American actress Chloë Sevigny stars as a contract killer with a big secret in Sky Atlantic’s Hit & Miss (2012), the channel’s first original drama commission. The British series has garnered praise from numerous quarters for its frank portrayal of a transgender hired gun, who consequently discovers that she has a young son by a former lover. Though laudable for its unique subject matter, Paul Abbot’s noirish tale is – as its title would suggest – a patchy work, frustrating and impressing in almost equal measure.
Sevigny plays Mia, a pre-op transsexual who makes a living bumping off morally corrupt low-lifes in Manchester for her enigmatic crime boss Eddie (Peter Wight). After one such hit, Mia discovers that one of her ex-girlfriends has recently died of cancer, leaving behind a young son, Ryan (Jorden Bennie), to whom our protagonist is father. Setting off to the hill-top Yorkshire farmhouse where her ex-partner resided, Mia finds that she has been put forward as legal guardian for not only her own son, but also his three dysfunctional half-siblings. Thus begins a delicate balancing act, as Mia continues her contracted executions, whilst also supporting her newly-found, near-destitute family.
As multi-narrative television dramas go, it would be fair to say that Abbot’s own balancing act within Hit & Miss isn’t quite as successful as it could have been. Mia’s murderous excursions are largely ignored after the first half of the series, sidelined as inconsequential, violent vignettes in between the show’s kitchen sink-style familial disputes. In the lead role, Sevigny herself shows signs of the same inconsistency, endlessly watchable for stretches, yet bland and po-faced at key points. Similarly bemusing is her slightly shaky ‘Oirish’ accent, explained away with a largely redundant, rushed back story involving Mia’s fairground upbringing.
Hit & Miss has predictably secured the majority of column inches for its depiction of pre-op transsexual life. It’s obviously important to remember that this is a work of noir-infused fiction, and as such should perhaps be excused for its sporadic lapses into cliché. Mia is very much cast in the ‘identity-crisis-stricken depressive’ mould, with most fits of anxiety/frustration culminating in a self-destructive, semi-alcoholic blow-out. Perhaps one day we’ll see a mainstream transsexual protagonist comfortable in their own skin – but where’s the drama in that?
For all its niggling flaws and occasionally botched execution(s), Hit & Miss remains a compelling preoccupation. From its sumptuous cinematography (with the rural scenes recalling Andrea Arnold’s eye-catching 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights) to Sevigny’s intentional/unintentional awkwardness and destructive impulses, few would begrudge Abbot a second series, if only to right the irksome wrongs of the first.