Monday, May 20, 2024

Critics Are Saying This ‘Enticing’ New Historical Drama Is Going To Be Your Next Binge-Watch

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If historical dramas with a touch of mystery are your thing, then Shardlake might just be one to add to your watchlist.

The four-episode Disney+ series is set in Tudor England and stars The Innocents actor Arthur Hughes as a fictional lawyer tasked by Thomas Cromwell (Sean Bean) to investigate a murder against the backdrop of real-life political drama and religious reform.

Shardlake is based on the mystery novels by CJ Sansom, and began streaming on Wednesday, just days after the author died, aged 71.

Critics have already praised Shardlake’s gritty historical setting and engaging characters, although some have also highlighted issues with pacing.

Read on to check out the consensus so far…

“Murderous monks ignite this magnificent CJ Sansom story… Sean Bean channels his inner-Cromwell in this tale of a loner lawyer investigating a gruesome decapitation at a Tudor monastery. It’s mean, moody – and the perfect tribute to its author who died this week.”

“There isn’t a lot of joy to be found here. What there is instead is tension. As the episodes pass and the body count piles up, [the show] becomes an examination of the horrible things men to do each other in order to survive – or what they will do to further a cause in which they believe.

“Fortunately, Shardlake does tension incredibly well, and the end result is eminently watchable. Grim in the best way; watch and feel the winter chill draw back in.”

Shardlake is based on the book series by CJ Sansom

“More than just acting as an effective story in its own right, this season also acts as the perfect set-up of a world for additional stories, with engaging characters and an enticing historical backdrop.

“Here’s hoping the audience at large agree, and give this adaptation their support and, most importantly, their viewership. With so many of the fantastic historicals we’ve seen of late being one and done, it seems in Shardlake we may have found the potential for a fascinating and characterful returning series of Tudor mysteries – and doesn’t that sound enticing?”

“In some twisted way, not being given enough time with Shardlake and Barak makes me want more from them, to learn their strange quirks and backstories and embrace their rough but endearing chemistry as they solve more mysteries… There’s potential in Shardlake, and with at least five more novels’ worth of work to adapt, I hope it gets the chance to see it through.”

“Overall, it’s a satisfying variant of the closed-circle murder mystery with an investigation that unfurls well and at four episodes, doesn’t feel padded – even if it breaks no new genre ground. There’s comfort in its familiarity and in Shardlake’s principled character, and a regular trip back in time to tell the rest of these stories on screen would be a welcome addition to the TV calendar. More, please.”

“The atmospheric production is long on mood and mist and dark places; the monastery, which one would sooner call a castle, dominates the landscape like something from an old horror movie. It’s no surprise to learn that the series was partially filmed in Transylvania. We are on unfamiliar familiar ground, and it feels good.”

Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell in Shardlake
Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell in Shardlake

“The premise is excellent and the set-up compelling; the trio of Shardlake, Barak and Cromwell a satisfying guide through the savagery of 16th-century England. But once the murders start and the focus turns to a community tormented by an unknown killer, the show slips into something muddier and more generic. Stabilising the scales between history and mystery is a challenge, then, and one that Shardlake just barely balances.”

“Shardlake is too slow off the mark. It isn’t until the second episode that we rev into some action, and when there are only four in total, it’s a hefty chunk of table-setting.”

“It’s a solid, intelligent offering that never quite kicks into a higher gear. Disney has billed it as ‘thrilling’, which it isn’t. Bean makes a brief appearance and gives Cromwell a Sheffield twang. The political backdrop adds an interesting extra layer to the plot, though, and I’d be happy to see the Hughes-Boyle double act continue.”

“The idea of a classic murder mystery with an epic Tudor setting and a big budget is an exciting one. But the source material and charismatic leads deserve better execution.”

Shardlake is available to watch on Disney+ now.

This article has been updated to correct a previous error.

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