In an effort to shake-up the typical police procedural, “Hard Sun” adds an end of the world storyline to the standard two cops investigating crimes plot. This is a British production from Neil Cross, the man behind “Luther,” and it partly shares that show’s reliance on dark psychological dysfunction. What it doesn’t have is “Luther’s” Idris Elba to skillfully carry the storyline. But Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn, as Charlie Hicks and Elaine Renko, two cops on opposite sides of the moral spectrum, do a passable job with the apocalyptic twist. It’s a show better enjoyed in parts than as a whole.
Renko is assigned to be Hicks’ partner so that she can secretly investigate his possible involvement in the death of his previous partner. She is a morally upstanding officer who is emotionally scarred while Hicks is a corrupt cop whose love for his pregnant wife and adopted daughter still doesn’t prevent him from sleeping with his dead partner’s wife. The pairs’ relationship is immediately based on mutual distrust, which establishes tension from the story’s beginning. A murder investigation complicates their suspicion of one another as they uncover a terrible secret and must work together to survive it.
The secret is a civilization-ending natural disaster, which is never quite explained but has a timeline of five years and something to do with the sun. Renko reveals part of the information to the public and hides the rest of the file but instead of causing a global uproar, British security services make sure it is debunked as a hoax. Some unstable people who believe Renko’s “hard sun” file form the show’s cast of criminals — the world ending in five years being a motivator to do bad things. It’s a tidy way to connect the two storylines and offers some solid psychological drama, particularly starting in episode three when the hard sun information pushes a man’s crisis of faith to the extreme and he begins a murder spree, publicly killing good Samaritans in order to see evidence of God.
The violence is bloody, up close and personal. Knives, rather than guns are used to commit most of the crimes, and the scenes aren’t afraid to highlight the destruction sharp objects do to a body. Binged watched, the series feels almost relentless in its action, but none of it is cartoonish. It also seems as if Renko takes a beating once an episode and it’s hard not to admire Deyn’s physical endurance. She plays Renko with a fierce reserve, but she doesn’t make her very interesting, despite the painful past and uncertain present the character faces.
Sturgess gives Hicks the nervous energy of a paranoid man whose multiple sins could be revealed at any moment and his interactions with Deyn are mostly believable, but their chemistry isn’t off the charts. The criminals they go after are often more intriguing than the two of them.
There is a subplot involving Renko’s mentally ill son that works better in small doses, as does the show in general.
All six episodes of “Hard Sun” begin screening on Hulu March 7.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.