Yesou are a detective investigating Britain’s worst serial killers and a new one has arrived. Six body parts from six different victims were found in a deserted apartment, carefully stitched together to form a hideous whole. What is your top priority? Seal the scene to avoid DNA contamination? Interview the neighbors? Check your list of known murder suspects?
If you’re Nate Rose and Emily Baxter, Ragdoll detectives (Alibi), the answer is: compete to find the coolest name for the killer. In honor of the killer’s high-level artistry, Loco Chanel is one of the first runners.
Much of Alibi’s promo for Ragdoll stems from the fact that it’s made by the same production company as Killing Eve, and its writer Freddy Syborn wrote an episode of that show. He shares Eve’s wicked sense of humor, or rather her insistence on meeting wickedness with humor. You’ll know in less than 10 minutes whether the lyrical ultra-violence, dark comedy, and nearly squashed dialogue have you quivering with joy or burning with irritation.
If you like it, there’s a new detective duo to obsess over. Apparently the lead is Henry Lloyd-Hughes as DS Nathan Rose, your standard maverick detective with a complicated personal life. Recently restored to strength two years after committing GBH during a court hearing, Nate is first seen face down on a sofa in an otherwise sparsely furnished apartment, his belongings stacked in a cardboard box with “CRAP” scrawled on the side. He is, of course, haunted by a previous case: his failed pursuit of a villain known as the Cremation Killer.
Rose’s demons are serious though. He has since spent time in a mental institution, although he dislikes the term: “I think ‘loony bin’ better reflects my lived experience of that hellhole.” He needs care. Advance the character who is at least his equal and, after Nate’s demotion to DS, now his boss: DI Emily Baxter, played by Thalissa Teixeira.
Having recently specialized in dramas that sound interesting but never reach the top of your watch list – Trigonometry, Baghdad Central, Too Close – Teixeira is shaping up to be decent here. Dressed in a highly imitable unisex uniform consisting of a grandpa shirt, combat pants, chunky boots and a gray boyfriend blazer, her swaggering swagger is Whovian and Holmesian and is sure to be on. the point of seeing it in absolutely everything. While Lloyd-Hughes brings his tortured darkness to the show, Teixeira adds a skill of steel that doesn’t stop Baxter from sharing Rose’s tendency to treat the most macabre evil as an opportunity for jokes.
Nor does the urgent need to stop the killer distract Baxter from his primary concern: Rose’s well-being. The drunken karaoke party when it’s confirmed that – yes! – they love each other but can’t tell is a sentimental joy. There’s a scene at the end of Episode 1 where Baxter brings Rose home safely and clearly doesn’t want to get out of the car – we don’t either.
If Rose and Baxter form a quasi-couple, they already have a pseudo-child to control: DC Lake Edmunds (Lucy Hale), an eager American rookie who is the third member of the basic trio. She and Baxter are their own pair, offering a pleasant variation on the classic Morse/Lewis dynamic of cynical veteran and annoying underling. It’s Millennials vs. Gen Z, and Syborn’s storyline finds the perfect line to bridge the gap when Baxter references The Simpsons, which she obviously knows by heart. Edmunds casually replies, “I’ve never really seen the show. But I know memes!
As for the crime drama – with characters jumping off the screen, it’s easy to forget why we’re here in the first place – there’s a heavy debt to Luther. The show finds its home in low-rise, strip-lit south London, painting it as a land of blinding glare and suffocating shadows – the perfect playground for a seemingly omnipotent killer who wants to make every slaughter a spectacular masterpiece.
Is Ragdoll a masterpiece? Not quite, not yet. Some scenes are overly stylized, and Phil Davis has a confusing guest role as the Mayor of London, who looks like a Boris Johnson-style clown and acts like a gangster, but also appears to be a leftist stalwart. he’s overworked, something the show flirts with throughout. If he crashes and burns, those of us on his wavelength will gladly fall with him.