Sky’s latest original series, Two Weeks to Live is violently funny comedy backed by wonderful performances from Maisie Williams and Sian Clifford.
If you’ve ever wondered what Hanna (either the Saoirse Ronan film or its Amazon television remake) would be like with substantially more jokes, then Two Weeks to Live is your answer. Raised in the wild by her mother, Kim (Maisie Williams) makes her way to the outside world, armed with only her father’s ashes, a gun, an ability to violently defend herself, and whose only exposure to pop culture has been VHS copies of Terminator 2, Home Alone and The Shawshank Redemption.
With each episode clocking in at around twenty five minutes without adverts, Two Weeks to Live is fast, furious, violent and at times very, very funny, although some of that humour does threaten to become a tad too arch in the opening two episodes.
Initially fuelled by end of the world fears (and how strange it is to watch a comedy series in these Covid-19 times when a character asks about contacting the W.H.O), and raised to believe that her packet of Tic-Tac style mints are to give her immunity against radiation, it’s easy to think that Sky’s latest branch into original content is going to be another You, Me and the Apocalypse. But instead, it turns into something approaching a pitch that could be best described as Hanna meets End of the F***ing World with a touch of Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn.
Like End of the F***ing World, the series is gorgeously filmed, albeit with a more grey, overcast vibe. But it still has the ability to make various locations in England, such as its South Coast beaches and lush green forests, look simultaneously beautiful, only this time with a foreboding feel. The inclusion of Sean Pertwee as a British gangster responsible for the death of Kim’s father and Jason Flemyng as a corrupt cop gives some of the proceedings a taste of Guy Ritchie’s cinematic output. Watching Kim’s penchant for violent conflict with the ability to shoot and fight fast reminds one of many a Matthew Vaughn action sequence from Kick-Ass or the Kingsman films.
The first two episodes, as entertaining as they are, have an arch approach to the humour that threatens to take you out of proceedings. One fight sequence between Williams’ and Pertwee’s characters, as brilliantly choreographed as it is, sometimes turns to near fourth wall breaking dialogue between the two that threatens to take the audience out of the show. We get that they’re talking in tough-guy clichés, but we don’t necessarily need the characters to complement each other on it in that knowing way that feels like the series is trying to chase a crowd raised on a diet of Marvel Studios comedic action movies.
However, when the series reaches its third episode and Sian Clifford as Kim’s mum Tina enters the fray more fully and becomes more involved in the central storyline of the show, Two Weeks to Live starts to soar. The Terminator 2 reference is apt because if anything the Tina is an even more full-on British version of Sarah Connor, and Clifford runs with both hands the character’s ball-breaking demeanour and penchant for using rhymes when it comes to explaining how to properly kill people.
Better yet, as Two Weeks to Live approaches its finale, the humour and comedy become more controlled. The characters start to feel more genuine and the series builds up to a brilliant climax involving a siege set at the house in the woods that Kim has been raised in. It completes with some choice revelations that brings the series to an entertaining finish, but which leaves one thing left open just in case Sky opt to renew the series for a second season.
While it appears from the first episode that much of the story will be centred around Kim’s blossoming relationship with Nicky (a nicely funny Mawaan Rizwan), the heart of the series increasingly becomes the brilliantly twisted and violent mother/daughter relationship between Kim and Tina. Secrets and lies raise their head and the eventual explanation as to why Tina has opted to raise her daughter in the fashion that she has and the dark memories that Kim has of her father’s murder coalesce in a way that is maybe not that biggest of surprises, but which are carried magnificently by Williams and Clifford’s performances.
If there are any genuine subversions to be had with the plot, then it’s the way in which Tina’s journey isn’t simply determined by any romance with the series male lead. Mawaan Rizwan is funny throughout and portrays Nicky in an increasingly awkward way with his own set of strengths, but it’s Kim’s relationship with her mother that is the key to many Two Weeks to Live’s greatest strengths.
Helped brilliantly by their ability to believably portray a bickering parent and child, Gaby Hull’s teleplays also have a wonderful ability, combined with Williams and Clifford’s work in front of the camera, of being able to make their relationship funny, thrilling but most of all believable even in the face of increasingly violent material and threats against them.
It ends up making the series something of a dark heartedly humourous and emotional little gem.
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