Vigil final episode review: A throat-grippingly thrilling finale

How worried are you about this rift with France? Might Boris Johnson’s “Donnez-moi un break” quip provoke all-out war? If so, Suranne Jones simply has to lead us into battle. I won’t trust anyone else.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 10:01 pm
Det Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) reveals the identity of Vigil's Russian spy to Newsome (Paterson Joseph)
Det Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) reveals the identity of Vigil's Russian spy to Newsome (Paterson Joseph)

It’s all been about submarines in the Anglo-US-Aussie defence pact which has annoyed the French. It’s all been about submarines in Vigil, the BBC1 conspiracy thriller starring Jones which has sparked huge interest in subs and who knows maybe even that treaty and which ended last night in throat-grabbingly thrilling fashion.

Sure, there were holes in the plot as big as the hole letting in water on board HMS Vigil which was causing the boat - a submarine is called a boat by those who sail in her - to drop to the bottom of the Firth of Clyde and required the attention of frantic men with giant spanners, a must-have scene for any vessel-in-peril drama.

But the series could count on the novelty - and the nightmare - of the setting: the claustrophobic corridors of the submarine took us far away from standard crime scenes, as did dialogue like “Sir, the hover motor is smoking!” and “Ten more metres and we will hit crush depth!”

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Did you work out who the bad guy was?

It also had a chase along those corridors, with Jones’ detective Amy Silva desperately clawing at foot-thick metal doors, which was more exciting than those pursuits through abandoned warehouses in dry land-based shows which have become such a cliche.

And Vigil had Jones herself. Did you think she’d perished last week? Of course she didn’t, but first there had to be a bravura display torpedo tube-acting using only her eyes and, until the water got too deep, her screams, before she could escape and snare Doward.

Yes, he was the Russian spy. I rarely say this but: I told you so. He was the sonar operative who almost caused a collision with a tanker. It took the rest of the crew an awfully long time to be suspicious of him, something doubtless mentioned as a flaw in Vigil by the many retired submariners who’ve been asked during the last six weeks: “Is this a true depiction of life under the ocean wave?”

Accurate or not, the tensions between the police and the military, and between the peaceniks and the politicians over Trident, were well drawn. In the end the Russian subs harassing HMS Vigil did not want a full-scale battle. Gourock, Inverkip and Dunoon were not nuked. The - failed - aim had been to embarrass us. As someone with shiny epaulettes remarked: “Russia dupes Britain into scrapping its nuclear deterrent - that’s modern warfare.”

The American sub in the Clyde was called USS Delaware. I was disappointed no one revived a classic piece of Ronnie Barker wordplay and snapped: “I’m Delaware of how critical the situation has become!” That apart, Vigil made the most of its unique theme, although I’m not sure what happens next. There’s been talk of a second series but would that be sub-based? I don’t think Jones’ character would want to go there again. Or does she become a confined-spaces specialist, investigating crime in elevators, ventilation shafts and decommissioned silvermines?

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