If you saw the two Masterpiece Contemporary thrillers starring Bill Nighy (perfect, as ever), chances are we agree they were terrific. If you missed them, Nighy plays MI5 agent Johnny Worricker, on the outs with his bosses and trying to bring attention to the shady dealings of Prime Minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes without much hair).
Needless to say, the Powers That Be don’t approve of Worricker’s activities and are seriously looking for him. In the first of the two dramas shown this month, “Turks and Caicos,” he’s chilling out on the islands when he’s spotted by a CIA agent played by Christopher Walken, with his typical opaque style, and you’re never quite sure who’s who and what’s what. Except that Worricker’s former girlfriend, Margo Tyrell (Helena Bonham Carter), wastes no time realigning her priorities and jetting down to the Caribbean when he needs her. In the second, “Salting the Battlefield,” Worricker and Tyrell are on the run, and doing a pretty good job of it, too, until family ties threaten to flush them out into the open.
These two productions are followups to 2011’s film with the same characters, “Page Eight,” which lacked only Bonham Carter’s Margo Tyrell. Somehow I missed that program when it was broadcast three years ago. Thanks, Neflix! What makes these dramas so good are the scripts. The screenplays and the direction are by British playwright, theater and film director, and two-time Academy Award nominee David Hare. Says Grantland reviewer Chris Ryan, “If it’s adult contemporary, it’s as good as adult contemporary gets.”