Katrina Williams explores ITV's newly launched crime drama The Bay
The first episode of ITV’s new crime drama The Bay opens up on the wide expanse of ocean crashing against Morecambe’s shores. It creates a profound feeling of isolation; one that stuck with me through the whole of the first episode. Even as I was surrounded by an audience that muttered and chuckled at the occasional joke or awkward moment, I felt as if I was alone the entire time, lost amongst the swathes of washed out sand, awaiting that final great wave to finally crash over my head. To be fair, I wasn’t desperate for the next episode. But the first episode still managed to strike my interest, easily holding the tension of a good crime drama over me, leaving me awaiting its resolution.
Mildly interesting would be a good way to describe this show on a whole so far. The Bay’s initial episode introduces us to the missing persons case of twins Dylan and Holly through the eyes of Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie), a family liaisons officer. The plot is a spin on the classic small-town crime story. While watching, I was reminded strongly of the Danish crime drama The Killing, a show which also draws heavy attention to the grief of families and the importance of even the loosest of threads between characters. Though where The Killing takes at points too much time and pays too much detail to the intricacies of its case, The Bay follows a steadier and faster pace at unravelling the mystery of the central crime. The plot certainly isn’t the strongest point of the show, however, and ends up being every bit as predictable as the characters' motives.
Another way The Bay is distinct from The Killing is its focus on human connection between the police team and the family of the victims. A family liaison officer performs as the "point of contact" between the two with required emotional disconnect from the situation, and Christie’s portrayal of Lisa in this role is especially strong when it comes to how she must retain a matter-of-fact attitude to her work. Lisa is firmly particular about keeping her home and work life separate, yet this ideal becomes compromised as she becomes embroiled the case. Against the backdrop of some of Morecambe’s more grim areas we watch as the cast from every corner of her life overlaps between two areas she’d much rather prefer remained distinct from each other. It seems clear that every one of these characters is going to matter in the big scheme of things, and that is where The Bay seems to fall a little flat.
Too much is going on at once for any character but Lisa to feel well-developed, and even other major characters seem one-dimensional. By the end of the first episode revelations made through coincidence and offhand comments begin to weave in relevance to each of the main characters, and as the story proceeds I’m hopeful that this gentle (and maybe necessary, in this genre) approach to developing characters will bear fruit with every member of the show’s large cast. After all, it seems a main point of the plotline that everything and everyone is intertwined.
Whilst criticism can be made of the plot and the characters, the production value of this first episode is undeniably strong. A standout for me was the exceptional musical score. It creeped in at just the right times to capitalise upon a brooding fear lying beneath the surface of the episode’s events and it heightened to screeching crescendos as major plot points unravelled. The cinematography of the show overall was expert; a certain scene wherein two characters discuss the case with their backs to the sea below them again brought back that staggering sense of isolation. The entire episode was awash with blue and yellow tones, creating a sort of sickliness to the shots, whilst the bay of Morecambe always seemed washed out, hiding a secret.
Appropriate, as in many ways Morecambe is a character in itself; the entire show was written around the town. The story revolves at first around its lonely stretches of sand, of delipidated arcades on the promenade, of rows of squat brown and white houses rising up behind the bay. However, considering Morecambe’s less than illustrative past when it comes to allegedly being one of the worst places in the UK to live, The Bay’s depiction of it breathes in much more life than you’d suspect. Because what makes Morecambe is the people, and this is especially clear through both the kind sense of community within the episode, and the population’s reaction to the show without. Apparently, posters have been put up in shop windows all across the bay to make sure all the residents watch it!
Overall, The Bay poses as an interesting exploration into the crime drama genre considering how deeply it revolves around its locations and human connections between its characters. Though it is evident there is a lot of space for its characters to grow, it seems as if the plot will facilitate this growth, and that there is more under the surface to these characters than we might first assume. The most attractive part of this episode was definitely the production values, and though the story may have been played out before, it’s worth a watch for its beautiful shots and creation of tension throughout, as well as the possibility of it turning into a mystery much larger than first assumed. I wouldn’t, however, go in expecting to be wowed, but you may as well give it a go.