Intruders episode 1, She Was Provisional, begins in 1990, in Barstow, California, with a young girl called Donna (Katherine Evans) being woken up in the middle of the night by some unmasked men claiming they’re there to return to her a secret which she gave to them some years ago, apparently due to her asking, and they say they’re there to “shepherd her”. She doesn’t seem to recognise them as she vomits in utter shock. While she has a mini-breakdown in the corner of her room, rocking back and forth, muttering in Arabic, the men leave her a return flight ticket to Seattle…
…along with a black card that has a white ‘9’ inscribed on it in a Gothic-style font.
Next morning, she wakes up on the grass outside her house, but why? Soon after, she writes a letter, seals it in an envelope, addressed to Tony Fischer, and then gets into a bath and takes her own life.
Fast forward to present-day Seattle, and an apparent FBI cop is looking for a Bill Anderson. Since he’s calling in the middle of the night, you can guess he’s not really a cop, especially when he executes the two people inside and then torches the house and escapes before the real cops show up.
Moving on to Birch Crossing, Washington, and ex-cop turned author Jack Whelan (John Simm, sporting an American accent) is married to Amy (Mira Sorvino, still looking damn fine at 47), who’s celebrating her birthday… well, she doesn’t want to, as she hates them.
In Reno, Nevada, there’s anonymous podcaster Oz Turner (David Dastmalchian), calling himself Professor Perdu, making recordings about this Bill Anderson, while in Finley Beach, Oregon, a young girl called Madison (Millie Brown) is celebrating her 9th birthday. There’s a lot of spooky nonsense going about, as while she’s oiutside, the younger of the two mysterious men, Richard Shepherd (James Frain) – who also bumped off Anderson’s two relatives earlier, shows up. He doesn’t kill her, but instead leaves her some sort of token.
We learn that Bill Anderson, an acoustics engineering professor at the University of Washington, is into studying the sounds output from organ pipes which are too out of our frequency range for humans to hear, and through that we can attain immortality through reincarnation (Huh?). And if Amy is hiding her love of jazz music from Jack, why is the unknown number on her phone only leading to a loud jazzy tune?
Meanwhile, Amy has gone missing, and her work diary from her birthday onwards is mysteriously empty…
So, episode one throws a number of balls up into the air, and you know they’ll land at some point, but how and when? It did often feel rather too clever for its own good, and while it never outstayed its welcome, it was not as satisfying as I’d hoped for, although we did get confirmation that Madison used to be Marcus, and apparently Richard brought her back too early, which gives us a bit more confusion.
As da yoof of today would say, “Da fuq?”
And Here… You Must Listen is episode 2, where Madison boards a present day train, with a ticket that’s clearly been given to her as it’s otherwise identical to the one we saw in the first episode. This time, the number 9 manifests itself on the cover of a book she is holding, with the words inscribed inside: “In the beginning, there was death.” Also in her possession is an envelope full of cash and a key that must open something.
As it goes on, Jack dreams about Amy being back, but that she’s wittering in Russian, and when she snaps out of it, she says that “everything begins with death”; the similarly hirsute Tim Truth (Toby Hargrave) takes over from Oz Turner’s podcast; Madison’s mum is revealed having an affair with a Nick Golson – something which seems irrelevant here, but her estranged husband seemed upset by it, despite never being around much; there’s unexplained, unrecognisable voices on the phone telling Jack that Amy is gone; and George the cabbie – who found Amy’s phone in the back of his cab – tells Jack that his wife told him she was from Russia, that she was in the czar’s secret police and assassinated a labour strike leader in 1883.
There’s also touches of the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown in here, as you’re trying to piece together a mystery that just makes no sense whatsoever.
And what’s with the phrase “qui reverti”?
And Here… You Must Listen continues the triumph of visuals and style over substance – rather like director Eduardo Sánchez‘s overhyped The Blair Witch Project, and as is also hinted in his new horror film, Exists, as Jack goes looking for his wife at her office, and finds a bizarre reception phone on a pillar which lights up during the call, then goes off as the receiver is replaced.
Also, everything’s filmed in a permanently dark style, as if no-one has any access to electric light.
However, by the end of the second episode, there’s a little bit more learned about Amy’s apparent past, while throwing in some more confusion.
So far, Intruders is not brilliant, but it’s watchable. It hasn’t bored me, and I think John Simm is one of Britain’s most engaging actors, so I’m drawn to anything with him in it. Quite whether Intruders can stretch this out to eight episodes, and maintain my slight interest, I’m not sure, but then again, it’s only slipping out a minute amount of information per episode, so I hope that, exponentially, more gaps will be filled in each time as the series progresses. That said, there’s a great performance in this from Millie Brown as the young Madison, outshining most people off the screen.
Intruders is broadcast on BBC2 at 9pm every Monday, starting with a double bill October 27th, and you can catch up on the BBC Iplayer.
Score: 6/10 for both episodes
Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Producers: John Martini and Angie Stephenson
Screenplay: Glen Morgan (based on the book “The Intruders” by Michael Marshall Smith)
Creator: Glen Morgan
Music: Bear McCreary
Jack Whelan: John Simm
Amy Whelan: Mira Sorvino
Richard Shepherd: James Frain
Madison O’Donnell: Millie Brown
Gary Fischer: Tory Kittles
Bobbi Zimmerman: Karin Konoval
Brud Zimmerman: Tom Butler
Oz Turner: David Dastmalchian
Allison O’Donnell: Sonya Salomaa
Frank Shepherd: Robert Forster
Donna Albert: Katherine Evans
Young Jack Whelan: Dylan Wolfe
Young Gary Fischer: Shamier Anderson
Donna’s Mom: Joanne Wilson
Judy Anderson: Kathleen Duborg
Matt Anderson: Donnie MacNeil
Marcus: Connor Dunn
Todd Crane: Andrew Airlie
Chinese Old Lady: Grace Fatkin
Brud Zimmerman: Tom Butler
Simon O’Donnell: David Lewis
Sheriff: Steve Makaj
Tim Truth: Toby Hargrave
George Brackett: Peter Bryant
Chinese Fighter: Paul Wu
Marcus Fox: Alex Diakun
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.