Intruders marks BBC America’s arrival into the current climate of moody spook dramas. Produced by The X-Files’ Glen Morgan, this mystical serial impresses from the jarring opening of its first episode. Why? Because it takes risks. If you’ve managed to avoid spoilers prior to watching the premiere, you may be inclined to agree that the show’s premise, even at the end of the episode… isn’t exactly clear. Therein lies the appeal and the mystery of Intruders. It gambles with expectations.
Dark and brooding from the outset, the show opens on an domestic incident that’s never fully explained, before jumping to a double homicide in suburban Seattle. It cuts to a married couple with a stilted relationship. Next up, there’s a nine-year-old girl troubled by visions. Then we see a bearded nerd delivering his conspiracy podcast out of a van. These seemingly isolated vignettes are threaded together by a mysterious assassin who pops in and out with a distanced cool.
The biggest chunk of time is dedicated to ex-LAPD cop Jack Whelan, as he tangles with his wife Amy’s disappearance. A convenient call from a cabbie, who stumbles across her phone on his backseat, kickstarts the main body of the episode’s action. Scrolling through her phone he discovers a sinister text conversation between his wife and an unknown recipient. That entire scene bubbles with possibility. And it’s around the mid-way point that one thing becomes clear. The premiere only hints at the full extent of what’s to come.
That’s the mark of director Eduardo Sanchez. One half of the team behind The Blair Witch Project, Sanchez approaches the first episode with the same consideration toward building tension. While it may be difficult to follow, due to its abandonment of typical TV narrative form, it offers the viewer rewards in other ways. By offering a ton of tantalizing clues to a mystery that’s yet to be defined.
Madison, the nine-year-old girl in Oregon, meets the shady killer on a beach. He hands her a card printed with the number 9. What does the card mean? Why is he giving it to her? Who was Amy texting? Where has she gone? It’s these tiny details that hint at something dark beneath the surface of things. One can only hope they emerge in later episodes.
In a TV culture saturated by the paranormal, from faux-reality ghost hunters to Supernatural, Intruders settles into its niche without struggle. While there’s obvious influence from Nordic noirs of late, it mixes in a paranormal element that barely grazes the episode. But still, this is the price to pay for the establishing episode. Introducing several story strands, all taken from the novel by Michael Marshall Smith, it manages to set up all of the characters. Just.
The seasoned cast are led by John Simms’ whose Jack Whelan has shades of his Life On Mars character. But without the humour. What does come as a surprise is that bigger names Mira Sorvino and Robert Forster appear for mere cameos. Both actors relinquish their star power and screen time, which is duly stolen by child actor, Millie Brown. In her standout scene as Madison, the acting chops on the youngster have to be applauded. It’s an outstanding performance of deranged psychoses.
With a perplexing opening episode, Intruders is a curious creature. It has the potential to become the antidote to serials that assume audiences need constant reassurance. In comparison to shows that thrive on satisfying viewers by copping out with familiarity, it offers no resolution, no payoff, and no answers. And that’s why it’s so compelling.