From the producer and director of BBC Two comedy thriller The Wrong Mans comes another series that combines dark humour with a deadly chill.
Jim Field Smith’s Stag, which he produces, directs, and co-writes with George Kay is set in the remote Scottish highlands, where mild-mannered geography teacher Ian (Jim Howick) travels in order to attend a stag party, which involves hunting a stag. However, he doesn’t know anyone else there apart from the groom Johnners (Stephen Campbell Moore), who is marrying Ian’s sister.
Ian then gets acquainted with the rest of the party: best man Ledge (JJ Field), Cosmo (Rufus Jones), The Mexican (Amit Shah), Aitken (Tim Key), Neils (Pilou Asbæk) and Wendy (Reece Shearsmith). Ian tries to put up with their raucous behaviour, which is annoying all the locals as well as himself. On the way to site where they will be staying the night, the path is blocked by a flood, which they can only cross when the gamekeeper (James Cosmo), shoots an arrow with a wire across the water and makes the party ford across naked.
Left on their own (with the exception of the stag which the gamekeeper informs them will either attack them if they are seen as a threat, or rape them if they think they are female), they make camp in the woods, where Ian learns more about the real lives of the people in the party, such as the fact that Aitken hates everybody. However, not long after this, as everyone toasts the party, Aitken is attacked from behind and dragged away from the campsite, into the night. This is just the start of a series of incidents in which everyone in the stag party is threatened, with someone out there wanting to kill them all.
The tone of the comedy is pretty wide ranging. First there is the humour of the characters which are at first extremely unlikable with the exception of Ian, but become more sympathetic as you realise each one of them has they own personal problems. Then you have more broad moments such as the naked crossing of the flooded road. On top of that you also get the situation that the characters find themselves in, with some of the bizarre ways that their attacker is prepared to dispose of the party, but at the same time the party are still keen to protect the important things, like Ian’s bottle of shiraz (and how it should be pronounced).
But perhaps the main appeal is the drama. This opening episode has been pretty gripping, not just in terms of what happens to the characters, but how it is down. There are kidnappings, hidden traps and hangings among other things. Also, while the viewer discovers who their attacker is at the end of the first episode, I’m not 100% sure if this person is doing it on their own, or if there is a bigger mastermind. Whatever the answer, it will be fun to find out.
Stag is on BBC Two on Saturday nights at 21.00.