OMG. Kalinda and that mean director from Smash are married!
That was my first thought when I began watching Next of Kin. Yes, that’s a bizarre first thought to have when watching a TV series about a London bomb attack and the ensuing race to stop another terrorist act. But the drama is the kind of solid but not life-changing TV that allows the mind to wander. I mean, what if Kalinda Sharma and Derek Willis were married? Derek couldn’t be any worse than Kalinda’s ex-husband Nick (#neverforget that egg scene).
But I digress. In this six-episode series, Archie Panjabi stars as Mona Harcourt, a doctor living in London with her lobbyist husband, Guy (Jack Davenport), and their young son. As the series opens, Mona is awaiting the return of her brother, Kareem (Navin Chowdhry), from his charity clinic in Lahore, Pakistan. Mona’s family immigrated to London from Pakistan when she was two years old, and her extended family keeps the traditions alive while living a modern life in London. On his way to the airport, Kareem is kidnapped. At almost the same time, a bomb goes off in London and the police are looking for Kareem’s 19-year-old son, Danny (Viveik Kalra), who might somehow be involved.
The series shows the ramifications of a terrorist attack at the family level and also how a college student, slightly estranged from his family, can be radicalized and drawn into a terrorist network that makes him feel important and like he belongs. “They drive a wedge between the target and their family,” as a detective explains to Mona.
It’s wonderful to see Panjabi in a well-deserved lead role. She’s a dynamic and charismatic screen presence and she easily pulls the viewer into Mona’s strife. Mona is heartbroken over her brother and over her nephew’s possible involvement. But she’s also a strong female character who can hold her own against detectives. She’s vulnerable, but not weak. We don’t get that many female characters like Mona.
Her family, which also includes her mother (Shaban Azmi), her brother, Omar (Mawaan Rizwan), and her sister, Ani (Kiran Sonia Sawar), is Muslim and the series clearly juxtaposes those who are devout in their faith with those who use it as a justification for unspeakable acts. The TV landscape is full of Muslim characters who are terrorists: It’s the go-to cliché on procedural police dramas, and shows like Homeland have built season after season around it. Next of Kin goes beyond the cliché to show an average Muslim family. Like every family, they may disagree, they may keep secrets from each other but they love each other. It’s great to have this kind of nuanced portrayal on television. APlus, showing how Danny was susceptible to being recruited provides a thought-provoking look into things we see on the news all the time.
The series’ narrative also takes those only-on-a-TV-show leaps. Mona becomes something of an action hero, inserting herself where she doesn’t belong several times. She heals incredibly quickly from a gunshot wound. She does things on her computer, seemingly thinking no one will find out. I believe that she wants to do anything to stop another attack and rescue her nephew. But I don’t necessarily believe she would have such little regard for her own safety and well-being, especially when she’s the mother of a young child. The not-smart behavior isn’t limited to Mona, either. Omar also does some really silly things. There’s also a few times the terrorist act in ways that advance the plot but don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Guy for the most part has to say things like, “If you hurt my wife again, I will fucking destroy you.” Detective Chief Inspector Vivien Barnes (Claire Kinner) is in charge of the investigation, and her judgement is questionable at best. Again, she seems to make decisions that will advance the plot even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Next of Kin takes a story TV loves to tell and shows it from a different perspective. I do, however, wish all of this was happening on a better show with better pacing and less plodding.
Next of Kin is now available on Sundance Now.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .