Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Serpent


A eight part British TV drama with only one British speaking part I can recall (a consular official who looks a bit like Lord Lucan after some disappointing plastic surgery and does little more than grunt), and thus an opportunity for a range of my nation's upcoming thesps to show off their knack for accents. 

Tim McInnerny, perhaps the least upcoming of them, abandons all pretence of being authentically Belgian after his first appearance, reverting to and remaining at loud, blustering generic foreigner for the duration. Billy Howle and Ellie Bamber seem a bit more up for it, however. 

And poor old Jenna Coleman has to speak actual French, though as a Québecoise not in a manner that is recognisably such. (She's perhaps a bit too relentlessly stylish here throughout, I eventually concluded. If there was some cognitive dissonance on offer on my fairly recent trip to Montreal, it was that here is a city where the population speak French and dress, well, like Canadians.)

All of this may be helping to disguise one piece of casting with the potential for some real controversy: Tahar Rabim, playing a man of mixed European and East Asian parentage.

There's a handful of as-cast foreigners in the show too. Mathilde Warnier almost certainly hired as Nadine for her conspicuous ability to deliver oblique, intensely-apprehensive glances worthy of a Mexican telenovela. And the first couple of episodes feature two objectionable Aussies, played of course by actual Antipodeans, so as not to offend. 

Yet all this confabulated exoticism, combined with a timeline that behaves like a Mexican jumping bean, undoubtedly contributes to the charm of this thriller, for the most part set in Bangkok and in the 70s. It tracks the career of a chillingly chippy psycho who preys upon 'young intrepids with big dreams', or those seemingly known to embassy personnel  in Thailand as 'long hairs'. 

The fundamental clash of worldviews is teased and yet not fully developed. It all ends up a bit in the wind, rather like (spoiler alert) my favourite character Ajay, played by relative newcomer Amesh Edireweera. 

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