What's Worth Watching: Black Work on Acorn TV for Monday, November 2

Matt Roush
Black Work
Acorn

Black Work, Episode 1, available Monday, Nov. 2, Acorn TV

The British "less is more" method of TV storytelling works in the favor of Black Work, an emotionally taut three-part mystery series unfolding weekly on the Acorn TV streaming service. (If you wait another two weeks, you can binge-watch the entire story.) We already know the marriage between police officer Jo Gillespie (Sheridan Smith) and frequently absentee husband/detective Ryan (Kenny Doughty) is troubled from the opening scenes, but when he is killed while on an undercover assignment kept secret even from his wife, Jo's grief quickly escalates into a determination to find the killer, while skeletons pour from every closet—or here, a linen cupboard where discs of secret recordings are found by Jo's daughter and stepson.

The story by Bridge of Spies co-writer Matt Charman is not without its contrived elements, as Jo bursts into crime scenes and berates fellow officers. Still, Smith convincingly conveys the bewildered storm of emotions fueling her crusade, including a complicated relationship with a fellow policeman (Matthew McNulty) and a sense that even within her family, she's a bit of an outsider, especially as unpleasant truths become public. So while this British import isn't quite on the level of tug-at-the-heart brilliance of first-season Broadchurch, its relative brevity keeps us from dwelling on the improbabilities by focusing on Jo's desperate need to know how things went so wrong on and off the job.