Reviews

'Hit & Miss': Killing for a Living

Gareth James

Hit & Miss juxtaposes fantastical and surreal situations with intimately observed family drama.


Hit & Miss

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Jonas Armstrong, Chloë Sevigny, Karla Crome, Reece Noi
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: DirecTV Audience Network
Creator: Paul Abbott
Air date: 2012-07-11
Website
Trailer
Amazon

"When did you know you were a girl?" asks Ryan (Jordan Bennie). "I suppose I’ve always known," answers Mia (Chloë Sevigny). This brief exchange between 11-year-old Ryan and his estranged father barely begins to set up the layers of tension at work in Hit & Miss.

Summoned to a small Yorkshire farm after the death of Ryan’s mother Wendy, the transgendered Mia here meets teenagers Riley (Karla Crome) and Levi (Reece Noi), and six-year-old Leonie (Roma Christensen), Ryan’s siblings from another father. The adjustment is more difficult than it sounds, as Mia is not only transgender, but also a contract killer.

Such plot complications are consistent with the show's lineage. The first original drama production for the UK satellite channel Sky Atlantic, Hit & Miss now comes to DirecTV's Audience Network, premiering after the Season Five opener of the famously intricate Damages on 11 July. Created by Paul Abbott and co-written by Sean Conway, Hit & Miss is similar to Abbott’s Shameless, recently adapted for Showtime in the US -- as well as other Showtime dramas focused on complicated women, like Weeds or The United States of Tara -- in that it juxtaposes fantastical and surreal situations with intimately observed family drama.

This juxtaposition is present from the pilot, which cuts between affectionate play and arguments between the children and Mia, and her elaborately designed contract killings. When Mia first arrives, Levi and Riley have taken over the running of their mother’s farm and the upbringing of Ryan and Leonie. They resist Mia’s attempts to be a parental figure -- attending Leonie’s dance classes or teaching Levi to shave -- while she's distracted by the demands of her job, illustrated by brief scenes of her expertly sniping targets or brutally strangling them in phone boxes.

The difference between the two Mias is striking. As a killer, she transforms from a feminine appearance into an androgynous figure in a hood and tracksuit. These visible shifts suggest she's able to split off her professional performance from her daily experience. However, her job does occasionally spill into her new life, as when she beats up a local man trying to force the family out of their home, or turns to her gangster boss (Peter Wight) for help in securing the house.

The series focuses again and again on this split experience, Mia's struggle to maintain her career and find her place in a small community as the guardian of a group of children still mourning the loss of their mother. In the farmhouse, Mia and the children play games with pillowcases, help each other with chores, and see themselves set against the rest of the world. And each misses their mother differently: Leonie imagines her comforting her, Riley maintains a relationship with her via a CB radio, and Ryan and Levi act out with occasional violence of their own.

In this, they may reflect Mia, but they're hardly like her. Mia does her best to be a mother, but also breaks down in misery over her male anatomy while alone in her flat. Full frontal shots of Sevigny wearing a prosthetic penis emphasize Mia's gender dysphoria, as she conducts cold appraisals of herself in the mirror. These scenes have added to the controversy over Sevigny’s casting as Mia. However, the choice may help the series to make another point, that Mia's identity as a woman is accepted by her family and associates -- and viewers. Hit & Miss goes further to suggest that her lingering anxieties over her transition are eased through the creation of a loving family bond, where both troubled children and unusual parent might find in each other mutual support.

Hit & Miss could have exploited Mia's situation to set up shocking reveals of her identity, or focused on her role as a contract killer. Abbott and Conway choose instead to tell a story of multiple adjustments and explorations, anchoring its more extreme elements in the gradual development of, and tensions within, close-knit biological and alternative families.

The show's most innovative stroke is not that it features an expert assassin or a transgender protagonist. Rather, what makes Hit & Miss one of the strongest UK dramas to hit US TV so far this year is its reframing of such high-concept premises within unsensational contexts.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image