Trigger Point review: Vicky McClure thriller stands out in a crowded genre with carefully controlled suspense

Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester in Trigger Point (Credit: HTM Productions/ITV)Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester in Trigger Point (Credit: HTM Productions/ITV)
Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester in Trigger Point (Credit: HTM Productions/ITV) | HTM Productions/ITV

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Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester star in this bomb disposal thriller produced by Jed Mercurio

Trigger Point is at its best as a process story.

The ITV drama builds its set pieces around the granular, technical details of bomb disposal: which wires to cut first, where the second trigger might be hidden, the significance of one type of explosive vs another. Trigger Point is careful, even forensic, in how it builds tension, and that’s very much to its credit: its slower, more precisely built scenes are always its most impressive. A possible shoot-out with a hostage wearing an explosive vest is engaging but familiar – it’s the delicate, steady incisions made in blue plastic carrier bag to identify the bomb inside that make Trigger Point stand out in a crowded genre.

The obvious point of comparison for Trigger Point is Line of Duty, for more reasons than one. Produced by Jed Mercurio, it’s got the same densely packed technical dialogue, which contributes to a similar style and feel throughout. Trigger Point also repeats a few of Line of Duty’s well-worn structural tricks, so even before you get to the obvious “they both star Vicky McClure in a police-adjacent role” observation, the two feel in conversation with one another (and Bodyguard too, come to that).

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But it’s (at least a little) more than just ITV’s answer to Line of Duty, and it never quite feels like the product of a calculated, “if you liked that you’ll like this” style Netflix algorithm. The first episode is very much a statement of intent and scale – not just in terms of where it goes big and broad but where it’s small and precise, willing to let quiet moments of tension stand on their own. It’s not quite the BBC Two show Line of Duty began as, nor the BBC One show it became, but instead something between the two, with clear potential to develop its own distinct identity if it continues for as long as Line of Duty did.

Some of Trigger Point’s most interesting aspects again come in its smaller details. As the bomb disposal team try to determine who exactly is behind a series of terror attacks across London, senior officers keep suggesting different Muslim groups. At the same time, there’s a television playing in the background, where a politician being interviewed on the news is throwing out Islamophobic talking points; one of the police officers, in a subtle bit of costume design that speaks volumes, is wearing a thin blue line patch, which the camera lingers on in a way that makes it difficult to miss.

As the series unfolds that might prove to be a misdirect, or only a gesture at something interesting that doesn’t quite pay off, but on the basis of its opening episodes Trigger Point feels politically more substantial than a lot of comparable thrillers – not subtle, at all, but interestingly self-aware in a way that’s worth paying attention to.

Trigger Point is also helped by a reliably strong cast. The six-part thriller is headlined by Vicky McClure as Lana Washington and Adrian Lester as Joel Nutkins; they’re joined by Kerry Godliman and Warren Brown, both of whom are always great to see, as well as a number of others. They’re the sort of prolific cast where it’d be a surprise if Trigger Point was the first time you’d seen any of them onscreen, but also the sort of talented cast where on the off chance it was they’d each make a good first impression: McClure and Lester have great chemistry together, an obvious bond in their moments of friendly bravado and private vulnerability.

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Ultimately, Trigger Point is a well-made, suspenseful thriller, one that stands out nicely amongst a crowded genre. It makes for an impressive and confident debut for first-time writer Daniel Brierley – and, with some engaging cliffhangers in its opening episodes, seems sure to pick up a widespread following.

Trigger Point will air on ITV at 9pm on Sunday 23 January, and will continue weekly after that. I’ve seen two episodes of Trigger Point before writing this review. You can read the first part of our interview with writer Daniel Brierley here, and the second half here.

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