The Shadow Line (TV series)

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The Shadow Line
Created byHugo Blick
Written byHugo Blick
Directed byHugo Blick
Theme music composerEmily Barker
Opening themePause
Ending themePause
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes7
Executive producers
  • Polly Hill (for BBC)
  • George Faber
  • Charles Pattinson
  • Henry Normal
  • Lindsay Hughes
  • Marc Samuelson
  • Steve Christian
  • Johann Knobel
  • Hugo Blick
Production locations
Running time60 minutes
Production companies
Original networkBBC
Original release5 May (2011-05-05) –
16 June 2011 (2011-06-16)
External links

The Shadow Line is a seven-part British television drama miniseries produced by Company Pictures/Eight Rooks Ltd/Baby Cow/CinemaNX production for BBC Two.[1] It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, Rafe Spall, Lesley Sharp, Kierston Wareing, Antony Sher and Stephen Rea. The series was written, directed and produced by Hugo Blick.

The first episode was screened on 12 April 2011 at BAFTA's Princess Anne Theatre in Piccadilly, and was followed by a special question and answer session with Hugo Blick and Christopher Eccleston.[2]

Broadcasting of the series started on 5 May 2011 and finished on 16 June 2011. It is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD and for purchase on Amazon Prime.


The Shadow Line is about a murder investigated by both sides of the line – police and criminals – and the opposing methods they use to solve it. But the real line is the morality within each character and how far they will go before they cross it.[1] It is also about a secret so monumental that, if it were ever revealed, the entire nation might collapse.


The series is produced by Company Pictures/Eight Rooks Ltd/Baby Cow/CinemaNX/Isle of Man Film for BBC Two. It was mainly shot in the Isle of Man, with some sequences filmed in London.[3]


The theme music is an adapted version of the song "Pause" written by Emily Barker and performed by Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, and made to fit the title sequence scored by Martin Phipps,[4] designed by Peter Anderson[5]


  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as DI Jonah Gabriel – amnesiac detective with a bullet in his head who leads the investigation into Harvey Wratten's death.
  • Christopher Eccleston as Joseph Bede – organised consultant for Harvey Wratten's empire. He has set up a florists as a front for the drug dealing organisation.
  • Antony Sher as Peter Glickman – former partner of Wratten, now on the run.
  • Stephen Rea as Gatehouse – elusive primary antagonist notable for his politeness and charm. His character is also rare in another context; despite handling large amounts of money, he is not driven by personal financial gain, but by control alone.
  • Rafe Spall as Jay Wratten – psychotic nephew of Harvey Wratten, eager to find his killer.
  • Kierston Wareing as DS Lia Honey – Gabriel's feisty detective partner.
  • Richard Lintern as DCS Richard Patterson – Gabriel's chain-smoking superior, requested Gabriel take charge of the Wratten case personally.
  • Eve Best as Petra Mayler – Peter Glickman's former mistress.
  • Lesley Sharp as Julie Bede – Joseph Bede's wife, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's.
  • Tobias Menzies as Ross McGovern – journalist who is getting too close to the truth.
  • Robert Pugh as Bob Harris – Harvey Wratten's rival, now business partner to Joseph Bede.
  • Malcolm Storry as Maurice Crace – Joseph Bede's right-hand-man and veteran associate of the Wratten empire.
  • Clare Calbraith as Laura Gabriel – Jonah Gabriel's wife.
  • Sean Gilder as Robert Beatty – customs officer who has information surrounding Jay and Harvey Wratten's Royal Pardon.
  • David Schofield as Sergeant Foley – gum-chewing corrupt police officer whose loyalties aren't clear.
  • Stanley Townsend as Bulkat Babur – Turkish heroin supplier who sets up Joseph's last deal.
  • Ace Bhatti as Commander David Khokar – Patterson and Gabriel's commanding officer.
  • Sasha Behar as Laing – senior customs officer
  • Freddie Fox as Ratallack – ambitious young associate of Bob Harris.
  • Nicholas Jones as Commander Penney – retired Police Commissioner.
  • Sharon D. Clarke as Mrs Dixon – the tortured mother of Andy Dixon.
  • Tobi Bakare as Andy Dixon – Harvey Wratten's driver on the night of his murder; has gone on the run after witnessing the crime.
  • Charles Kay as former MI5 agent Sir Richard Halton


Drugs baron Harvey Wratten and his unstable nephew Jay (Rafe Spall) are released from prison on a Royal Pardon. Jay attacks associate Bob Harris (Robert Pugh) for suggesting that they earned their freedom by naming names. Harvey is murdered, and before the investigation begins dishonest cop Sergeant Foley (David Schofield) tips off the Wrattens' seemingly placid and gentle henchman Joseph Bede (Christopher Eccleston), whose wife Julie (Lesley Sharp) is suffering from Alzheimers. The case is given to DI Jonah Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor), returning to work after a bungled undercover job during which his partner died, a bullet was lodged in his brain and cannot be removed, and he has lost all memory of the event. No sooner has the investigation begun than Gabriel finds a case containing hundreds of thousands of pounds in his own house.

Joseph is told that Harvey owed a million pounds to a Turkish drugs importer for a lost delivery; he proposes a new deal to the Turk, Bulkat Babur (Stanley Townsend): smuggling drugs into the country in arum lilies, after which he plans to quit. Gabriel believes Harvey knew his killer as he had wound his car window down to speak to him. Gabriel and colleague DS Lia Honey (Kierston Wareing) look for the car driver, petty crook Andy Dixon (Tobi Bakare), who has gone on the run, but Jay is also on his trail, threatening his family, as is a mysterious man called Gatehouse (Stephen Rea). After the police track Andy's phone when he phones his mother (Sharon D. Clarke), Gabriel and Jay locate him in a park, but somehow Gatehouse gets to him first and they drive away together.

Joseph begins his business with Babur in order to provide financial care for his wife, whose condition is worsening. Gatehouse persuades Andy Dixon to meet Jay and tell him he "messed up" and that he heard his uncle's killer say "Bob Harris says hello". Immediately afterwards, Gatehouse shoots dead Andy and his family, making it look as if the young chauffeur pulled the trigger himself, though Gabriel is not convinced. Patterson (Richard Lintern), his superior, gives him two weeks to solve the case. Dogged by annoying reporter Ross McGovern (Tobias Menzies), Gabriel and Honey stake out Harvey's sparsely-attended funeral, where a heavy named Beatty (Sean Gilder) expresses his hatred of Harvey. Having heard that Gabriel failed to register the operation on which his partner was killed, Honey has her doubts about Gabriel's reliability. She follows him to a house where he is welcomed by a woman who is not his wife (Agni Scott) and a little boy who calls him "Daddy".

After refusing his ex-mistress's request that he tell his pregnant wife about her and their son, Gabriel gets a visit from Beatty, who turns out to be a customs officer. He tells Gabriel that Harvey earned his pardon for saving his life by alerting the police to a car bomb and also giving a tip-off about a drug deal, though the drugs turned out to be already in Harvey's possession (hence the rift with Babur, to whom he did not deliver). Beatty also arrests one of Harris's pushers, also Harris's rent boy, naming Jay as the informant, though he denies this. By studying tube CCTV, Gabriel links the dead Dixon to Gatehouse, who is now in pursuit of Peter Glickman (Antony Sher), an elusive associate of the Wrattens. Gatehouse runs over and kills journalist Ross, who was probing the details of Gabriel's failed undercover job, of which the detective can still remember nothing.

Joseph starts an affair with Petra (Eve Best), Peter Glickman's girlfriend, while Glickman himself, living as watch-maker Paul Donnelly in Dublin, lures Gatehouse to a showdown in his shop. Glickman detonates a bomb he had installed as a security measure, but it fails to kill Gatehouse, and both men must back off owing to the imminent arrival of the emergency services. Glickman rings Gabriel, who learns that his dead partner, Delaney, was corrupt, but Patterson defends Gabriel's integrity. Glickman meets Joseph, and it transpires that Gatehouse had the money for the drugs in the transaction with Babur, but Glickman failed to pay up. Meanwhile, Harris's boyfriend, Ratallack (Freddie Fox) proposes to take over the deal with Joseph, and Harris himself is killed.

Glickman meets Gabriel, telling him that Gatehouse will give him the answers he needs, but to beware that Gatehouse will use his "secrets" to hurt him. Gabriel assumes that this means his ex-mistress Alison and her son. Glickman also advises that he visit retired Commander Penney (Nicholas Jones) and ask him about 'Counterpoint'.

Subsequently, Gabriel is visited by Gatehouse at Alison's flat. Gatehouse explains that he killed Delaney because he was corrupt and deliberately spared Gabriel himself. He is interrupted by Glickman, and in a shoot-out, Alison's son is killed and Gatehouse wounded. As Gabriel's memory slowly returns, he realises that the trunk of money contains marked notes used by Delaney to buy drugs, ostensibly as part of Counterpoint. He tells Patterson who warns him that their superior, Commander Khokar (Ace Bhatti), is not to be trusted. Meanwhile, Joseph Bede's henchman tips Beatty off about Joseph's forthcoming deal with Babur, while Petra kills Glickman and attempts to murder Gatehouse in his hospital room, but he kills her. Khokar is forced to retire after Gabriel and Patterson realise that he sent Petra to kill Gatehouse and that he is implicated in the criminal conspiracy.

Gabriel visits Penney on his boat, who tells him that Counterpoint had originally been set up as a sting to crack down on the laundering of drug money. The operation had been placed under his control, as serving Commander of the Force, and a Secret Service agent named Gatehouse. Any money made from the sting was to be placed in the police pension fund. Gatehouse conducted the operation through two underworld bosses named Wratten and Glickman. However, the operation had come to provide very considerable income, and after Counterpoint's objective had been served it was realised that the pension scheme had become reliant on this income and the operation was deemed too profitable to close down.

Harvey Wratten, while in prison, had found out about Counterpoint and the true nature of his customer i.e. Gatehouse. He used the information to blackmail the police into enabling him to receive a Royal Pardon. But as such a pardon required Wratten to give significant help to an official investigation, a scam was devised whereby he could be seen to give details leading to a major bust (of his own previously confiscated drugs) and provide information that would save the life of a Customs Officer (from a bomb deliberately placed for the purpose). It is later revealed that, following his release, Gatehouse killed him in order to restore his sense of order and control.

Joseph's wife Julie tries to kill herself by deliberately falling down the stairs. Doctors tell Joseph she will have to go into a home, but he refuses. Joseph returns home later to find her gone. She has been hospitalised after slitting her wrists.

Beatty alerts Gabriel to Joseph's deal with Babur and Ratallack, but he has been set up. Gabriel goes to meet Gatehouse in a deserted rural location for a final showdown. Gabriel has Honey park the car on the hill overlooking the meeting place and be prepared to shoot Gatehouse with a rifle. But Gatehouse reveals that Honey is part of the conspiracy, and she shoots Gabriel three times in the chest, killing him. Joseph finds out that Jay is going to kill him in order to take over the business, and buys a gun, but as his wife is slipping away he feels there is little to live for and deliberately leaves the gun behind when driving off with Jay. Jay kills him and takes over his part in the organisation.

The series ends with Gatehouse, now in sole control of Counterpoint, telling Jay (now procurement boss) & Ratallack (now sales boss), not to mess up "because you know who you're messing with". Patterson, now promoted to Commander, visits Gabriel's widow in the maternity hospital and informs her that Gabriel's newborn son will be well looked after thanks to a well-funded police pensions scheme.


The first episode received mixed reviews. The overall plot of this episode was praised by The Telegraph while the acting was felt to be too restrained.[6] Reviews for the final episode were much more positive. The underlying themes received particular praise.[7] Other reviews noted it to be flamboyant in an almost theatrical sense, but ultimately praised the series.[8] The Telegraph continued to negatively review the series, claiming the final episode was too unbelievable to be viewed with sincerity.[9] The series was ranked the second best series of 2011 by television magazine Radio Times. The A.V. Club praised the show, claiming it "really nails the big beats in an effective manner", and expressed admiration for the "thrilling action sequence" that occurred in each episode.[10]


Episode Air date Viewers (millions)[11][12] Rank
One 5 May 3.4 2
Two 12 May 2.4 4
Three 19 May 2.1 8
Four 26 May 2.1 9
Five 2 June 1.9 17
Six 9 June 1.8 15
Seven 16 June 2.1 14

Factual basis[edit]

The method of drug smuggling described in the series reflected that used by the so-called "Flowers Gang".[13]

International broadcast[edit]

  • In the United States the series was acquired by Audience Network and started airing on 19 February 2012.[14]
  • Germany. Broadcasting started at Wednesday, 16 November 2011, 8:15 pm on RTL Crime. The series finale aired on 4 January 2012.
  • Denmark. Series was broadcast late Sunday evenings already at autumn of 2011 on the prime national channel (commercial free) DR1. It was also re-aired a year later at the same channel.
  • Sweden. Broadcasting started at Friday, 16 March 2012, 10:15 pm at secondary national channel (commercial free) SVT2.
  • Australia. Broadcasting started on Friday, 23 March 2012 at 9:30 pm on ABC1, and was re-run starting from September 2014.
  • New Zealand. Broadcasting concluded mid March 2012 on SOHO.
  • Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Broadcasting started on Friday, 2 August 2013 on Orbit Showtime Network.


  1. ^ a b "The Shadow Line, a new drama for BBC Two". Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  2. ^ "The Shadow Line + Q+A". Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Press Office – Cast announced for BBC Two's The Shadow Line". BBC. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  4. ^ Barker, Emily (20 April 2011). "The Shadow Line". Emily Barker. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Home". Peter Anderson Studio. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  6. ^ TV and Radio (4 May 2011). "The Shadow Line, BBC Two, review". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  7. ^ Watson, Keith (16 June 2011). "The Shadow Line, series 1 episode 7: TV review". Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  8. ^ "'The Shadow Line': Episode 7 review". 13 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  9. ^ TV and Radio (16 June 2011). "The Shadow Line, final episode, review". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  10. ^ Ryan McGee (19 February 2012). "TV reviews - The Shadow Line". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  11. ^ "BARB Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  12. ^ "BARB Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2011.
  13. ^ "Leader of gang dubbed 'Tesco of drug smuggling' faces 20 years". London Evening Standard. 29 June 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  14. ^ Munn, Patrick (1 February 2012). "DIRECTV's Audience Network Acquires The Slap and The Shadow Line". TVWise. Retrieved 1 February 2012.

External links[edit]