It’s pretty hard to get a handle on things after watching the first episode of BBC America’s Thirteen. I’m pretty sure this sense of captive, unsettled disquiet is exactly what the creator of the show wants us to live with until the next episode airs. And I sort of love her for her sadism. Just a little more than an hour into this series and I’m already beginning to suffer Stockholm Syndrome. Geez. The show’s creator and writer is a fresh voice on the television landscape. Marnie Dickson has written single episodes of BBC shows Ripper Street and Musketeers, respectively, and is credited with a handful of episodes of the long-running teen drama Hollyoaks, but is otherwise fairly unproven. Not that you’d be able to tell by watching this first episode of her five-episode limited series. It’s directed by Vanessa Caswill (who will also be helming episodes two and three). Caswill is likewise a relatively undiscovered talent, having only two episodes of other shows and a handful of shorts on her director’s resume. Here’s the thing, though: this episode is tightly woven, evenly paced, and expertly balances all the tensions inherent in this boggling situation. At first glance, it certainly seems simple enough to follow. Ivy, who had disappeared thirteen years earlier at the age of thirteen, has somehow escaped from the basement dungeon where she was being held all this time. She finds a phone and calls the police who reunite her with her family before getting to work at finding her abductor. Sounds like a simple procedural, right? Or maybe even a shade or two of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But then things get just a tad bit Twin Peaks. Ivy’s family has fractured over the course of the past thirteen years. We don’t know the details yet, but her parents have split up during the intervening time. It could be due in part to the fact that her mom is an uptight bundle of impossible-to-live-with-ness. Or maybe it’s because her dad is canoodling some chick from work when the call comes from the police. It seems likely that there’s some connection between the two states. Ivy’s thirteen-year-old crush Tim is all grown up and married now but hides his wedding ring from her when he pays a visit. The only shred of normalcy in the household comes from Ivy’s kid sister Emma, who is now engaged to her live-in boyfriend, who seems (so far) to be a really normal, decent guy. Unfortunately, Emma is not entirely convinced that Ivy is who she says she is. But never mind all that home drama. The detectives assigned to her case keep finding discrepancies in her story. When they raid the home where she had been kept, they find the cellar scrubbed clean along with evidence that suggests she might have been living there somewhat amicably with her captor. She takes a sort of creepy liking to one of the detectives, and it’s hard to determine whether she’s still thinking like a lovesick and confused thirteen-year-old girl trapped in a twenty-six-year-old body or if there’s a more devious motive being played out. In the space of sixty minutes (give or take), one can’t help but feel sorry for Ivy, then sort of wonder what’s up with Ivy, then feel sorry for her again, then start to wonder if she’s full of shit, then feel bad for wondering whether she’s full of shit and feel sorry for her again, then leave it all feeling unsettled and tense. And just as the family is attempting to pick up the pieces and sit down to a normal(ish) family dinner, there’s a knock at the door. Ivy’s captor has taken another thirteen-year-old girl and her insights are desperately needed to rescue her replacement. Thirteen falls squarely in the rapidly-growing BBC contemporary procedural thriller alcove alongside such fine company as Luther, The Fall, and Broadchurch (to name a few). The pace, the production, and (most of all) the puzzle presented in this first episode is more than enough to have me scrambling to set up the DVR for the next four weeks. The characters are nuanced, the plot is razor-sharp, and the direction has this viewer thoroughly hooked. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.