Setting out to review an episode of television without having seen the full season is nearly the equivalent of watching only a portion of a full movie. Yet, I was compelled to do a full writeup of BBC Three’s new slasher comedy show, Wreck, based purely on how much I loved the pilot episode, titled “The Talented Mr. Whippy.” All six episodes are directed by Chris Baugh (writer/director of 2020’s fantastic vampire horror/comedy Boys from County Hell), and written/created by Ryan J. Brown, giving the show a distinct and specific style right off the bat. When one first hears “duck-masked killer aboard a massive cruise ship featuring a queer lead,” how can it not immediately pique their interest?
For those assuming we will be gifted an opening kill, that’s actually not too far off, with a twist. Pippa (Jodie Tyack) is shooing away her clingy ex, Danny (Jack Rowan, Peaky Blinders, Boys from County Hell), even as he is hard at work accosting her and trying to make amends for whatever drama exists between them. Shortly after Danny leaves, Pippa is pursued by a maniac donning a yellow raincoat and dressed head-to-toe in a creepy duck costume! We pan out to reveal that Pippa is actually aboard a massive cruise liner! Quacky chases Pippa relentlessly, a huge knife held in one fluffly-gloved hand. Eventually cornered, Pippa flashes Quacky the bird, and promptly leaps off the massive ship into the dark water below!
We flash forward three months later—it’s orientation day at The Sacramentum, one of Velorum’s cruise liners! Hailed as “the world’s fastest growing cruise line” where “your dreams set sail,” the whole thing seems to be a case of exaggerated corporate America making empty promises. Cormac goes through the motions at orientation as he’s shown around along with the other new recruits. With a crew of thousands manning The Sacramentum, they run a tight ship so to speak. One misstep, and offenders will be booted. Filling a back of house role, he is also unable to access many areas on the ship. Once he gets to his actual lodgings, we discover that the lead we have been following is not actually Cormac. Rather, Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) has taken on Cormac’s identity to infiltrate The Sacramentum, and to discover the truth behind what really happened to his sister, Pippa. The authorities spent only one day investigating before sweeping it under the rug, proclaiming Pippa’s disappearance to be a textbook suicide. However, the reality may not be quite as simple.
The real Cormac (Peter Claffey) must stay hidden inside Jamie’s quarters, lest they both be discovered and booted from the boat. Jamie makes an adorable friend Vivian (Thaddea Graham, Doctor Who, Sex Education), who claims she has signed up because she needs to get as far away from her family as possible. In the first episode, Vivian is the only one that discovers Jamie’s secret. I have no doubt that subsequent episodes will further explore their dynamic. Jamie mentions being gay and single in Sheffield, and finds a casual flirtation in doe-eyed potential love interest Olly (Anthony Rickman, Enola Holmes) during his time digging deep for clues. The episode also features a flashy sex scene, a banging right of passage party, and a brutal murder that I will certainly not spoil here. A terrific ensemble cast color the proceedings with broad strokes, filling the characters with punchy detail. Suffice to say, there is plenty of fodder for the five remaining episodes, and I absolutely loved everything I saw thus far.
At this point in the game, slashers in TV form are nothing new. Scream the TV Series, Slasher, Scream Queens, Harper’s Island, Chucky—these are just a few of my favorites, disregarding many failures along the way. What sets Wreck apart from these, many of which rank among the very best television I have seen, period? For one, if it continues to follow the template of one major kill per episode, I will be a happy camper. On a cruise ship teeming with cannon fodder thanks to the innumerable crew, the possibilities are utterly endless. I’m not saying I need a massacre here. The kills simply need to make sense, and come organically with the already-formed story. So far so good on this count. I can’t wait to see Quacky the duck slice and dice more unsuspecting victims in the episodes to come!
Wreck screened at 2022’s FrightFest. It quacks and waddles to BBC Three and BBC iPlayer later this Fall.