It’s the happiest day of Adam and Grace’s young lives. The childhood sweethearts, who have survived everything from the boredom of growing up in the Scottish Highlands to the terrors of freshers week, are finally tying the knot. Even better, Grace is expecting their first child. Everything, it seems, is lovely.
But then the camera pulls back. We’re in the newlyweds’ gloomy Edinburgh flat watching footage of the nuptials on their TV. The happy couple, meanwhile, are collapsed on the floor covered in blood. Their killer looms in the shadows still the clutching the murder weapon.
As openings go, the first moments of One of Us (BBC1) are unexpectedly stark and horrifying to watch. Until you remember this relentlessly dark and foreboding thriller is written by Harry and Jack Williams, the geniuses behind 2014 drama The Missing, which, you will no doubt recall, began with the sickening moment a boy was snatched from his family at a French holiday resort.
As with that acclaimed drama, the brutal murder here is only the start of the misery for the couple’s bereaved families. There’s a storm brewing – both physically and figuratively – in the seemingly idyllic village of Breaston that only intensifies when Adam and Grace’s killer turns up at the family farm suffering life threatening injuries.
It’s a brilliantly inventive conceit – like a grim mash-up of an Agatha Christie novel and a Tarantino flick – with the shock arrival causing a watershed moment for both families as all the secrets, lies and deceits they have carefully hidden over the years suddenly come flooding to the surface.
At times it’s unbearably tense and incredibly challenging to watch. The killer’s presence in the household raises uncomfortable questions about morality, murder and revenge. And the Williams brothers are not afraid to put you in the shoes of every character – including Owen Whitelaw’s drug-addicted murderer – and force you to consider what you would do if the man who destroyed your family landed in your hands. You might not like the answers.
The brothers also have a remarkable pulling power when it comes to assembling a heavy hitting cast. David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes will star in The Missing’s second series and One of Us boasts a similarly star-studded line-up, including John Lynch, Julie Graham, and Chris from Skins (real name Joe Dempsie). Owen Whitelaw particularly impresses as the intensely fragile killer.
But the biggest character by far, in episode one at least, is the storm-battered highland setting. The lashings of rain only add to the suffocating sense of isolation the harsh landscapes provide, the bleak surroundings perfectly matching the heightened tension and inescapable numbness of grief that sets the characters – not to mention the viewer – on edge throughout.
Whether it will all end in a Tarantino-inspired splurge of bloody violence remains to be seen. But judging by this dark, absorbing and terrifying opening episode, you will certainly be sticking around to find out.
Click here to watch episode 1 of One of Us on BBC iPlayer