The Devil’s Hour

4 out of 5

Created by: Tom Moran

covers season 1

When I watch stuff that’s weird – and that can be popcorn, crowd-pleasing weird, like black smoke on Lost, or of a more surreal and arty variety, like the last Twin Peaks iteration – I’m often asking myself: does this weirdness track? That doesn’t have to mean that each bit is followed with a clear explanation (although that can be nice), rather just that the weirdness feels relevant. It can feel either lazy or forced when a show / movie just stacks up oddities without making us feel like there’s a reason for that, even if, ultimately, there isn’t. 

The Devil’s Hour may withhold some of its payoffs for too long, and for as strong as the majority of it is written, it takes some silly (perhaps unnecessary) shortcuts to get us from A to B, but I will absolutely credit Tom Moran’s six episode series with never making me question if the weirdness it exhibits was just for show: it exists in this constant, unnerved state, literally from the opening scene, that portends purpose, but sets it in a world where we must be comfortable with the mystery… As such, it’s an ideal bingeable show, in which every episode feels valid, and not just hurtling in a rush towards a twist, while also giving you much food for thought that makes you want to continue the conversation by letting it keep playing. 

Lucy Chambers (Jessica Raine) keeps waking up every night at 3:33, with fading memories of a nightmare she can’t quite remember. Her son, Isaac (Benjamin Chivers), exhibits aspects of autism, but multiple doctors have confirmed that’s not his diagnosis – his lack of emotion; the way he repeats conversations and seems to mindlessly follow directions; and his tendency to hold full conversations with people no one else can see – qualifying or “curing” these behaviors has eluded Lucy, despite her openness to various treatments. 

In her job as a social worker, Lucy becomes intertwined with DI Ravi (Nikesh Patel), as he simultaneously finds that a perplexing serial killer case he’s investigating namechecks her

Flash forward: Lucy and Ravi are interrogating a man in police custody (Peter Capaldi), who likes to repeat cryptic phrases about all of these things happening before, which stacks on top of a plague of deja vu Lucy’s been experiencing… 

The main reason that Devil’s Hour weirdness works is because there’s balance built in: Capaldi’s character promotes it; Ravi denies it; and Lucy is the intermediary, incredulous but coming to terms with it, both grounded by her love for her son, but somewhat susceptible to reading into things due to his behaviors. And Chivers is great, by the way: playing the creepy kid (not to classify his personality as creepy, but the show does play that up in certain moments, him quietly appearing on scene) is not easy, but Moran’s writing, the unhurried pacing, and cinematography which balances a Nordic noir gloomy tone with a lot of bright and open settings, allowing Raine – and the other actors – room to juggle humanity alongside the stuff needed to keep the story moving along, or maintain the mystery. 

As to that mystery (which is essentially: how is all this stuff connected?), some red herrings / subplots are employed, but in a compelling fashion that actually assists the story, or fleshes out the characters. Otherwise, it’s appreciated how Moran uses the uncertainty of a second season (although one is now confirmed) to craft something that works well enough as a standalone, with some question marks still out there for future exploration. The main concept is resolved – and could be said to be fairly obvious early on; not too “hidden” in that sense – but it’s rich enough to contain extra bits and pieces which fully sustain the series, and can do so for seasons beyond this one.

Excellent acting and an audience-respecting puzzle box structure make for a gripping, six episode series.