fb-pixel Skip to main content
Television Review

‘Intruders’: body snatching and head-scratching

James Frain stars as an assassin in BBC America’s “Intruders,” which focuses on immortality and body snatching.
James Frain stars as an assassin in BBC America’s “Intruders,” which focuses on immortality and body snatching.Cate Cameron/BBC Worldwide Limited

The tagline for the new BBC America series “Intruders” is “Don’t let them in.”

There are points during the intermittently intriguing pilot, which kicks off the eight-episode first season Saturday at 10 p.m., where that slogan feels like a mission statement from the writers’ room directed at potential viewers.

Dreary, heavy, and ultimately — cardinal-sin-in-a-pilot alert! — somewhat confusing, “Intruders” tries to interest us in a tale of body snatching by introducing several people and ideas without really explaining much of anything.

First is a young woman named Donna, who is celebrating her birthday. But shortly after Donna blows out her candles, she is visited by some men in black and promptly appears to take her own life. (When several bad things happen after other people’s birthdays, the solution would appear to be self-evident: less cake, more living.)

Advertisement



Even for viewers who are used to being placed in the middle of the action and who enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together themselves — “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” come to mind as two recent examples of series that excelled at this technique — “Intruders” feels like a lot of often-gloomy work.

The pilot introduces us to five main characters — a cop-turned-author and his soon-to-be-missing wife, his high school buddy, a 9-year-old girl, and an inscrutable assassin — and hints at the reality of immortality through body snatching. In “Intruders,” the key seems to center on a theory of infrasound communication that involves the dimensions of the great cathedral pipe organs of Europe, old-timey jazz music, seashells, and those little yellow adapter things you snap into a 45 to fit on a turntable.

All of the actors are perfectly fine, but it’s difficult to get a read on their characters since each is presented with some element of mystery.

Advertisement



We know Jack Whelan (John Simm, “Life on Mars,” “State of Play”) was a cop who didn’t make detective for some murky reason. His friend Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles, “True Detective”) purports to be an estate lawyer. He’s working on a case when he asks Jack to look into the recent murder of the family of a professor who has apparently stumbled upon the immortality-infrasound connection and is thus being hunted by Richard Shepherd (James Frain, “True Blood”). Shepherd is apparently the head of the immortality police? This all coincides with the disappearance of Jack’s moody wife, Amy (Mira Sorvino, “Mighty Aphrodite,” “Norma Jean & Marilyn”). Finally, we meet little Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) who apparently has already let an intruder in. Brown is a real find, remarkable as both a terrorized little girl and then as the very angry man who is inhabiting her 9-year-old body.

Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Marshall and brought to television by writer and executive producer Glen Morgan (“The X-Files”), the pilot asks you to stay on the edge of your seat and pick up subtle changes in eyes and body language, among other clues, but it doesn’t earn that kind of attention as it meanders from place to place.

The atmosphere is suitably creepy — the show features that famously cinematic Pacific Northwest drizzle and Bear McCreary’s ominous score — and there are some tantalizing bits that make you wonder how the intruders work their mojo. But with so much heavy lifting required by viewers, it could prove difficult to let “Intruders” in.

Advertisement




Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.