TV Review: Des (miniseries) | A Chilling Story and Performance

I was browsing for something to watch, in fact I was planning to check out Monsterland‘s pilot episode to see if it is a series I could watch. But then I saw David Tennant (Good Omens, Jessica Jones) on the poster for this and forgot my plans. This three part miniseries is directed by Lewis Arnold (Dark Money, Humans) and alongside Tennant, Daniel Mays (White Lines, Temple, Good Omens), Jason Watkins (The Crown, Midsomer Murders), Ron Cook (The Witcher, Les Misérables), and Barry Ward (Gomorrah, The End of the F***ing World) star.

Des, as in Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, is one of these stories I feel like I should know but didn’t until now. When I think serial killers I do think USA, whilst being aware they exist the world over. The show covers the arrest of Nilsen, after the discovery of human remains blocking a drain near his London home, the investigation and media frenzy, but also the inception of Brian Marsters‘ book Killing for Company‘.

Review: The opening scene with the archive footage adds context and gives a documentary feel to the whole thing, which help ciment the idea that this is a true story. It is real, it’s history. It’s not glossy or glamourized, on the contrary it’s quite grim and gritty, and almost feels like watching a documentary.

I was a bit surprised by the fact that it wasn’t a long drawn out investigation to catch the killer. They caught him within the first ten minutes, so it was a nice change of pace though I did wonder where the story was. Because the police sort of stumbled upon Nilsen and had compelling evidence against him from get go. Until I heard Nilsen saying “15 or 16” that I was taken aback by the casual way it was said, the honesty and helpful nature that ensued kind of threw me…and creeped out. Tennant’s demeanor and delivery set the tone of the character in that moment for me.

When the profil of the victims was revealed, I mean when Dennis Nilsen talked about it and his sexuality, I was waiting for the phobia and prejudices to show their ugly heads. So when it first appeared, it was in the greatest way possible. A potential victim, who came forward, being dismissed because of that was genius. It both showed the homophobia and prejudices allowed Nilsen to operate for as long as he did, and it demonstrated how witty the guy was. It’s also when the perception of Dennis Nilsen starts to shift, as that potential victims told his story.

The series is not only about “Des” but also about the politics behind and around police investigations. It is appalling to see how it’s done or hopefully was done back in the day. It also puts shines a light on Dennis in relation to the inner workings of police work. The story is not about trying to catch a serial killer, or really about the investigation into trying to identify his victims in 1983, but how much of it – and that it encompasses a lot of things – was Nilsen’s doing.

Des is fascinating miniseries, a great and easy binge, with a stellar performance by David Tennant and the cast that surrounds him.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

If you’re interested it would be a huge help: Get your copy of the book below 😉


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