Home / Arts & Life / Review: Amazon’s British Thriller ‘Fearless’ is for the Conspiracy-Minded

Review: Amazon’s British Thriller ‘Fearless’ is for the Conspiracy-Minded


Helen McCrory, right, stars in “Fearless,” a new British conspiracy thriller streaming on Amazon Prime.

Gareth Gatrell/Amazon Studios

The new Amazon series “Fearless” is a solid, atmospheric but unsurprising exercise in a British perennial: the old-boy’s-club conspiracy thriller, in which an ordinary bloke discovers that the aristocrats and technocrats who run the country will go to murderous lengths to cover up their indiscretions. Superior versions include “Edge of Darkness” (1985, available on DVD) and the great “State of Play” (2003, streaming at Britbox).

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These crime dramas have complex characters and slow-moving plots. The charming accents are just a bonus. See all the titles in this collection on Watching, The New York Times’s TV and movie recommendation site.

This new iteration, which starts streaming its six episodes on Amazon Prime on Friday, was created and written by Patrick Harbinson, who has extensive experience in the more caffeinated American versions of these stories as a writer and producer on “Homeland” and “24.” His primary innovation is to make the characters doing the dirty work women. Emma Banville (Helen McCrory), a crusading lawyer, uncovers what appears, in the three episodes available for review, to be a cover-up involving a murder and an American air base. She’s opposed by American (Robin Weigert of “Deadwood”) and British (Wunmi Mosaku) operatives who carry out their orders with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

In trying to construct the layered plot a conspiracy tale requires, Mr. Harbinson piles on complications but doesn’t really find a hook to pull us into the story. Emma, who’s sheltering the wife of a British citizen suspected of terrorism, is already being watched by the British spy services when the series begins. Then she takes on the wrongful-conviction case of a man in prison for the murder of a teenage girl.

This results in Emma and her very patient boyfriend having two houseguests who are both persons of interest to the government, a situation that serves a dramatic purpose but mostly just feels contrived. It doesn’t help the story’s believability that, in order to reinforce Emma’s fearlessness on behalf of her clients, Mr. Harbinson exaggerates both the hatred she inspires (from the dead girl’s family) and the malevolence of the government’s opposition to levels that are excessive even for a paranoid thriller.

If your appetite for dark tales of official malfeasance is strong, “Fearless” will go down easily enough, helped by the usual superior British cast — Jamie Bamber (“Battlestar Galactica”) pops up as a shifty member of Parliament and Michael Gambon drifts in and out as the master of the universe who’s guilty of something that will presumably be revealed in Episode 6. If six hours is a tough ask, though, go straight to “State of Play.”

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