TV: Collision

The British miniseries Collision (2009) is a solid, enjoyable drama that occasionally buckles under the weight of its high concept. The story involves a major traffic accident on the A12, which comes with more than its fair share of mysteries. One of the drivers vanishes from the scene; another car has the air-conditioning going full blast with the windows wide open; a third car’s driver was seen waving angrily at a passing vehicle before the collision; a fourth car’s victim may or may not have had her seatbelt fastened. Investigating the accident and its related loose ends are Detective Inspector John Tolin (Douglas Henshall) and police officer Ann Stallwood (Kate Ashfield), who have a history and are thrown back together by the work. As the pair gradually unravels the various mysteries of the accident, their troubled past together is also revealed.

It’s a great idea: take a multi-car pileup involving a disparate cast of characters, entangle their mysteries, and then unravel them. Combining police legwork in the present with the strategic use of flashback, the series gradually resolves its various mini-stories, generally bringing each one to a satisfactory close. That so many of the mysteries are so high profile, and that they’re so improbably woven together in places, is generally forgivable. Collision is clearly a descendant of shows like 24 (with its complex, multi-threaded narrative) and Lost (with its flashback techniques and dense character interconnections). As such, it shares the weaknesses of such shows as well as the strengths. So for all the successfully layered intrigue and deft structural execution, there’s also a fair share of melodrama, improbable coincidence, and willful misdirection of the audience. It’s part of what you sign up for with this kind of thing, and these issues never really spoiled my enjoyment.

A complaint about the product, though: I’d swear the DVD I got from Netflix was casually recorded off of PBS, right down to jagged stoppages, muted profanity, and David Tennant intros. Also, on IMDB it’s listed as having five episodes, but the DVD breaks it into just two parts. So for many reasons it seems I didn’t view a true, clean edit of the series. Not sure if this is Netflix’s fault, or just a lazy release, but either way’s it’s disappointing.

For all that, Collision’s three-and-a-half hours passes briskly and enjoyably, mostly fulfilling the promise of its concept. It culminates in a rather unexpected final sequence that slickly and satisfyingly ties everything together. Definitely worth a look if this style of show interests you.

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