New Sky Atlantic drama Save Me does takes a while to pick up momentum after a slow start but when it gets going, this thriller is devastatingly impactful. With a solid mystery at the heart of the show and a myriad of diverse characters fronted by charismatic antihero Nelly (Lennie James), Save Me somehow manages to differentiate itself and stand out in a crowded genre. From the realistically depicted conversations featuring authentic cockney dialects to the slowly evolving plot, Save Me is a surprisingly good show that somehow manages to better itself with every passing episode.
At the heart of the mystery lies innocent teenager Jody (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) who goes missing after being coerced by someone online pretending to be Jody’s absent father, Nelly. When the police catch wind and paint Nelly as the prime suspect in Jody’s disappearance, what follows is a slowly unravelling story that sees Nelly take matters into his own hands to track down his daughter whilst simultaneously clearing his name from suspicion with the police. Along the way Nelly winds up enlisting the help of an old associate named Melon (Stephen Graham) as well as Jody’s mother Claire (Suranne Jones) and a host of other diverse characters to help him try and track down Jody.
With every passing episode there’a a real feeling of progression like another layer of the mystery is being uncovered and Nelly is getting closer to finding his daughter. Without giving too much away, the finale does leave on a somewhat bittersweet and empty note which is sure to ruffle some feathers with the controversial way Save Me ends. Personally I think it works to the show’s credit, helping to differentiate itself from so many other thrillers out there but others might not share the same optimism, given what happens. There’s a couple of well timed surprises thrown in too and in terms of plotting, Save Me does a very good job spreading the action out across the 6 episodes.
To begin with, Save Me can be a little difficult to become invested in. Nelly isn’t a particularly nice character and very early on he’s actually outright unlikable. The supporting cast around him all have their own quirks and unique traits but don’t really come out of their shells and show off their range until late on. The first couple of episodes are a bit of a rocky ride in this respect but its ultimately the mystery that keeps the show running through some of its slower moments. As the episodes tick by, Nelly’s character takes on a subtle shift in personality, changing from unlikable to antihero and its here that the show really begins to pick up momentum and make it worthwhile to invest in the character. It’s a bold move to portray Nelly as brash as he is early on and could be another deciding factor that may divide opinion. Thanks to a really good performance from Lennie James, the character journey is both believable and realistically depicted making the eventual character arc satisfying and well written.
There’s a great array of camera angles and neat shots used here too although the preferred method of up close hand held shots following the action gives the show a raw edge to it. The script works really well too with some impressive overlapping bites of dialogue during tense arguments helping to sell the realism being portrayed in this show. Save Me does a good job of visualising a poor community in London without ever feeling contrived and personifying everyone as caricature archetypes. It really does help make it a great backdrop for the mystery to play out in.
With six strong episodes and a well paced mystery driving the narrative forward, Save Me is an impressive entry from Sky Atlantic. The bittersweet emptiness you’re likely to feel when the credits roll at the end of the last episode may irk some people expecting a slightly different approach but to the show’s credit, Save Me actually works better with the ending chosen. There are inevitably going to be questions around whether a second season will be green lit on the back of this and we certainly hope that’s the case given the good work put into this show. Armed with realistically depicted dialogue and a host of diverse and interesting characters, this Sky drama is well worth checking out even if it may not end quite the way you hope.
Verdict - 8/10