'London Kills' episode 1 review: A complex murder, murky backstories and twisted revelations help Acorn TV's latest show shine

There's thrill, there are complicated, twisted, staged murders, but most importantly there's a tension, making it the perfect UK thriller of the season


                            'London Kills' episode 1 review: A complex murder, murky backstories and twisted revelations help Acorn TV's latest show shine

This may contain spoilers for 'London Kills series 1 episode 1: The Politician's Son'

Acorn TV's first ever murder mystery drama, 'London Kills,' just premiered and by the looks of it, this show could help every fan of the genre have their faith restored. There's thrill, there are complicated, twisted, staged murders, but most importantly there's tension - and thankfully not the sexual kind yet, that the genre's shows have been seasoned with in the past - all of it making for quite the standout among its counterparts. 

The official synopsis of the show describes it as: "The world’s most exciting city is the backdrop for each of the murders investigated by an elite murder squad. This specialist group is headed by hugely experienced Detective Inspector David Bradford (Hugo Speer). He has just come back to work after compassionate leave – his wife has been missing for three months. David’s team comprises of ambitious Detective Sergeant Vivienne Cole (Sharon Small) who plays by her own rules, seasoned crime-solver Detective Constable Rob Brady (Bailey Patrick) and inexperienced Trainee Detective Constable Billie Fitzgerald (Tori Allen-Martin)."

And in the very first episode of its debut season, what 'London Kills' so effortlessly does is establish the gravity of the crimes they are dealing with. Of course, superficially the plot isn't very different from regular detective shows such as the highly popular 'Castle' and the extremely riveting 'True Detective' or 'Criminal Minds', but what sets 'London Kills' apart is its setting.

Set in the U.K., the show might seem like your regular murder drama, but it's not at all like the American murder dramas we are accustomed to witnessing on screen. In that, all of the action - even though spaced out - is crisp and to the point, with the strong communal bonds of British society coming together to form a compact story.

The premise of the first episode is set with DC Brady and Trainee DC Fitzgerald responding to a gruesome scene, where a man has been found stabbed multiple times and left hanging from a tree. DS Cole expects to lead the investigation but is, midway, left shocked when DI Bradford makes a sudden return from his compassionate leave and decides to take charge of the investigation from there.

It is interesting how the reception of Bradford is played out in the very first episode, as it depicts the nuanced portrayal of his dynamics with the rest of the team. While Brady greets him with due respect, and Fitzgerald is just happy to be introduced to the head detective, there's no overlooking Cole's slight disappointment at having to hand over such a twisted case to someone else.

Detective Inspector David Bradford (Hugo Speer) addressing reporters in episode one of London Kills. Source: Acorn TV
Detective Inspector David Bradford (Hugo Speer) addressing reporters in episode one of London Kills. Source: Acorn TV

That Cole and Bradford share a dynamic beyond their profession also jumps out in the very first episode, where she questions him about his sudden return and the status of his wife's missing person's case. We see Bradford somewhat dismissive of the prospect of his wife being dead, almost too convinced she is still alive, but not in the right headspace to call him, perhaps. This raises the scope for what could have been a conflict between the couple, but at the same time, also insinuates that her disappearance might have something to do with the assumed conflict.

Cole, being the curious one, jumps at this opportunity to question her mental state right before she went missing, implying that she could have suffered a breakdown. And while this could mean she is just close to the DI, it could also mean she knows more about the situation than she's letting on - something that is only further proven by her stark confidence in the presumed missing woman being already dead, as she admits to Fitzgerald.

Detective Sergeant Vivienne Cole (Sharon Small) (L) and Trainee Detective Constable Billie Fitzgerald (Tori Allen-Martin) (R) in episode 1 of London Kills. Source: Acorn TV
Detective Sergeant Vivienne Cole (Sharon Small) (L) and Trainee Detective Constable Billie Fitzgerald (Tori Allen-Martin) (R) in episode 1 of London Kills. Source: Acorn TV

It is after this point that the first episode of 'London Kills' truly embraces its U.K. murder mystery drama traits. The victim in question is soon identified to be an MP's son, and even though he is engaged to a gorgeous woman, and lives in a posh flat with what seems like a close friend - the essence of an entire community being roped into the crime is vivid in the episode.

The nuanced portrayal of the flatmate's seemingly shady, and sketchy behavior creates an air of distrust for those closest to the victim. At the same time, the mother revealing the victim had seen his own father hanging from a tree in their backyard also layers the tale, because that could have led to emotional trauma, and a consequential suicide. Both these developments prove to be crucial for the plot as the mystery behind the staged suicide progresses.

The other stellar aspect of the show happens to be its background score - creating the perfect aural accompaniment for the sinister, insidious nature of the crimes the detectives are about to come across. But it is not just the detectives who are the prime focus of the episodes, as there is also a clear depiction of the victim's families going about their days, as they try to figure out what happened to their loved ones. And summing all of that up, it's safe to say that the show is already off to a great start!

'London Kills' premiered Monday, February 25, only on Acorn TV.