Stan Lee’s Lucky Man – Season 1 Episode 6
“A Twist of Fate”
Stan Lee’s Lucky Man enters the second half of its inaugural season after experiencing mixed fortunes over the first five episodes. Interesting concepts, settings and some strong acting performances have been held back by pacing issues, subpar CGI and one or two narrative missteps. Here, in episode six, it feels like lessons have been learned and the show as a whole might be about to come up trumps.
The plot this week follows a familiar formula – a murder with links to one of London’s many minority communities is brought to the attention of Clayton and Chohan – but instead of using lazy stereotypes and played-out imagery, this episode bucks the trend, and actually turns the concept on its head. The victim is a young man of Sierra Leonean origin; his body found in a state of severe decay after having been dumped in a building that was set to be demolished. Apparent links to voodoo or witchcraft are leaked to the press, sensationalising the killing, and stirring up trouble amongst the community. The discovery and presentation of the body provide some of the most arresting imagery we’ve seen in the series so far – a grisly reminder that the show has been attempting to project a grittier image than your standard comic-book fare (yes, we’ve become accustomed to this since Nolan’s Batman), but here it really does achieve this darker tone.
The subversion of the use of stereotypes is also refreshing; Lucky Man has been falling into the trap of portraying many of its minority characters as belonging to long-established and well-worn cultural pigeonholes. Here, the family of the murder victim are distressed at the reaction to the crime, how West African culture is being depicted in the press, and the subsequent line of police investigation into ties to voodoo. It’s a clever twist on what has been a staple of the series so far.
It turns out the victim was killed in order to harvest his kidney – he had been identified as a target after volunteering to donate some of his blood, which happens to be of a rare type, to help in the fight against the Ebola outbreak. Through their investigation, Clayton and Chohan discover that a shady doctor has been preying upon vulnerable immigrants to supply donor organs for those with the right connections. Again, by tying the narrative to relatable real-life events, the writers have succeeded in adding additional layers of intrigue without straying into the realm of the fantastic.
In this week’s drip-feed of information about Eve we are treated to some larger revelations about her backstory. She interacts with Clayton on several occasions, and explains a lot more about her family’s link to the bracelet – she, and her mother before her are ‘torches’, guardians of the lucky charm. Eve exposes Clayton to the further possibilities of controlling his luck – an ability he only truly embraces for the first time in this episode. It also turns out that Eve’s mother’s unsolved murder was Clayton’s first case, and was overseen by Karl Frierson, who has since moved on to become London’s Deputy Mayor. Frierson could well be the main antagonist for the remainder of this season; as a corrupt politician he seems to be covering up the details of Eve’s mother’s death, as well as benefiting from events surrounding this week’s murder. It all ties nicely back to Clayton’s investigation by Internal Affairs, hinting at a larger conspiracy running through many of this season’s narrative threads.
There’s some good character work throughout the episode, particularly from leads Nesbitt and Karan. Clayton gets to show off his disrespect for authority when clashing with his superiors D.S. Winter and Karl Frierson. His impetuous streak works against him also, as he convinces Chohan to put herself at risk in an attempt to expose the sinister Doctor Marghai. Chohan goes undercover at the clinic the cops suspect is acting as a front for Marghai’s criminal practice, and Karan does a great job convincing as a frightened immigrant with nowhere left to turn. Her implied vulnerability, and that of the people upon whom Doctor Marghai has been praying, is disturbing due to the realistic and believable nature of this plot. The medical scenes and threat of bodily harm through black market surgery are unsettling and provide some of the most thrilling moments in the series thus far. Chohan is placed in jeopardy as Clayton is distracted by his daughter, cleverly tying in a sub-plot involving Anna Clayton and the prison warden that has been bubbling away throughout the episode.
Overall, this has been a marked improvement on previous weeks’ episodes, establishing a sinister and atmospheric tone from the outset. The insidious plot involving the exploitation of vulnerable immigrants feels so real compared to some of the more stylised and fanciful elements of the organised crime storylines found earlier in the season. We’re still only being given details about Eve and the bracelet on a need-to-know basis, which remains a source of frustration. The sub-plots, while nicely linked to the main story, are unfortunately nowhere near as interesting. The visuals and colour palette are darker; the crime alludes to having links to the occult, before jack-knifing back towards a more down-to-earth, yet far more horrific truth. In the past, Lucky Man’s efforts at realism have come across as mundane, but here it actually nails true crime.
• a strong bounce-back after last week’s episode
• good performances from the leads, standing out for the first time in a few weeks
• a more realistic and simultaneously more disturbing plot
• slowly eking out plot points for the sake of it
• sub-plots that pale in comparison to the main story