Taut, styish, and smart, Second Sight is the rare detective thriller with a brutal poetry in its premise. Detective Chief Inspector Ross Tanner (Clive Owen) is a maverick cop and workaholic who solves crimes by putting his faith in facts he can see for himself. What more cruel irony could beset him than a slow and irreversible loss of vision? While a rare disorder attacks his cornea, causing intermittent blindness and hallucinations, Tanner conceals his problem in the pursuit of a murderer who brutally beat a 19-year-old man to death. The suspects are largely people the victim knew well, including his mother (Phoebe Nicholls) and stepfather (Stuart Wilson), the nanny (Louise Atkins) of his young sister, a gardener (Eddie Marsan) who supplied him drugs, and an uncle (Stuart Wilson again, playing twins) who has allegedly been out of the country for years but in fact has been keeping a low profile in London. Tanner faces an added strain, initially, when he is partnered with a female detective, Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), whose reliance on intuition is the antithesis of his own methods. Nevertheless, the two make a bargain after Skinner deduces Tanner's medical troubles: she'll be his eyes if he promises to give her equal credit for apprehending the killer. Utterly engrossing, Second Sight is part of that tradition of somber crime thriller done so well on British television, from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to Prime Suspect. Stars Claire Skinner (Sleepy Hollow) and Clive Owen carry the load exceptionally well. Owen (Closer, Bent), who looks like a slightly more rugged version of Kevin Costner and is instantly likable onscreen, conveys Tanner's necessary conversion to a more intuitive approach to police work with great care. Owen has looked like a candidate for international stardom for a while, and Second Sight certainly reinforces that perception.
Second Sight 2 follows the critically acclaimed, highly popular miniseries Second Sight with three bracing, two-part thrillers challenging ordinary notions of perception and deduction. Clive Owen returns as Chief Inspector Ross Tanner, whose eyesight is failing (his doctor sounds less certain this time that Tanner will absolutely go blind), subjecting him to blurry, distorting vision and even occasional hallucinations. Unwilling to give up his job, Tanner continues to rely upon confidantes working under him in his Special Murder Unit (now called the "Special Money Unit," investigating cold crimes and unusual cases), particularly Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), who became Tanner's "eyes" in Second Sight and is his lover in the first story here, "Hide and Seek." Created and written by Paula Milne, Second Sight was most interesting as a study of a man who can no longer use his eyes to solve crimes and must turn to a kind of sixth sense, heightened intuition, instead. Second Sight 2 extends that idea into chilling storylines in which only Tanner can "see" what his colleagues merely look upon. "Hide and Seek" is a strong and tragic tale in which Tanner re-opens an investigation into the apparent murder of a world-class violinist. While the SMU team pokes through three possible murder scenarios, Tanner takes the extraordinary measure of building a mock-up of the victim's home within police headquarters. (Meanwhile, Catherine endures the humiliation of being found out as Tanner's secret girlfriend.) "Parasomnia" is an absolutely spooky story about a sleepwalker (who fascinates Tanner on several levels) who has no memory of crossing town in her nightdress and bashing in her fiance's head. Finally, "The Kingdom of the Blind" finds Tanner's young son missing during an investigation into the racially charged killing of an activist. Through all of these, Owen's laser-focused, powerful performance is something special to behold. --Tom Keogh