Roush Review: Hulu’s Apocalyptic ‘Hard Sun,’ The CW’s Lightweight ‘Life Sentence’

Hard Sun
Miya Mizuno/Hulu
Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) on Hulu's 'Hard Sun'


Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a diabolical imagination like that of Neil Cross (Luther) finds a new spin to make a thriller thrilling. The high-intensity mayhem in Hard Sun, a BBC coproduction, begins when new London police partners Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) stumble across a flash drive predicting an imminent “extinction event” code-named Hard Sun. Though declared a hoax—but is it?—the very idea of the world ending triggers existential dread, creating a perverse wave of mad murderers.

The scariest, dubbed the “Good Samaritan Killer” (and well played by Richard Coyle), rewards acts of kindness with bloody slaughter. Maybe our world deserves a do-over after all?

While MI5 agents seek the flash drive in a violent game of hide-and-seek, Hicks and Renko are often at odds, and at each other’s throats, as she secretly investigates him for murdering his former partner. This murky mystery seems awfully small potatoes given the big picture, but maybe that’s because Sturgess is all surface swagger, whereas Deyn is the real deal, evoking an elfin Annette Bening by way of The Avengers’ Emma Peel. If anyone can save the world, it’s her.

Hard Sun, Series Premiere, Wednesday, March 7, Hulu


Lucy Hale as Stella and Elliot Knight as Wes

Stop me if you’re heard this one before. Which is what The CW’s programmers should have been told before going forward with the precious high concept of Life Sentence, which goes like this. Adorable, perky Stella (Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale, channeling Rachel Bilson in Hart of Dixie aren’t-I-cute mode) has believed for years that she is terminally ill. Until she miraculously isn’t. At which point the blinders come off, and she realizes that her perfect family and perfect husband (Elliot Knight) aren’t so flawless, and worse, they’ve have been hiding life’s other imperfections from her. Until there’s no reason to any more.

Like waking up from a bad dream to a worse reality, Stella dithers and quivers in classic rom-com ingenue fashion, even as the marriage of her parents (Dylan Walsh and Gillian Vigman) openly crumbles, and her siblings (Brooke Lyons, Jayson Blair) reveal what they’ve given up so she could die in relative peace. Except she didn’t.

This all might make a passable movie, perhaps on Lifetime. But as a series, its cloying tone had me thinking I’d rather die than subject myself to these flimsy complications on a weekly basis. The whiplash between this and Riverdale on Wednesdays is another reminder of what a confusing network The CW can be.