A lot of Italian crime series seem to suffer from a case of style over substance. There are exceptions, of course – ‘Montalbano’ being one. But quite often the scripts and plotlines are seemingly forgotten against a cast of beautiful people and stunning locations.
If you want to avoid all spoilers, stop reading this article now.
‘Off Grid’ is the latest Walter Presents offering, set in various Italian locations, and I’m pleased to say that – so far – it seems to have sufficient substance to make it worthy of attention.
We start in the glorious Italian town of Urtijëi in the Italian Dolomites, where a woman – Anna Fabbri (nicely portrayed by Anna Valle) – is returning home. But before she can walk in the door, the police turn up and she’s arrested. During her interview, her story is revealed – and we go back six months to when it all began.
Anna Fabbri was previously known as Silvia Caruana, husband of Claudio Caruana (played by Claudio Gioè), who went off-grid (hence the title) with their son and daughter, Alessio and Ilaria. Claudio had been a hugely successful banker, enjoying a wonderfully luxurious lifestyle back in Rome. But when the bank collapsed, and threats were made to Claudio and other bank officials, things quickly went from bad to worse. And when Claudio’s best friend and colleague is found murdered, suspicion falls on him when CCTV footage seems to show him at the murder scene.
Claudio consults with a former secret service agent, who advises them to get to a safe house, throw away their phones and take as much cash out of their bank accounts as they can. They’re going off the radar and starting a new life.
You are probably thinking that this is all a bit drastic, and I wouldn’t disagree. Surely, if you’re accused of murdering your friend and colleague, you stay and fight the charges – you don’t round up the family and vanish. Unless, of course, you have something to hide. And in Claudio’s case, he has – he’s been having an affair with his secretary and lying to his wife about his whereabouts for some time.
Overall, I’d say this is one of the better shows to have come out of Italy for a while. The plot is pretty thin, but it’s engaging, and you find yourself rooting for Anna (less so Claudio, frankly) and her family. There’s a genuine air of suspense when the Caruanas are escaping threats from an unknown source and the police – there’s one thrilling scene with where a truck tries to run them off the road that is reminiscent of the 1971 Dennis Weaver classic film, Duel.
One thing worth pointing out is that there are twelve episodes in the series, so that’s quite an undertaking. That many episodes might be a case of over-egging-the-pudding – or tiramisu, perhaps. But give it a go – I certainly found the opening salvo to be entertaining.
Walter Presents: ‘Off Grid’ will launch its first episode on Channel 4 on 19th October at 12.30am. The full box-set is available on Walter Presents via C4 Streaming now.