A tormented detective and a tortured family, in the BBC’s strangest thriller

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“It is thriller Totally wild, you have to see it to believe it.” This is what the newspaper titled The Guardian his review of the series Wolf, which the BBC aired this summer. “Twisted”, “bloody”, “funny” and even “disconcerting” are other adjectives with which the British press and viewers described the six-episode production that HBO Max has just released in Spain. Many of the criticisms and comments from the public on the networks agreed on the difficulty of classifying a proposal that combines thriller, drama, police investigation, violence and black humor. “It’s a lot of different things, but mostly I would say it’s entertaining. It’s a twisted and entertaining crime series for people who like a crime presented a little differently,” its creator, Megan Gallagher, tries to point out.

Wolf adapts the novel of the same name by the British writer Mo Hayder starring Inspector Jack Caffery, a regular character in the author’s work. The series presents two stories that take place in different timelines. In one, Caffery, an inspector haunted by the disappearance of his brother when he was a child, becomes obsessed with reopening an old case. The other story follows a wealthy family that returns to their mansion, where they find themselves hostage by two men whose intentions are not very clear beyond giving them the worst possible time. The two stories, which develop with continuous twists and disparate tones, seem to follow disparate paths and timelines until the two intersect. “Wolf It is different from other crime stories in many ways. I’m a big fan of crime television, but I think sometimes there’s a tendency for these series to fall into certain patterns that can make them a little predictable. I don’t think there is anything predictable about Wolf. It is not a series made following a mold,” says Gallagher, screenwriter and executive producer of the series, in conversation with EL PAÍS by video call.

Ukweli Roach interpreta al detective Jack Caffrey en 'Wolf'.
Ukweli Roach interpreta al detective Jack Caffrey en ‘Wolf’.Simon Ridgway (BBC/Hartswood Films Ltd/Simon Ridgway)

For the creator, the biggest challenge when facing this disturbing story was also what she enjoyed the most: maintaining a balance between these two very different plots. “One is a very visceral and immediate horror story about terrible things happening in a house. It’s very close to classic horror. Everyone’s worst nightmare comes true and the threat is in front of you. The Other Story is a slow-burning detective mystery drama. Finding the balance between the two, how much to reveal about each story, checking if they have enough twists and hooks, if they are well intertwined… was the biggest challenge but also the most fun.”

Added to the plot combination is a very peculiar variation of tones that range from the intimate drama of the detective to the tension due to the torture to which the family is subjected, through black comedy and even the musical comedy that appears at times. That mix of tones, explains the screenwriter, is already in Mo Hayder’s books, she has only amplified it for the screen. In that game, Gallagher highlights the torture to which the three characters in the mansion are subjected. “It was fun to write,” she laughs, “especially because, as brutal as things get, there’s something very comforting behind it, and that’s humor. I think the intensity and horror experienced there is balanced with a lot of heart. Yes, it’s brutal, but I think it never stops being fun.” Among other things, the scriptwriter refers to scenes in which the torturers put on small musical or dance numbers, to the stupefaction of the tortured and the viewers of the series.

Actress Juliet Stevenson plays Matilda Anchor-Ferrers, the mother of the tortured family in 'Wolf'.
Actress Juliet Stevenson plays Matilda Anchor-Ferrers, the mother of the tortured family in ‘Wolf’.Simon Ridgway (BBC/Hartswood Films Ltd/Simon Ridgway)

Those sequences in which two men only want to give their targets a hard time raised many questions for the creator and producers of the series. How far to go? What to show and what not? “We had a lot of conversations about that, but I think the majority of the show rests on the threat that terrible things are going to happen, rather than terrible things actually happening. For me, the worst thing is the anticipation, the anticipation of what may happen. We don’t wallow in 12-minute scenes where someone is bleeding to death. It is more the anticipation of what may happen than the actual torture that is felt. I think that’s more creative,” explains the screenwriter.

Some of the reviews have mentioned references such as Stanley Kubrick’s films A Clockwork Orange o Funny Games by Michael Haneke to explain the tone of that part of Wolf. When asked about sources of inspiration for his story beyond the original novel, Gallagher thinks for a few seconds: “I’ll tell you what I didn’t have as a reference. I don’t know why but I haven’t seen Funny Games, which is a reference that many people have mentioned. It’s a little strange because it’s the kind of movie I think I’d like, but it’s passed me by. And I still haven’t seen it. Now I’ve done it on purpose because I didn’t want to be influenced.”

An image from the second episode of the series 'Wolf'.
An image from the second episode of the series ‘Wolf’.Simon Ridgway (Simon Ridgway)

For such an unconventional bet it was necessary to have a cast of actors dedicated to the cause. Ukweli Roach (Blindspot) plays the detective. “He is essential because everything around him is so intense that you need someone you believe in and trust,” says the creator. “For the story inside the house, you can write anything in the script, but if an actor is not 100% committed, if they are not going to be able to do those really complicated scenes, if they are not sure or they do not have experience, it is not going to work. to work.” The center of these scenes are the two torturers, played by Sacha Dhawan (The GreatIron Fist) and Iwan Rheon. The latter, known for playing the twisted Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones, he repeats, giving life to a disturbed sociopath. “He was the first actor who signed and the first one we went for for this character. I think he has a huge range of skills. He can be incredibly scary, that makes him very, very good. But he also embroiders it in the comic elements. “People are going to love seeing everything he can do in these six episodes,” highlights the screenwriter and executive producer.

Megan Gallagher already had previous experience as a screenwriter in other thrillers as Borderline (Netflix) o Suspects (Apple TV+). It is a genre that, he says, he has always been passionate about because he likes television “that makes you pay attention.” “I like to get hooked or have a puzzle put to me or try to follow what is happening and have to put the pieces together. That’s the kind of television I like and that’s what the thrillers. And I think that Wolf He does it too.”

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