Sure, BBC Four’s latest series, Hostages, may tick all the boxes for a prestigious drama import – it was widely acclaimed in its native country, it’s already been scooped up and remade by an American network and it comes with subtitles (thereby ensuring itself worthy of your full attention), but it’s the Israeli drama’s cracking premise which sets it apart from the rank of other drama imports. The series follows talented surgeon Yael Danon (Ayelet Zurer) who discovers that her family have been taken hostage the night before she is due to operate on the Prime Minister. She’s presented with a simple proposition: kill the Prime Minister, or her loved ones will die.
The premise is simple enough and with Hostages, it’s a case of it does what it says on the tin; the first episode launches immediately into the action as Yael’s family are grabbed in their own home. The driving force behind the rest of the series becomes about discovering just who is behind the attack, and their motivations for it.
Though it may be hard to see how such a simple premise could be stretched out over ten episodes, the series throws in enough twists and turns to ensure the action doesn’t become stale. However, by the latter half of the show’s run, some of those surprises start to feel a little forced. You can’t help but feel that the series would have benefitted from being just a couple of episodes shorter, if only to uphold that constant state of tension. In some of the show’s finer moments it is truly nail-biting stuff and what a treat this would have been if it had maintained that momentum.
It is truly refreshing to see a thriller that doesn’t revolve around a murder enquiry or government agency and Hostages really excels in its characters. Ayelet Zurer anchors the series as the quietly strong Yael, though the rest of her family are well developed, with even the two teenage children feeling like they serve a purpose to the overall storyline, something of a rarity in thriller series where the teenagers are so often tedious sidenotes (I’m looking at you, Homeland).
Indeed, the hostage-takers are similarly fleshed out with former-cop-turned-baddie Adam Rubin (Jonah Lotan) being particularly interesting. Rubin is a real mystery, initially introduced as a special forces agent, only to be revealed as the masked gunman who leads the attack on Yael’s home. He embodies one of Hostages main themes and one which you should keep in mind as you work your way through the series – there is more going on than meets the eye.
Taut, twisty and original, Hostages has been a welcome addition to BBC Four’s roster. Though it may put the odd foot wrong in its undying attempt to constantly up the stakes, you’ll be hard pressed not to reach for the next disc.
Hostages is available now on DVD and Digital Download via Arrow Films.
Buy Season 1 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Erzu7F