Residue (dir. Alex-Garcia Lopez, 2015) – After a massive explosion in the city centre, photographer Jennifer Preston uncovers a government conspiracy and more unsettlingly, the paranormal.
Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller with a perfect resolution. Residue is a slow-burning albeit promising pilot, made to build anticipation for what is to come.
Make no mistake. Residue is excessively drawn out, and maddeningly inconclusive. That doesn’t mean it is not worth a watch. Set in a dystopian near-future, the aspiring Black Mirror episode is a plodding yet assured pilot that promises things can only get better from here.
Intrigue lies in the compelling premise of this sci-fi/horror mystery thriller, where a massive explosion on New Year’s Eve leaves the city centre in quarantine. The measure is ostensibly in place due to contamination from a bio-weapon facility. But any X-Files aficionado will be loath to take the official word for it.
One such cynic is photographer Jennifer Preston (Natalia Tena), who first notices a rising trend in suicides, then the ghostly shadows in her pictures of the victims. Realising the coincidental timeline, she believes that the sudden string of deaths may very well be connected to the explosion.
Jen tries to convince her boyfriend Jonas Flack (Iwan Rheon), a media relations officer for the Home Office. But he remains doubtful. That is until he finds out that he has been unwittingly complicit in the Government’s lies.
Troubled police officer Levi Mathis (Jamie Draven) joins the search for answers, to the incident that cost his daughter’s life and his sobriety. Dodger Willy G (Franz Drameh) has seen enough that they are onto something. Closing in on the elusive key to the puzzle, they all come to meet consequent danger, built upon plenty of moody suspense.
Too much suspense, one may say. The two-hour pilot season on Netflix is split into three 40-minute episodes, which only serve to highlight its flawed pacing. That said, just three episodes for the start of a gripping series? That seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.
Brilliant characterisation makes every bit of patience worthwhile. Emotional investment comes naturally, courtesy of nuanced back stories and acting. The collaboration between director Alex Garcia Lopez (Misfits, Utopia) and writer John Harrison (Book of Blood) helps, each having made their respective mark in science fiction and horror.
Visually, there is much to savour as well. Echoing Blade Runner, the street aesthetics characterise the broken new world with such distinct personality, which the antagonists only wished they had. But even if the conspirators are birthed from obvious tropes, the cast keeps them interesting enough. Besides, there is nothing quite like conspiratorial whispers of kill orders to set the heart racing.
Excitement surges, just as the show comes to a close. Cue protests of the cliffhanger at the exact moment where things are starting to get interesting. There is no denying that we are totally riveted despite initial doubt, and we really want some answers. Thankfully, a second season is already in the works.
This time, funding woes be gone as the independent production has Netflix on their side. From supernatural hauntings to secret experiments, huge potential spills from the possibilities of where the story can go from here. All Residue needs to do is to tauten the plot, refine the suspense, and bring on the threat to the front line. Then, we just might be in for one of the best TV adventures in years.