fri 19/07/2024

Born to Kill finale, Channel 4 review – a full-blown psychotic nightmare | reviews, news & interviews

Born to Kill finale, Channel 4 review – a full-blown psychotic nightmare

Born to Kill finale, Channel 4 review – a full-blown psychotic nightmare

Did psychopathic Sam inherit his father's demon seed?

Like father like son? Jack Rowan and Richard Coyle in 'Born to Kill'

Was it just a coincidence that budding serial killer Sam attended Ripley Heath High? Probably not. Born to Kill, written by Tracey Malone and Kate Ashfield, was keenly aware that it followed in the bloody footsteps of both real sociopaths such as Harold Shipman and fictional ones such as Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. And what a dance it led us!

Over the past four weeks on Channel 4 we have seen the schoolboy move from the edge of things – a diving board, a wooded hollow where he hid his trophy tin, a birthday party for his only friend’s father – to the centre of a full-blown psychotic nightmare. Furious at his mother Jenny (Romola Garai, pictured below) for telling him his father Peter (Richard Coyle, right) was dead instead of banged-up for murder, Sam (Jack Rowan) ran away to join him when he was released. Last night’s finale made him realize that he had made a very big mistake.

Along the way, before his midnight baptism in Cardiff Bay, Sam had murdered a cancer patient in his bed (Karl Johnson), the nurse (Sharon Small) who cared for him – in her bath at home – and the grandmother of his girlfriend Chrissy (Lara Peake, pictured below with Jack Rowan). If his dweeby schoolchum Oscar (Earl Cave) got off lightly when he was beaten up in the showers (more of which later), Chrissy came within a split-second of being strangled. The fact that she wasn’t suggested that Sam himself might even be saved. Perhaps he could feel something other than rage.Born to KillUnlike Dennis Nilsen, Sam killed for thrills (and knowledge) rather than company. His obsession with death filled the void left by his supposedly dead father. When he was finally forced to see a shrink (Lolita Chakrabarti), she calmly concluded the 16-year-old was suffering from “extreme shock”. And when, at last, we saw what had caused the trauma – Peter assaulting his mother and murdering his loving stepfather after kicking young Sam into a lake – the viewer experienced extreme shock too. The shot of a pair of child’s empty wellingtons sinking through the sunlit water was both horrifying and haunting.

This flashback occurred when Sam – deliberately knocked overboard from his father’s escape craft – was drowning once again. If this was too neat, the human messiness above the surface was not. Peter had never been interested in his son. All he wanted was revenge on Jenny for leaving him. Sam, emerging from the sea, saved his mother by clonking Peter on the head with an anchor. Twice. As the cops escorted him away, Sam assured Jenny: “I’ll be fine.”

Maybe, maybe not. At least the truth was finally out there. Had Sam inherited his father’s demon seed? It was difficult to believe anything the boy said. Jack Rowan deserves a BAFTA for his portrayal of Sam. It’s not easy to show someone putting on a performance but throughout the series it was clear Sam was saying the right thing while, at the same time, something inside him was seriously off.

The whole production was unsettling. Director Bruce Goodison had the confidence to start slowly and let the creepy atmosphere of buried secrets and suppressed violence build and build. Curtains blocked the light in every poky interior – except that of Oscar’s modern, minimalist home where Sam ached to be a part of the happy family. Chrissy’s ailing grandmother’s wood-panelled house lent a touch of gothic to the parallel story of a bereaved detective (Daniel Mays) and his difficult daughter. The scenes between Sam and Chrissy were some of the very best – sometimes sexy, sometimes weird – and evoked memories of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in Terrence Malick’s Badlands.

The xylophonic theme from the movie (Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer) was conspicuous by its absence from Sam Sim’s innovative, eclectic score. Again, subverting expectations, the fight in the school showers – shot in blood red – could have seemed like a scene from Carry On Carrie, but didn’t.

Everyone in the production deserves more than a pat on the back – including, for once, the whole cast (which is why this review contains so many names). Garai was quivery, Coyle – sniffing his son’s girlfriend – unsavoury and Mays a well-meaning worm-on-the-turn. Even the thankless role of Chrissy’s grandmother, a vicious cow called Margaret, was wickedly played by Elizabeth Counsell, channelling Catherine Tate’s Nan. I, for one, wasn’t sorry to see her go. Good can come from evil.

Director Bruce Goodison let the creepy atmosphere of buried secrets and suppressed violence build and build


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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