In The Inheritance, an old man of apparently sound health falls dead under mysterious circumstances. He leaves behind three adult children and a fortune. The three children, together and individually, have a huge pile of unresolved issues, as you would expect, because otherwise, there wouldn’t be any point in telling this story. Ideally, they should get equal shares of their father’s wealth, but here’s the hook: the dead man apparently updated his will just before his death, and according to the new will, somebody else is going to be the sole heir to the huge fortune.
The Channel 5 miniseries, created by Aschilin Ditta, is now available for you to binge over the weekend. It absolutely doesn’t offer anything new or original. We have seen stories like this many times before. But that doesn’t mean you should skip this one. Because everyone loves a good murder mystery. Life is mostly mundane, and the kind of fun we have while watching layers of a “whodunnit” get peeled like an onion is unparalleled. That is why people keep making them, and usually, this genre always finds many takers. I am personally fond of the whole atmospheric thriller thing if it is something as cerebral as ITV’s Broadchurch, which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest thing that has come out of this genre. Coming back to The Inheritance, it does give you everything you would expect from a series like this. The mystery is palpable enough to keep you hooked, the characters are intriguing enough, and the making is quite taut.
A lot of things work in favor of The Inheritance First of all, it is only four episodes long. As much as I love this genre, I am not a fan of what Netflix often does with the Harlan Coben stories, which is unnecessarily stretching out the story to get at least six episodes out of it. The story often loses its charm because of this. But The Inheritance has no such issues. It doesn’t stretch beyond the time that was needed for the story to be fleshed out. Another good thing about The Inheritance is the fact that it is uncomplicated and sticks to the central mystery. A lot of shows like this suffer from the syndrome of randomly bringing up a lot of subplots that go haywire by the end. The Inheritance, on the other hand, is quite lean. The first two episodes, which mostly set the mystery, are extremely captivating, although the payoff in the end is not as effective as you would expect it to be.
The Inheritance, despite taking off so well, does not have a very smooth landing. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong of me to say that the ending is plain bad. The final twist, although quite believable, does not work due to poor execution. However, you can still stay for the characters. They are not the kind of people you would root for, but the kind of flawed people with whom many of you would probably relate. And the characters work because the acting in this show is very on point. Everyone has done a very adequate job, but the standout here is “Downton Abbey” alum Robert James-Collier, who nails the part of the troubled, black-sheep son of the dead man. The second most impressive performance also comes from another Downton Abbey alumna, actress Samantha Bond.
One thing I thought was really strange was the show’s choice not to make it atmospheric. The extensive use of nature and its atmospheric charm is a tool that is used in nine out of ten stories like this. They are often set in a coastal or mountain town or near a forest. In the stories that are set in the city, rainy, morbid weather often becomes a pivotal character. This particular aspect of storytelling stems from the Scandinavian fiction (popularly known as Nordic Noir) genre, but both British and American shows of the same genre have adapted it quite well. This is not exactly a criticism, but I do believe The Inheritance could have benefited if the creator had done something in this department instead of just relying on a basic cool tone-infused color grading. Needless to say, it does not look that visually appealing. At least seventy percent of it is indoors, and most of it looks very generic, thanks to uninspiring cinematography. The music in the series is not quite impressive, either. There is no use of songs, and none of the background scores seem relevant enough to make any impact.
However, none of these should matter much if you have a genuinely exciting story, a slick script, and a bunch of good actors at your disposal, because these are the main things. While the acting in the series doesn’t give you a chance to complain, the same cannot be said about the writing. There is nothing wrong in using familiar tropes, but this show literally makes its central villain do the generic head-tilt, which is a bit too much to take. The biggest problem, of course, is the shoddy final twist and the botched-up climax. After all the thrill and intrigue, the ending feels like a cop-out. The Inheritance also uses the formula of projecting a character in such a manner that the character appears to be hiding something, but it doesn’t quite work out narrative-wise.
With everything said, I did enjoy watching The Inheritance. I have the obligation to point out the flaws and analyze the good and bad of the show, but what matters in the end is how you perceive a show or movie as a viewer. Something that works for me might not work for you, especially in the case of a show like The Inheritance. Should you give it a go? Well, I am neither going to encourage nor discourage you. But here is a thing that you might try out: watch the first fifteen minutes and see if that makes you want to watch the rest. And if you feel that the mystery is failing to excite you, then I suggest you move on and explore other shows in this genre.