‘The Escape Artist': Parts and players save the story

06/13/2014 12:00 AM

06/12/2014 5:43 PM

It says a lot about the acting prowess of David Tennant that the two-part “Masterpiece Mystery” drama “The Escape Artist” is eminently watchable in spite of the fact it has holes big enough to drive a lorry through.

Airing Sunday and June 22 on PBS, “The Escape Artist” is about a skilled defense lawyer named Will Burton who is forced to apply his talents to winning his own exoneration on a murder charge.

You might consider that a spoiler, but not after you’ve seen the level of telegraphing and obviousness built into the flimsy foundation of the drama.

Burton is handed the job of defending an especially creepy guy named Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell, “Wrath of the Titans”), who keeps cages and cages of birds in his apartment. He’s accused of murdering a young woman, and Burton always makes sure he’s on firm ethical ground by avoiding asking his clients if they’ve committed the crime. Surely, this guy is guilty, but Burton gets him acquitted and goes off to his cottage in the country with his wife, Kate (Ashley Jensen, “Extras”), and their young son Jamie (Gus Barry, “Penny Dreadful”).

Before long, there’s been a second murder and, like Will, we know who did it. This time, it’s personal for Will, and his certainty about who committed the crime will only get him arrested for murder himself.

The story is gripping because the characters are interesting and the performances are extraordinary, not only from Tennant, but from the rest of the cast.

Young Gus Barry is someone to watch. From time to time, a child actor comes along and you see something really special beyond the fact that he or she might be a cute kid. Barry has that quality.

It may take a bit of work to suspend disbelief enough to move you forward in your seat, but once there, you'll remain on the edge long enough to make “The Escape Artist” worth watching.

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