The Catch, Channel 5, review: Jason Watkins prevents this second-tier thriller from sinking

Television drama is governed by immutable laws. You know the sort of thing. If someone turns to their partner and sighs: “I’ve never been so happy in my life!” they will be run over by a bus shortly afterwards. If a character is played by James Nesbitt, he will be irresistible to women. And if anyone mentions that their parents were killed in a tragic accident, they’re lying. The last of these popped up in The Catch (Channel 5).

It’s one of those second-tier thrillers that the broadcaster does so well – barrels along, doesn’t tax the brain, will not appear on any Bafta shortlists but is an enjoyable, easy watch with plenty of twists that you may or may not see coming. It’s the TV equivalent of a page-turner – this was adapted from a novel by T M Logan – and, having watched all three episodes, I can tell you that it descends into histrionics in the final half hour.

The book was set in Derbyshire but the TV version has decided to take the title literally and moved things to a Cornish fishing village, which allows for lots of coastal drone shots. It is elevated by the casting, led by Jason Watkins as Ed Collier, a father who takes an instant dislike to his daughter’s smooth-talking new boyfriend. The central question is whether the boyfriend (Aneurin Barnard) is a wrong ’un with sinister motives, or whether Watkins is misinterpreting everything because he is still tortured by grief over the death of his 10-year-old son, which has led him to be madly over-protective when it comes to his now-adult daughter. And is Watkins all he appears to be, or is he hiding dark secrets of his own? You’ll just have to keep tuning in to find out.

In a supporting role is the tremendous Brenda Fricker as Ed’s mother-in-law, who is showing signs of dementia yet remains the smartest member of the family (not hard in this family, admittedly). Watching her deliver such a precise performance in The Catch made me wonder why Fricker isn’t a bigger star – remember her winning an Oscar in 1990 for My Left Foot? – and that led me to an interview she did for Irish television in 2021, in which she spoke about her lifelong struggle with depression. “Going out the front door can be a problem for me sometimes,” she said. “But I’m stepping back into the big world now.” She was the best thing about last year’s Graham Norton adaptation, Holding, and now the best thing in The Catch.