You gotta hand it to the Brits – they know how to spin an everyday setting into an unexpected web of lies and deceit. That talent’s on full display in ITV’s latest drama After the Flood, a six-episode saga set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Waterside. Things seem calm at first in this little community where everybody knows your name, but when floodwaters come rushing through, they reveal cracks that run far deeper.
Leading the charge into those murky secrets is Sophie Rundle’s Jo Marshall, a very pregnant local cop itching to follow in her late detective dad’s footsteps. Jo’s plans get fast-tracked when a flash flood – think less blockbuster movie and more really solid downpour – devastates Waterside. In the chaos, Jo makes a daring river rescue of a drifting baby, but the mystery man who helps her doesn’t make it out alive.
When the waters recede, a dead body turns up trapped in an underground garage. The dude’s been dead for days before the floods hit, raising Jo’s suspicions that something rotten was already festering in her hometown. As she starts poking around the case, Jo uncovers all sorts of sketchy land deals tied to shady developer Philip Glenister’s character. She’s also racing against the clock to solve this thing before her baby comes.
So settle in, friends across the pond, because After the Flood looks primed to overflow with secrets. In the century-old tradition of British crime stories, everyone’s a suspect when murder crashes a small town’s party. Will Jo clear the case before she’s sidelined by dirty cops or her due date? Time to wade through these floodwaters and find out.
A Storm of Secrets
After the Flood kicks off with some good old-fashioned chaotic weather. The quaint Yorkshire town of Waterside gets utterly hammered by a nasty storm that sends river waters rushing through the streets. It’s not quite Noah’s Ark levels, but it’s enough to cause some real damage. Cafe owners are gonna have a bad time with insurance claims.
Our hero Jo Marshall, very ready-to-pop pregnant cop, is out on water rescue duty. She spies a woman trapped in a flooded car with her baby in those handy carrying seats. But when mom tries to pull the baby out, butterfingers takes over and the seat gets swept away! You’d think precious cargo would inspire some solid grip strength, but nope.
Jo watches in horror as this infant turns into Chilean whitewater rafting. But then a mystery dude jumps into the rapids and manages to rescue the tyke. He passes the baby off to Jo before promptly getting washed away himself. It’s all very dramatic, especially when we learn Jo lied about being a week from her due date to stay on active cop duty. This lady really commits, even if it means an impromptu water birth!
But the adventures in Waterside are only getting started. When the storms clear, Jo catches a body recovery call for some poor soul found dead in an underground parking garage. The working theory is he got trapped and drowned. But wait – the coroner reveals this unlucky fella drowned earlier than the floods hit. Murder in Waterside – cue the dramatic music!
Our mama justice warrior Jo decides to take the murder investigation into her own hands – literally. She steals confidential files, illegally runs the victim’s DNA through an ancestry database, poses as the dead man to contact his very alive sister Tasha, and leaves her out of the loop husband in the dust. Tasha high-tails it to Waterside to piece together what happened alongside rogue cop Jo.
Together, these two ladies uncover all sorts of sketchy stuff connected to the case. Land development deals, local government corruption, the kind of seedy stuff that tends to lurk below the surface of sleepy towns. As the weather forecast predicts another round of storms coming, Jo races to crack this thing as she also races toward motherhood. Can she connect the dots and get justice before the killer or baby come a-calling? The clock is ticking!
More Than Just Bad Weather
On the surface, After the Flood utilizes its rain-drenched setting to deliver some cinematic flood sequences. And while the scenes of torrential downpours laying waste to Waterside are visually impressive, they serve a deeper purpose than just spectacle. The floods are a ticking time bomb that reflect a much larger threat – the climate crisis banging on humanity’s front door.
The drama makes it clear that the floods devastating Waterside aren’t a freak one-off event. They’re the latest symptom of a changing climate making extreme weather more common. Through the rants of Jo’s activist mom Molly, the show spotlight’s the government’s woeful lack of preparation and resources to protect citizens against the effects of climate change. No matter how many sandbags Molly demands for Waterside, she’s ignored by officials happy to call her a doom merchant. Their inaction leaves the town vulnerable when the clouds burst again.
This rather blunt political commentary helps ground the show in real-world issues. The floods may hit Waterside first, but they represent what communities across the globe increasingly face. Dirty rainfall becomes a foreboding metaphor for the dark secrets and corruption uncovered in the wake of disaster.
And After the Flood has secrets that run as deep as Waterside’s riverbeds. The discovery of a dead body leads Jo and Tasha to unravel a complex web of sketchy real estate deals, government kickback schemes, and other seeds of small town power games and greed. With climate crisis as the catalyst, all of Waterside’s sins float to the surface right alongside the rising waterlines.
So while After the Flood utilizes its rainfall for the odd sweeping visual and action set-piece, it also hopes to shower viewers with a sobering message. Ignore the warning signs of climate change at the public’s peril. When the levees break and disaster strikes, will your hometown leaders take action to keep you safe? Or will they be distracted shielding their own dirty deeds from getting washed away?
A Talented Ensemble Anchors the Drama
Any murder mystery lives and dies by the strength of its ensemble cast. While intrigue and suspense can hook viewers initially, it’s investment in the characters that determines if they’ll stick around to unravel the web of secrets.
After the Flood draws in audiences right from the get-go thanks largely to lead Sophie Rundle’s stellar performance as Jo Marshall. Jo immediately leaps off the screen as a fully-formed protagonist – tough yet vulnerable, heroically driven yet dangerously impulsive. Rundle nails playing the pregnant cop conflicted by her looming due date as her crime-fighting fire is just heating up. Audiences will surely connect to Jo right away thanks to the English actor’s thoughtful and charismatic portrayal.
Yet any great lead needs an equally strong supporting lineup, which After the Flood backs up in spades. Screen veteran Lorraine Ashbourne lends real gravitas and moral authority in her turn as Jo’s environmental activist mother, Molly. Even in her limited screentime early on, Ashbourne brings such warmth and familiarity that viewers will instantly be invested in Molly’s fight. As the truth of the small-town conspiracy deepens, expect Molly to become an even more vital player.
Philip Glenister’s slippery property developer Jack Morris enters the plot a bit later, but the Life on Mars star doesn’t waste a second making his presence felt. Glenister has made a career of bringing swaggering charisma to morally questionable schemers. So even if Jack ends up deeply involved in the central murder case, the actor finds humor and depth in a character that could easily slip into one-note villainy. It’s a deliciously smarmy performance fans of great British antiheroes will relish.
Even supporting characters who barely appear for more than a scene or two feel lived-in thanks to thoughtful writing and committed performances. Take the elderly couple discovered flooded and suffocated in their home. It’s a tragedy depicted with empathy rather than played for shock value, perfectly encapsulating the show’s central message about underestimating climate change’s human impacts.
By populating Waterside with such compelling residents from all walks of life, After the Flood transforms a scenic countryside town into a living, breathing character in its own right. With a strong cast embodying these complex roles, audiences won’t need any narrative tricks to get hooked on unraveling this mystery. They’ll be invested in pursuing the truth right alongside Jo purely based on the connections formed to her world. Now that’s how you lay the foundation for a gripping whodunit!
Crafting An Intimate Epic
Many great murder mysteries utilize small towns not just as quaint backdrops, but as central characters shaping both plot and tone. After the Flood writer Mick Ford keenly understands this technique. His scripts foster Waterside with vivid intimacy typically reserved for longtime residents. He knows every side street and subset of blue-collar characters that give his fictional borough authentic working-class heart.
Having tackled gritty British crime tales like Channel 4’s critically acclaimed Cyberbully, Ford clearly feels at home rendering Waterside’s seedy conspiracies with similar nuance. But he balances the corruption with humor and heart, gifting even one-scene roles vivid details and wit that grounds After the Flood in charming intimacy even as the stakes ratchet up. Ford builds immersion through investment in the people and place rather than relying solely on high drama spectacle.
Of course, selling cinematic sequences like catastrophic floods on a TV budget still takes serious directorial skill. With Richard Clark behind the camera, After the Flood reaches impressive visual scale. Clark’s work on shows like BBC hit Sherlock demonstrates his comfort with suspense and action balanced alongside potent emotional beats. Under his steady direction, Waterside feels grand as both a physical location and symbolic cross-section of rapidly changing 21st century Britain.
Some writers and directors lose narrative focus when attempting sociopolitical themes alongside pulpier murder mystery hooks. Yet Ford’s thoughtful scripts centered on community and Clark’s careful guidance of tone and scope help After the Flood stick the landing. Nonetheless grounded in Jo’s investigation and pregnancy ticking clocks, the show’s wider concerns around complacency in the face of disaster rarely feel heavy-handed. Ford and Clark synthesize blockbuster visuals with cozy small town vibes, somehow achieving intimate epicness through the balanced combination.
Of course, the success of that ambitious tonal and narrative balancing act lies in the execution. But with its first-rate creative team’s impressive credentials, After the Flood looks well-positioned to deliver on the promise of its premise. The filmatic language both Ford and Clark share inspires confidence their collaboration can support resonant themes with commercial hooks in equal measure. If their past work speaks reliably to future results, viewers seeking both comfort food drama and sociopolitical substance need look no further.
A Feast for the Eyes
In an age of big-budget streaming dramas and CGI-stuffed disaster flicks, a small-screen murder mystery could easily look quaint by comparison. But while After the Flood may lack a Hollywood budget, the show still serves up striking imagery that immerses the audience in both place and peril.
The cinematography truly shines in realizing the disastrous floods that set the drama in motion. Shooting water-based set pieces can sink less capable productions, but After the Flood’s river rapids and inundated streets feel ambitiously cinematic. Clever angles make the most of production design that turns familiar suburban streets into disorienting brown-water mazes. Dropping in overhead establishing shots conveys the full extent of devastation, with once-cozy homes swallowed by muddy waves.
The floods form just one side of the show’s visual coin. More understated landscape shots capture the Yorkshire countryside’s pastoral beauty between downpours. And as Jo’s investigation shifts the action to shadowy garages and corrupt bureaucrat’s lairs, the camerawork adopts a moodier, more unsettling energy. Stitching these extremes together gives After the Flood’s imagery greater dramatic range than the logline might suggest.
With thrilling disaster sequences sharing screen time with quiet moments of emotional reckoning, the cinematography mirrors the push-and-pull of past and present, chaos and calm central to our protagonists’ journeys. It’s a creative choice that demonstrates the care put into realizing this community beyond just the necessities of plot. After the Flood may not have Marvel money, but it still delivers visual feasts worthy of the fine talents both in front of and behind the camera.
Where The Show Thrives…And Floods
After the Flood brings an ambitious mix of timely sociopolitical commentary, pulpy mystery thrills, and emotional character drama. By fusing these elements together, showrunner Mick Ford hopes to resonate across a wide audience with a balance of substance and escapism. But undertaking such a tricky balancing act also risks pitfalls where one area underserves the others. So how does After the Flood’s reach match its grasp?
First, the considerable strengths. Topping that list is Sophie Rundle, turning out a stellar lead turn that instantly wins over the audience. She portrays driven investigator Jo with enough principled determination to sell difficult choices without slipping into reckless rule-breaking. Rundle brings such presence that even questionable decisions feel understandable in the moment. Not an easy line to walk for any actress, but it’s vital to grounding the audience through multiplying crises.
Matching Rundle step for step is the exceptional supporting cast. Screen vets Lorraine Ashbourne and Philip Glenister offer masterclasses in tapping well-worn archetypes for depth. Ashbourne especially stands out as Jo’s activist mother Molly, her passionate authority cutting through the show’s murkier morals. Their mature portrayals round out a community authentic and lived-in enough for audiences to feel right at home, underscoring the intimate stakes.
And while Waterside itself holds darker secrets beneath the surface charm, the production still takes advantage of the scenic atmosphere for some stunning visuals. Director Richard Clark seizes the potential for cinematic scale through both the disaster set pieces and quieter character moments. When the skies open up and floods transform streets into roaring rivers, it’s hard not to get swept up in the spectacle.
But for all After the Flood’s high points, there are missed marks that diffuse the show’s potential punch. Take Jo’s investigation triggering the central mystery – her risky, off-books lone wolf act might quicken the intrigue, but strains belief for her character level. Rundle sells it admirably in the moment, but those early questionable choices flag uneven development throughout.
Certain relationships like Jo’s marriage only deepen the unevenness through their underdevelopment on top of pacing issues. Six episodes feels a bit thin to support the narrative’s layered threads. Thematically the climate change backdrop offers resonance, but the mixed genre fusion isn’t seamless enough yet to harmonize cohesively episode to episode.
Nonetheless, while those cons merit acknowledgment, they don’t undo the show’s core strengths. Powerful lead turns anchored in a strong sense of place still drive plenty of binge-worthy intrigue. Navigating the peaks and valleys is part of any show’s first steps. But at its best, After the Flood offers more than enough strengths to outshine the weaknesses still leaving room for growth. This kind of potential spells nothing but clear skies ahead.
Rough Waters, But Clear Skies Ahead
At first glance, After the Flood might look like a run-of-the-mill BBC mystery clinging to familiar genre formula. But over six episodes, the show distinguishes itself as a surprisingly resonant, risky drama whose REACH exceeds expectations even where its grasp slips. While not without flaws, especially in a congested middle stretch, the standout elements still make for compelling, consequential television.
Chief among those elements is Sophie Rundle, turning out potentially career-best work as the show’s moral compass. She plays Jo with an endearing underdog earnestness, selling investigative oversteps born of naive idealism rather than selfish pride. Rundle grounds even Jo’s shakier detective calls in pure motives, winning viewer empathy if not always credence. Her fundamental goodness registers loud enough to anchor the supporting players’ shiftier scheming.
And it’s that supporting lineup that forms After the Flood’s sturdiest foundation for longevity. Veterans like Lorraine Ashbourne and Philip Glenister instantly tap archetypes familiar enough to hook viewers before revealing hidden depths. Ashbourne especially stuns as community pillar Molly, bringing such wit and dignity that audiences young and old will connect to her struggle. If developed further in potential future seasons, these characters contain the most breakout potential.
The show’s production strengths also boost its lasting prospects. Cinematic disaster visuals and lived-in atmosphere make Waterside itself a compelling character. After the Flood squeezes impressive scope from its budget, making soundstage streets feel like vibrant communities facing resonantly real climate threats. Stakes resonate stronger when tied to settings authentically rendered, even on the small screen.
If the showrunners smooth out the overstuffed mystery convolution and sharpen supporting player dynamics for a hypothetic second season, After the Flood could flow into appointment viewing. The core elements contain enough quality for an enduring franchise if nurtured properly. But the key lies in calibration – grant characters context to grow rather than overgrowing plot, refine themes smoothly into drama without sermonizing script shortcuts.
It’s a tricky balance to master out the gate, but one well within reach. Factor in sociopolitical staying power as climate consequences escalate in real life, and After the Flood contains enough flashes of excellence to earn a lasting spot in fans’ streaming queues. A bit rough around the edges today, but with vision and care, smooth sailing ahead.
After the Flood
After the Flood overcomes a messy middle stretch to deliver an unexpectedly compelling dramatic thriller. Powerful performances anchored in authentic atmosphere make Waterside feel as pivotal as any character in unlocking the show’s provocative potential. Smart tweaks to streamline and sharpen sensibilities in a possible second season could see the series really find its breakout flow. After ironing out early wrinkles, clear skies ahead for seasons and themes still to flood forth.
- Strong lead performance from Sophie Rundle
- Great supporting cast with Lorraine Ashbourne and Philip Glenister
- Immersive sense of place and community
- Impressive visuals and cinematography for a TV budget
- Timely climate change backdrop
- Plot around murder mystery grows a bit convoluted
- Questionable early detective decisions by lead character
- Supporting roles like Jo's husband feel underdeveloped
- Ambitious tonal and genre fusion not fully cohesive yet