'Acceptable Risk,' streaming, Acorn TV - Catholic Courier

‘Acceptable Risk,’ streaming, Acorn TV

NEW YORK (CNS) — Four of the six episodes of the outstanding, immersive suspense drama “Acceptable Risk” are already available on the streaming service Acorn.

The remaining episodes will debut Monday, Oct. 30, after which the entire series can be streamed at viewers’ convenience.

Despite its high aesthetic qualities, this is not a good option for all. The violent show contains several murders, depictions of adultery, a suicide, some mild sexuality and such sights as exhumed remains. But this material is critical to the story, and the series’ producers don’t sensationalize it.

Ron Hutchison’s excellent script, moreover, is commendably free of the progressively commonplace and gratuitous vulgarity that mars too many TV shows. Distinguished by its restrained storytelling, “Acceptable Risk” is fit viewing for discriminating grown-ups.

After her second husband Lee’s (Paul Popowich) murder during a trip to Canada, Sarah Manning (Elaine Cassidy) discovers unsettling truths about him. She also uncovers disturbing secrets about the Dublin-based multinational pharmaceutical company at which they both worked, he as vice president of marketing, she as head of the conglomerate’s legal department.

Sarah soon realizes the only thing she knows for sure about her late American spouse is that he hailed from Chicago. “It’s like I married someone who wasn’t there,” she says.

Nor can the corporation help Sarah trace Lee’s identity. There is “no paper trail,” on Lee, human resources director Deidre Kilbride (Catherine Walker) says. “Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to wipe him out of the firm’s system.”

Sarah is especially stunned and upset to learn Lee was carrying a gun when he died. And Det. Duquesne (Geordie Johnson) of the Montreal police echoes her own thinking when he asks, “Why would a sales rep of a pharmaceutical company be armed?”

As Sarah becomes something of a sleuth in the effort to determine what happened to her husband, she also discovers she was blind to her old company’s ruthlessness — of which Lee, it turns out, was the chief enforcer.

In the immediate aftermath of Lee’s death, the firm — the fictitious Gumbiner-Fischer — works overtime to give Sarah the opposite impression. CEO Hans Hoffman (Morten Suurballe) leads a full-court press to convince Sarah to come back to work. And Kilbride assures her: “You have a very big company on your side, with every resource to get you through this.”

As Sarah’s investigation deepens, however, she comes to understand that such a large and powerful corporation also has the capacity to cajole and intimidate politicians, police officers and even its own employees when they ask too many questions about the company’s suspected wrongdoing. 

Targets for such persuasion may have included Sarah’s first spouse, Ciaran Boyle (Garry Robinson), whose apparently accidental death now seems suspicious.

Suurballe is excellent as Hoffman, at once unctuously solicitous as he assures Sarah she’s part of the corporation’s “family” and calmly sinister in a way that draws the attention of several international criminal investigators.

Besides the Montreal police, German foreign intelligence is also interested in the case because Lee met with a German government minister the day he died. And the FBI is also investigating the company. But it’s Dublin Det. Sgt. Emer Byrne (Angeline Ball) who plays an especially pivotal role getting to the heart of the mystery surrounding Lee’s murder.

In a wonderfully nuanced yet sympathetic performance, Ball’s Byrne, her expression perpetually askance, largely checks her own emotions while staying in tune with the feelings of others. Yet, she displays her independence when she defies her supervisor Chief Supt. James Nulty’s (Lorcan Cranitch) orders to stop investigating the case.

Byrne forms an unlikely alliance with the formerly suspected, but now cleared, Sarah, and the duo eventually uncover the grotesque evil that indirectly led to Lee’s murder. As this partnership suggests, the series admirably puts strong women at the center of its drama in a milieu too often dominated by men.

Cassidy gives a balanced performance as Sarah, portraying her understandably intense anger and determination while also displaying her fragility as her life unravels due to forces she can’t control.

As it unfolds, “Acceptable Risk” increasingly intrigues viewers and heightens their suspense. Ultimately a meditation on large corporations’ potential to exert a corrosive influence on society, the series provokes even as it entertains. It also avoids becoming banal.

Adults not averse to some challenging content will appreciate “Acceptable Risk” as an intelligent, sophisticated and handsomely shot addition to the seemingly ever-growing pool of viewing choices.

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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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