Our Jack Taylor review compares the TV series to the popular book series.
One great thing about Netflix is that occasionally some great foreign show that no one has ever heard of seems to come out of nowhere. One such show is Jack Taylor, which Netflix recommended to me because I watch a lot of British mysteries. I knew nothing of the show, which means that it’s not on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America, but immediately fell in love with the characters and the story telling.
Jack Taylor is a former guard– Galway Police– who drinks himself out of a job and becomes a sort of private eye. Jack says that they don’t really have private eyes in Ireland because it’s too close to being an informer. However, Jack still finds himself in the middle of several mysteries, even though it’s three or four episodes before he actually becomes a private eye.
Jack has ticked off many of the hard-boiled characteristics: hangs out in a bar, gets his ass kicked regularly, and absolutely will not stop until he’s found the truth, no matter how painful. He could be Sam Spade’s Irish cousin. And no matter how hard Jack tries to do the right thing, people are always getting hurt around him, literally and emotionally. There’s a great moment in an episode where Jack takes along a bar buddy to snoop around and while Jack does some looking,the buddy ends up killing the night watchman. Jack never would have done that, but it is still his fault for taking the guy along. On the other hand, there are nice moments too. There’s a great moment where Jack realizes that a young guy idolizes him and, even though Jack thinks the kid is a moron for admiring him, he still tries to do right by the kid. It’s great.
Jack Taylor is well-done, if not overly stylish with an emphasis on writing and character over the look, which is very similar to, say, Inspector Lewis and other competent shows. The mysteries are good, not great. It’s the characters that are great, always a cross-section of Galway that shows a different sensibility than an American show towards crime, an acceptance of crime as inevitable. All of the mysteries hinge on motive, so Jack always has to dig into everyone’s life and it’s always interesting.
Jack has a ton of friends, notably, the guarda Kate Noonan, portrayed by the similarly named Nora-Jane Noone, who is awesome. She has this smirk that is excellent. And you can always tell when she’s thinking without her saying anything. Her and Jack have an interesting relationship that rings true. It’s not romantic, but it’s not not romantic either.
Iaia Glen, who plays Jack, is on two other top-shelf shows, no less than Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, so I wasn’t surprised that he could carry a show on his own. Glen is not a showy actor, but I can’t recall a false moment from him.
Oh, and Ireland, sweet Ireland. It’s so beautiful with its old world houses and green, green fields. Even scenes where drunks are throwing up in the canal, I’m always like, ‘It’s so charming! I would love to visit and throw up in that canal!”
For me, there is something very realistic about the show’s depiction of substance abuse and addiction. Jack tries to stay on the wagon, but life keeps getting in the way. And when Jack goes on a bender, Jesus, there is nothing romantic about it at all. He will end up rolling in garbage, crying. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but that’s the kind of drunk Jack is.
Anyway, if you like mysteries with character at their center, Jack Taylor is excellent. It’s the perfect palliative while you’re waiting for that next season of Inspector Lewis! I say, give it a try.
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