WARNING: Spoilers galore!!
The advantage –and most often, the disadvantage – of being unemployed or having “casual employment” is the ridiculous amount of spare time you have to cope with. More often than not, you feel like you want to die, but if you have something good to read or something good to watch, the pain lessens considerably.
In my case, I’ve spent the last two weeks going from studying “things” (or “researching stuff”) to watching Murphy’s Law – the british tv series, not the Charles Bronson film – as part of what can only be considered as a marathon.
I finished watching the whole series four days ago. I now find myself happily stuck in a never ending loop of watching random episodes of the series over, and over, and over.
Murphy’s Law is brilliant in every sense of the word. Series 1 was funny and compelling. Series 2 started to get progressively darker. From series 3 to 5 it goes dark. VERY DARK. And, in my opinion, it fully reaches its potential, something not many series manage to achieve.
Tommy Murphy, the title character, wonderfully played by James Nesbitt, evolves as the series does. Here’s a quick rundown, with visual aid:
Murphy, Pilot – Series 1: Efficient, talkative, sarcastic undercover cop hunted by the death of his daughter by the hands of the IRA, an event he blames himself for; the sadness of his loss is loosely explored through his encounters with his estranged wife. Although at this point his life is a bit of a mess, the comedic moments are a direct product of Murphy’s personality. His excessive banter is clearly a coping mechanism and a distraction technique in confrontations with “the bad guys”.
Murphy, Series 2: He’s still funny, he’s still witty, he’s still good at his job. At this point, the cases he works on begin to affect his personal life. The nice surprise is that by the end of this series, the man gets some closure in regards to his daughter’s death, something that would normally be left to the very end of the show.
Murphy, Series 3: “You’ll be going deeper than you’ve ever gone before”, says Murphy’s boss, and he sure does. At this point the show shifts from being episodic to having a single storyline, which allows a deeper exploration of the life of an undercover cop. It also marks the birth of the 70’s porn star mustache, which works well in transforming the character’s physical appearance into something more consistent with the isolation and constant danger of the job. From dismemberment to Murphy’s realization that his whole life is based solely on lies, the effects of the case on his personal life and psyche are vastly more evident. He is no longer the funny man from before. He’s still witty and flirty, but he’s mostly damaged.
Murphy, Series 4: The damage continues as once again Murphy’s job affects his family. This time, the victims are his parents. At the same time, his mother’s illness and his father’s desperate attempt at continuing to look after her deeply affect Murphy as he realizes it’s probably too late to mend his relationship with them.
Murphy, Series 5: A case involving the death and disappearance of two of his colleagues marks the point where Murphy begins to question his efficiency as an undercover cop and his worth as a human being due to the case’s terrible outcome. Murphy is now completely damaged by his job and its corresponding lifestyle. This is the darkest of all the storylines presented. I must admit it brought me to tears.
The supporting characters are three dimensional and very well performed, as are all the villains. The stories vastly improved once the show focused on a single storyline. Over all, I must say this is one of the very best television shows I’ve ever seen.
I hope there’s another series of Murphy’s Law. But as it hasn’t been recommissioned by the BBC and it’s been about a year since series 5 aired, who knows if there’s a future for this wonderful show.
A LONG time ago, my screenwriting tutor told me to not be afraid of going as dark as I could with my writing. I don’t think I’ve managed to get there quite yet but watching a series like Murphy’s Law makes me truly understand what my tutor said. I can only hope one day my writing will reach that level.