Trauma - an excellent study of grief, but not so good as a thriller

Grief is a funny thing. Not literally, obviously, but it can affect different people in all sorts of different ways.

John Simm was excellent in ITVs three-part drama Trauma
John Simm was excellent in ITVs three-part drama Trauma

Take Dan Bowker in Trauma (ITV, 9pm, Monday-Wednesday). Dan – played by the excellent John Simm – sees his son Alex go into surgery after being stabbed by a teenage love rival. Surgeon John Allerton (Adrian Lester) reassures him everything will be fine.

Seemingly moments later, and a distraught Dan stumbles into the operating theatre to see a panicked John desperately trying to restart Alex’s heart.

Dan is sure John has made a mistake, and from that moment, his whole life is about proving that, about doing his son proud, about kicking back against the establishment that his kept him and his family back.

Mike Bartlett’s drama wrestled with issues of money, class and inequality, and often teetered perilously close to the absurdity or melodrama – particularly as Simm’s downtrodden, working class everyman, became a glib, smooth-talking, knife-wielding conman as he tricked his way into Allerton’s home to wreak his vengeance.

But it was very good on grief. How the person you lost dominates everything. How you see the echoes of that person in all you see, hear, or do. It doesn’t really matter what it is, there is always some tangential reference which calls them back into your mind and rips open the hole in your heart you keep trying to close.

Coincidentally, that’s exactly how Alex dies, Allerton’s mistake enlarging the stab wound in his heart, a mistake which can’t be fixed.

As an attack on inequality, Trauma was heavy-handed and somewhat overcooked, As a meditation on the devastating effects of grief, it was quietly brilliant.

Collateral (BBC2, Mondays, 9pm) got off to a promising, if exposition-heavy, start, but I’m not sure I can accept that the show’s lead detective Carey Mulligan was once a top pole vaulter.

So, Hard Sun (BBC1, Saturdays, 9.30pm) has ended. What was that all about then? A police procedural? A serial killer chiller? A sci-fi thriller? It was all of things and none, and had me scratching my head.