper (and manager), Orla Brady’s Mrs Sheringham. They had a house for all their needs and were later introduced to their chambers which the more senior Gist immediately declared as unsuitable.
Before we go on, let’s be clear about the seniority factor here. Gist is a recycled angel legal eagle who has seen it all before but Greening’s on his first angel outing. Thus Greening exhibits a whimsical and innocent outlook finding wonder in all he sees from frogs and field mice to ladybirds. Unfortunately, this facet of personality also carries through to his working life. Greening is so green you have to wonder how he can possibly be a barrister. If he was in Silk you can be sure Martha Costello would not have given him a pupillage. Rumpole would probably have eaten him for breakfast and then regurgitated him into a nice, chatty driver to chauffeur him to the courts.
Meanwhile, Gist has arrived in York to a personal conflict; cue sub-plot of Gist personal tension and character development. These angels have to abide by rules such as no involvement, no intervention and no love interest. Gist has obviously been naughty on this in the past as his recycling into a new body allows him to recognise blast from the past, Hannah (Hattie Morahan), but she does not recognise him. Cue much yearning and persuasion as Gist knows the risks at hand and wants to protect her.
They have all barely arrived in York before a sniper lets rip on the street market and parties to a wedding. This makes for the angels’ first case and they are on the defence side for their mission is to make the world a better place and to guide people to know the consequences of their actions. The prosecuting barrister Richard Pembroke (Tobias Menzies) is a pantomime nasty-piece-of-work, but then, he is a fallen angel. There’s a wonderful scene with him walking down a narrow cobbled street snorting, as if the inhalation of York’s vapours replenish his stock of dastardly deeds for the next round.
If this one was to be renamed it might qualify as ‘Eternal Madness’. It’s proof that people will work to pay bills as well as for critical acclaim, but you have ask why it was commissioned. Perhaps it will settle in, embed and become adorable by its sixth and final episode for its whimsy. But based on the first episode it’s just weird and not in a wonderful way. On ITV player now.