Vigil review: Murder, sabotage and Russian spy drama can't save this rapidly sinking story
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Vigil review: Murder, sabotage and Russian spy drama can't save this rapidly sinking story

When a navy officer dies onboard a submarine that is on patrol duty, the police is called in to investigate. From a suspected overdose, it soon becomes a case of murder and potential sabotage of the ship itself. What’s at play?

Prathibha Joy
Sep 27, 2021
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Story: DCI Amy Silva is sent aboard a British Vanguard-class submarine to investigate the circumstances in the death of petty officer Craig Burke. What was supposed to be a three-day stint on the ship, gets extended for a few weeks, as DCI Silva unearths more than just the cause of death – a series of events that are potentially dangerous for HMS Vigil.

Review: British series have a certain allure. They are normally written and made far better than a lot of others made globally. It helps that they are also mostly limited series that rarely exceed 10 episodes. Vigil, with only six episodes, had all the potential to qualify as a sure-shot winner, but its descent to obscurity was faster than the submarine the story is based on reaching cruising depth.

The story revolves around the death of Craig Burke (Martin Compston), a sonar mapping expert crew member of HMS Vigil, one of Britain’s Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines on patrol duty. The ship’s location at the time, mandates the Scottish police service to investigate the death, following which DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) is airlifted there for what is initially meant to be a three-day stint on board, before they can resurface to allow her to leave. That’s plenty of time to report on Burke’s supposed cause of death – a drug overdose. But when DCI Silva figures that Burke was poisoned and the scene of crime staged, a whole new plot begins to unfurl and she is forced to remain onboard for the duration of the ship’s patrol in British waters.

From Burke being a potential whistleblower about certain Navy activists, to Russian involvement in sabotaging the HMS Vigil, there is a lot that plays out not only aboard the ship, but back at DCI Silva’s precinct too, where her colleague (and former love interest) DS Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie) is also putting together pieces of the puzzle.

Vigil started off so well, it seemed like the must-watch show of the season. Unfortunately, though, it all went downhill pretty quickly from there on to becoming almost yawn-inducing. DCI Silva’s competency is seriously questionable; after being sent aboard the ship, she flounders through the most part of the investigation. Pretty much every other member of the crew is a suspect at some point along the way. But that’s not the worst of it all. When she does finally figure out the actual culprit and brings him ashore for his day with justice, the explanations behind his actions, some of which endangered the entire crew of the ship, are just so silly you wonder whether to laugh or cry in dismay. But that’s not to say that it was all bad. The show has its moments; they were just so few and far between and mostly played out at DS Longacre’s end. Rose Leslie’s Longacre is, no doubt, one of the better characters of the show and she absolutely owns it. Although, if you have seen her in The Good Fight before this, her Scottish accent can come as a bit of a surprise.

If you are a Line of Duty fan hoping to see more of Martin Compston, don’t bother; his character has screen-time of less than 10-minutes spread across a couple of episodes. There’s Connor Swindells of Sex Education and Daniel Portman (Porter) of Game of Thrones too, but they are just two of a big ensemble cast, so you won’t get to see much of them either.

Verdict: For a procedural drama involving the Royal Navy, Scottish Police and the Mi5, it may not be the most factually correct, compelling or satisfying drama available right now, but it is intriguing enough and if you can overlook the rather lame ending, it is worth a one-time watch.     

Where to watch: All six episodes of Vigil are currently streaming on Lionsgate Play.

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