The Shadow Line (TV series)

This article is about the TV series. For other uses, see The Shadow Line (disambiguation).
The Shadow Line

Genre Drama
Created by Hugo Blick
Written by Hugo Blick
Directed by Hugo Blick
Theme music composer Emily Barker
Opening theme Pause
Ending theme Pause
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 7
Executive producer(s)
  • Polly Hill (for BBC)
  • George Faber
  • Charles Pattinson
  • Henry Normal
  • Lindsay Hughes
  • Marc Samuelson
  • Steve Christian
  • Johann Knobel
  • Hugo Blick
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network BBC
Original release 5 May (2011-05-05) – 16 June 2011 (2011-06-16)
External links

The Shadow Line is a seven-part British television drama miniseries produced by Company Pictures/Eight Rooks Ltd/Baby Cow/CinemaNX production for BBC Two.[1] It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, Rafe Spall, Lesley Sharp, Kierston Wareing, Antony Sher and Stephen Rea. The series was written, directed and produced by Hugo Blick. (It has no connection with the sea-faring novel of the same title by Joseph Conrad.)

The first episode was screened on 12 April 2011 at BAFTA's Princess Anne Theatre in Piccadilly, and was followed by a special question and answer session with Hugo Blick and Christopher Eccleston.[2]

Broadcasting of the series started on 5 May 2011 and finished on 16 June 2011. It is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.


The Shadow Line is about a murder investigated by both sides of the line – police and criminals – and the opposing methods they use to solve it. But the real line is the morality within each character and how far they will go before they cross it.[1] It is also about a secret so monumental that, if it were ever revealed, the entire nation might collapse.


The series is produced by Company Pictures/Eight Rooks Ltd/Baby Cow/CinemaNX/Isle of Man Film for BBC Two. It was mainly shot in the Isle of Man, with some sequences filmed in London.[3]


The theme music is the song "Pause" written by Emily Barker and performed by Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo. It was adapted to fit the title sequence scored by Martin Phipps.,[4] designed by Peter Anderson[5]



Drugs baron Harvey Wratten and his unstable nephew Jay (Rafe Spall) are released from prison on a Royal Pardon: Jay going for associate Bob Harris (Robert Pugh) for suggesting that they earned their freedom by naming names. Harvey is murdered and dishonest cop Sergeant Foley (David Schofield) tips off the Wrattens' seemingly placid and gentle henchman Joseph Bede (Christopher Eccleston), a man whose wife Julie (Lesley Sharp) appears to be suffering from early Alzheimers, to the fact before the investigation gets under way. The case is given to DI Jonah Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor), returning to work after a bungled undercover job in which his partner died and he got a bullet in the brain which cannot be removed. No sooner has the investigation got under way when Gabriel finds a case containing thousands of pounds in his own house.

Joseph is told that Harvey owed a million pounds to Turkish drugs importer for a lost delivery, and proposes a new deal to the Turk, Bulkat Babur (Stanley Townsend), smuggling drugs into the country in arum lilies, after which he plans to quit. Gabriel believes Harvey knew his killer as he had wound his car window down to speak to him. He and his colleague DS Lia Honey (Kierston Wareing) look for the car driver, petty crook Andy Dixon (Tobi Bakare), who has gone on the run, but Jay is also on his trail, threatening his family, as is a mysterious man called Gatehouse (Stephen Rea). After the police track Andy's phone when he calls his mother (Sharon D. Clarke) up, Gabriel and Jay locate him to a park, but somehow Gatehouse gets to him first and they drive away together.

Joseph begins his business with Babur to provide financial care for his wife, whose condition is worsening. Gatehouse persuades Andy to meet Jay, telling him he "messed up". After Andy has told Jay, he heard his uncle's killer say "Bob Harris says hello" he is shot dead, along with his family, by Gatehouse, making it look as if the young chauffeur pulled the trigger himself, though Gabriel is not convinced and Patterson (Richard Lintern), his superior, gives him two weeks to solve the case. Dogged by annoying reporter Ross McGovern (Tobias Menzies), Gabriel and Honey stake out Harvey's sparsely-attended funeral, where a heavy named Beatty (Sean Gilder) expresses his hatred of Harvey. Having heard that Gabriel never registered the operation where his partner was killed, Honey has her doubts about his reliability and follows him to a house where he is welcomed by a woman who is not wife (Agni Scott) and a little boy who calls him "Daddy".

After refusing to accede to his ex-mistress' request that he tell his pregnant wife about her, Gabriel gets a visit from Beatty, who turns out to be a customs officer. He tells Gabriel that Harvey got his pardon for saving his life and also giving a tip-off about a drug deal, though the drugs turned out to be already in Harvey's possession, hence the rift with Babur, to whom he did not deliver. Beatty also arrests one of Harris' pushers, Harris' rent boy, naming Jay as the informant though he denies this. Through studying CCTV, Gabriel links Dixon to Gatehouse, who is now in pursuit of Peter Glickman (Antony Sher), an elusive associate of the Wrattens. Gatehouse also drives the car which mows down Ross, who was trying to probe details of Gabriel's failed undercover job of which the detective can remember nothing.

Joseph starts an affair with Petra (Eve Best), Peter Glickman's girlfriend whilst Peter himself, now posing as Paul Donnelly, a watch-maker in Dublin, lures Gatehouse to a showdown which both survive and oddly back off. Peter rings Gabriel, who learns that his dead partner, Delaney, was corrupt, but Patterson defends Gabriel's integrity. Peter meets up with Joseph. It transpires that Gatehouse had the money for the drugs in the transaction with Babur, but Peter failed to pay up. Meanwhile, Harris is killed and his boyfriend, Ratallack (Freddie Fox) proposes to take over his deal with Joseph.

Peter meets Gabriel, telling him that Gatehouse will give him the answers he needs, but to beware that Gatehouse will use his "secrets" to hurt him. Gabriel assumes that this means his ex-mistress Alison and her son, and after visiting retired commander Penney (Nicholas Jones) and mentioned Counterpoint as instructed by Peter, Gabriel is visited by Gatehouse at Alison's flat. Gatehouse explains that he killed Delaney because he was corrupt and deliberately spared Gabriel himself. He is interrupted by Peter, and in a shoot-out, Alison's son is killed and Gatehouse wounded. As Gabriel's memory slowly returns, he realises that the trunk of money contains marked notes used by Delaney to sell drugs to the force, for whom Harvey was working. He tells Patterson, who warns him that their superior, Commander Khokar (Ace Bhatti), is not to be trusted. Meanwhile, Joseph Bede's henchman tips Beatty off about Joseph's upcoming deal with Babur while Petra, having killed Peter, attempts to murder Gatehouse in his hospital room, but he kills her. Joseph's dementing wife Julie tries killing herself by purposely falling down the stairs. Doctors tell Joseph she will be going in a home, but they give him a second chance. Joseph returns home to find the kitchen covered in blood, and Julie lying unconscious on the floor holding a knife.

Joseph contacts the doctors and tells them to put Julie in a home. Khokar is forced to retire after Gabriel rumbles that he had Petra try and kill Gatehouse. Gabriel is summoned by Penney, who tells him that Counterpoint was a scheme to get dirty money from crooks, via supposed laundering in order to finance police pensions. Harvey's discovery of this, sealed his fate, thanks to Gatehouse, who was employed by Counterpoint. Beatty alerts Gabriel to Joseph's deal with Babur and Ratallack, but is not prepared for a change of plan. As villains fall out, Gabriel goes to meet Gatehouse in a deserted rural location for a final showdown. Gabriel asks Honey to park the car on the hill facing where the meeting will take place, and to shoot Gatehouse. It is revealed that, Gatehouse and his associates have paid Honey enough money to retire on to kill Gabriel, and when he plays mind games with Gabriel, she shoots Gabriel three times in the chest, killing him. Joseph finds out that Jay is trying to kill him, in order to take over the business, and buys a gun, but as his wife is slipping away he feels there is little to live for and deliberately leaves the gun behind when driving off with Jay. Jay kills him and becomes the boss. The series ends with Gatehouse, now one of the top men, telling two rookie dealers not to mess up, "because they know who they're messing with".


The first episode received mixed reception. The overall plot of this episode was praised by The Telegraph while the acting was felt to be too restrained.[6] Reviews for the final episode were much more positive. The underlying themes received particular praise.[7] Other reviews noted it to be flamboyant in an almost theatrical sense, but ultimately praised the series.[8] The Telegraph continued to negatively review the series, claiming the final episode was too unbelievable to be viewed with sincerity.[9] The series was ranked the second best series of 2011 by television magazine The Radio Times. The A.V. Club praised the show, claiming it "really nails the big beats in an effective manner", and expressed admiration for the "thrilling action sequence" that occurred in each episode.[10]


Episode Air date Viewers (millions)[11][12] Rank
One 5 May 3.4 2
Two 12 May 2.4 4
Three 19 May 2.1 8
Four 26 May 2.1 9
Five 2 June 1.9 17
Six 9 June 1.8 15
Seven 16 June 2.1 14

Factual basis

The method of drug smuggling described in the series reflected that used by the so-called "Flowers Gang".[13]

International broadcast


  1. 1 2 "The Shadow Line, a new drama for BBC Two". Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  2. "The Shadow Line + Q+A". Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. "Press Office – Cast announced for BBC Two's The Shadow Line". BBC. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  4. Barker, Emily (20 April 2011). "The Shadow Line". Emily Barker. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  5. "Home". Peter Anderson Studio. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  6. TV and Radio (4 May 2011). "The Shadow Line, BBC Two, review". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  7. Watson, Keith (16 June 2011). "The Shadow Line, series 1 episode 7: TV review". Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  8. "'The Shadow Line': Episode 7 review". 13 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  9. TV and Radio (16 June 2011). "The Shadow Line, final episode, review". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  10. Ryan McGee, "The Shadow Line". The AV Club. February 19, 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  11. "BARB Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  12. "BARB Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2011.
  13. "Tesco of drug smuggling' faces 20 years". Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  14. Munn, Patrick (1 February 2012). "DIRECTV's Audience Network Acquires The Slap and The Shadow Line". TVWise. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
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