The Promise Review: It’s The Bomb

THE PROMISE: Sunday 13th February, C4, 9pm ALERT ME

Not many dramas could get away with offering up a two-hour block of television and calling it an episode, but as we all found out last week, The Promise is something very special indeed. Louis Theroux’s trip through the heart of Zionist Israel certainly got people talking (some of you have been at it for days on end..) but while the BBC journalist drew forth issues with passive confrontation, this C4 drama teases them with fabulously drawn character study and finely executed time-shift layering. Yet the most impressive aspect of this tale is the way that writer/director Peter Kominsky skilfully powers the story without resorting to political cheapness. At times it is almost possible to forget the geo-political turmoil which forms the foundation for the whole thing – which is sign of very good television indeed.

Following the bombing of the cafe, young Erin is finding life in modern day Israel a slightly more challenging prospect than she did last week, however her troubles seem like mere trifles when compared to those of her grandad. Len (played by the excellent Christian Cooke) is struggling to hold things together in post-war Palestine and he’s got bombings and shootings of his own to worry about. He sticks up for ‘char wallah’ Abu-Hassan Mohammed and cuts an extremely conscientious figure through this second helping, so we are intrigued to here his diary recount complete dishonour, an expected prison sentence and an expectation that he “wouldn’t be able to look Mohammed in the eye if he saw him again..” As Erin continues to read she becomes ever more determined to find out what exactly happened to her ancestor to make him so miserable in his later years – especially as her mother seems determined not to tell her (“It’s not something that any family would want to talk about..”)

The finale is another stonker of cold shotmanship (in every sense) and although we know that Len survives the carnage, we are given another shiver by the realisation that these events were road-mapped for us in the cemetery last week. Of course it was predictable that such a fulfilment would be coming our way, but that doesn’t stop it being an excellent atmospheric tool. There are some excellent pieces of time-shift television about at the moment (Marchlands on ITV deserves special mention), but of a format that is well and truly in vogue, The Promise is probably the best.