'The Salisbury Poisonings' Review: A fact-based recap of the deadly attack that froze the British town
Spoilers for 'The Salisbury Poisonings'
A city is seized by fear overnight as two people die foaming at their mouths on a park bench in broad daylight. While authorities couldn't tell what exactly happened to the couple, the public health office of Wiltshire immediately got into overdrive and called their best of emergency services and the Director of Public Health in Wiltshire Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff).
It is soon revealed that the poisoning of the couple was an assassination attempt of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK's intelligence services during the 1990s and early 2000s. Skripal's daughter Yulia was the woman sitting beside him on the park bench who was also administered with the poison. Once this is discovered, it leads to a national hue and cry as the British government begins to try and take control of Russia's attack.
'The Salisbury Poisonings' document the March 2018 incident with grit and displays the resilience of the local people of Salisbury. Revolving around the key characters of Daszkiewicz, Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring) and DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall), the series explores what went into the process of containment of the lethal chemical weapon by local people and the authorities. As Daszkiewicz finds herself at the center of these attempts, it becomes impossible for her to not absorb the leaking stress of the situation - eventually not only affecting her health but also straining her personal relationships.
At the same time, the docudrama also deals with the incidental exposure of several other people, including that of police officer Bailey and an uninvolved couple, Sturgess and Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris), who found a perfume bottle containing the nerve agent and ended up wrongly administering it to themselves.
'The Salisbury Poisonings' is one of those rare fact-based television series that presents an all-rounded view of a true event. Reality truly is stranger than fiction. Fusing facts with gut-wrenching storytelling, creators Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn had extensively interviewed the people of Salisbury and those involved in the process of containment to produce the story.
For many of those following the case since 2018, a lot of 'The Salisbury Poisonings' will seem to concentrate on facts leaving little room for the actors to move around. However, on the contrary, confined within these margins, protagonists of the series deliver earnest performances. That in particular by Buring as Dawn Sturgess, a woman on the treacherous path of self-improvement whose life is cut short as a by-product of the assassination attempt. As Tracy Daszkiewicz, Duff is efficiently brilliant in her performance of the resilient public health worker who is entrusted with the huge responsibility of the lives of thousands overnight.
In times of adversity, what is it that brings people together? Is it the fear of the unknown? Or is it the hope of reaching the other side unscathed? Perhaps both, and the BBC series captures the emotions of a town hijacked by fear and angst. Created by Patterson and Lawn and starring a massive cast of Duff, Spall, Buring, Mark Addy, Annabel Scholey, Darren Boyd, Nigel Lindsay, Clare Burt, Ron Cook, Stella Gonet, Andrew Brooke, William Houston, Jonathan Slinger and Johnny Harris, 'The Salisbury Poisonings' will leave you in awe of public health officers, emergency workers and first respondents - citizens' first line of defense against any health hazard. At the same time, it will leave you shocked for its release comes eerily apt in the midst of a pandemic.
All four episodes of 'The Salisbury Poisonings' are currently streaming on AMC+. They will debut on AMC linear early next year.