tv series

‘Collateral’ review: Good intentions and the right ingredients, but the punch is missing

Although the BBC/Netflix mini-series is packed with interesting characters, it promises far more than it delivers.

It’s clear from the trailer itself that the BBC-Netflix series Collateral sets out to be an ambitious police procedural laced with social commentary. For some part, the audience can be convinced that the ambition is backed by a fair share of substance too. Written by Academy Award nominated David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) and directed by SJ Clarkson, the mini-series comes with a great premise and an awe-inspiring cast consisting of Carey Mulligan, John Simms, Nicola Walker (the most promising face on British television) and Doctor Who alumnus Billie Piper.

The series begins with a pizza delivery man, Abdullah Asif, being shot down in suburban London while on the job. What follows is a four-hour police procedural that unwraps coincidences, connections and the many concentric circles that surround this seemingly isolated murder.

Detective Kip Glaspie (Mulligan) is also a former Olympic pole vaulter whose career ended with a terrible fall that was broadcast and replayed on British television long enough for her to go from bright-eyed sports figure to disillusioned cop. Glaspie connects what seems like a hate crime to all that is wrong in the post-Brexit era. But she isn’t alone in her analysis of the state of the nation. She gets some help from David Mars (Simms) a frustrated Labour Party Member of Parliament who seems to be airing Hare’s own political views when he says, “We really are turning into a nasty little country.” Unfortunately, he does so in a crucial television interview.

As MI5 gets involved in what could be written off as a one-off murder, Glaspie starts to pick at the spiral that is being woven around the two Iraqi women she finds living inside a garage, Asif’s sisters Mona and Fatima.


Rather than a whodunit, the series, as its title suggests, is a meditation on collateral damage and a comment on immigration policy and the xenophobia and racism washing over a country reeling from political readjustments.

While Collateral clearly arrives with good intentions and has all the best ingredients, the show does not deliver all that it promises. It has a little too much of everything – an MP dealing with a volatile ex-wife, a drug ring run from a pizza delivery place, a vicar at odds with her church and bishop for being in love with an illegal Vietnamese immigrant, a Turkish gang of human traffickers, and a PTSD-affected female soldier being harassed by a abusive superior officer.

Collateral initiates multiple compelling storylines, but not all of them get the resolution they deserve. While Mulligan shines as a calm and uncomplicated Glaspie, Walker’s storyline fails to create empathy and seems like an arc that either needed more development or a brutal editing job. Billie Piper, on the other hand, is explosive in what could be her best performance yet as Karen Mars, the erratic drug-addled ex-wife of David Mars. The series does do something no crime thrillers have done before. It features a raft of female characters. Glaspie, Reverend Jane Oliver, Captain Sandrine Shaw, Fatima and Mona and undercover MI5 agent Berna Yalaz are all crucial to the story.

Collateral could have been great contemporary television. Carey Mulligan is impeccable as Kip Glaspie, but she deserved more than a half-baked back story. David Hare has already announced that there won’t be a second season, but there should be one, if only to give us some closure on the relevance of Kip Glaspie’s pole-vaulting career.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.