Episodes watched: 3 out of 8
How far would you go to save those you love? This age old question proves the central moral conundrum in Sky’s latest series – the high concept, eight-part action thriller – The Lazarus Project. The time-bending show from Giri/Haji writer Joe Barton assembles Paapa Essiedu, Tom Burke and Caroline Quentin for one of the breakout British shows of the year, with a moving tale of love and fate set within a timey wimey, sci-fi/action thriller.
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner (Beat), the Lazarus Project centres on the seemingly everyman George (Paapa Essiedu), who suddenly wakes up and realises he’s re-living the same moment from months ago. Trapped in his own groundhog-esque scenario with his recent work promotion and marriage to long-term partner Sarah (Charly Clive) seemingly erased, George is convinced he’s going crazy. Enter Archie (Anjli Mohindra) an agent of covert organisation The Lazarus Project, who protect humanity from extinction-level events from happening by harnessing time jump technology. But when George is hit by a personal tragedy, he faces a complex choice – if you had the power to rewrite your past, what would you sacrifice to do it…?
This fascinating central concept really is a gripping watch thanks to Barton’s ambitious narrative filled with time jumps, time loops and extinction-level threats, unravelled via non-linear storytelling which plays with time and narrative structure. We are directly immersed with George into this exciting secret organisation – think the time bureau from Loki crossed with the team from Spooks – with breakneck pacing and impressive action sequences. But this high concept, action-thriller truly excels due to the emotional performances and moving central love story which drives George and Rebrov to the limit.
Episode one plays out like Groundhog Day, thrusting viewers into George’s lens of confusion over the apparent time loop. His introduction into The Lazarus Project – the top secret organisation who have got the ability to turn back time in order to prevent extinction level events from taking place – is brilliant, with Paapa Essiedu perfectly portraying what I imagine would be everyone’s reaction to discovering a secret and mysterious organisation. However, we gradually discover that his mission – tracking down a formidable criminal (Burke) who plans to cause global destruction by detonating a nuclear warhead – isn’t quite as clear cut as it seems.
Throughout the standout third episode, Barton explores the ethical and moral quandary of resetting time for “the greater good” and what implications it truly has on individual’s lives. Tom Burke and Vinette Robinson particularly shine as their respective characters’ tragic story is unravelled. What’s so fantastic about the writing for this series is the fact that it’s so easy to empathise with Burke’s ‘villain’ Rebrov – leaving you to question the ethical and moral quandary if you were in his shoes. As George discovers more about the mysterious organisation, he certainly sees a different and darker side to Lazarus – and this grey area in which the characters inhabit is absolutely fascinating.
Paapa Essiedu’s (Gangs of London, I May Destroy You) performance is a perfect entry point for the viewer, portraying a believable disbelief and shock at the time jump revelations. However, his arc quickly evolves following a personal tragedy, and his dynamic with Tom Burke is particularly fascinating once the two characters connect. Anjli Mohindra (Vigil, The Bodyguard) also brings another compelling performance as the quick witted agent Archie, who’s devote loyalty is surprsing given her backstory – which is also cleverly interwoven throughout. Viewers may also be surprised by beloved actor Caroline Quentin’s performance as Queen bee Wes, who’s steadfast drive to protect the greater good comes at a great cost – she really does rock those suits though!
The series features explosive action and impressive chase sequences and shoot outs, with undercover missions which will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It’s incredibly fast-paced, brilliantly shot with high production value and a real cinematic feel. As a warning, some elements (particularly a deadly virus and wars) are quite chillingly close to home though, with the script and idea developed and written shockingly four years ago.
With a bold and compelling central concept, paired with impressive, high-octane action, The Lazarus Project is one of the best British action-thrillers to hit our small screens in a long time. Joe Barton continues to be one of our most original TV writers, with an impressive cast lead by a standout performance by Tom Burke.
The Lazarus Project will be released on Sky Max, Sky Box Sets and Now on June 16 2022