For summer vacation reading, paperback detective novels are a reliable source of entertainment while catching rays on the beach. The Jack Taylor series on Netflix serves as the video equivalent of a fast moving page-turner, it’s familiar and satisfying even though it stays in well-trodden territory. This is not surprising, as the Irish TV series is based on a popular series of crime novels by Ken Bruen.
Jack Taylor follows the exploits of an Irish ex-cop who, somewhat by default, ends up as a private detective. Six made-for-television episodes are available for Netflix streaming. Each 90 minute episode takes one of the book titles. Taylor is played by Iain Glen, who will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans as Daenerys Targaryen’s loyal right hand man, Jorah Mormont.
The Jack Taylor series is filled with familiar components of the film noir, private investigator genre. Glen provides voice-over narration; years of heavy drinking and hard living are reflected on his haggard face. A beautiful and/or mysterious woman shows up in each story. The local pub serves as Taylor’s office. He has a pal in the local police force who often helps him out. For the most part, the series is able to overcome the cliches, but there are times when it feels weighed down.
Glen’s charisma, crisp, witty dialog and story lines that move along at a rapid pace keep the viewer interested. The scenic setting of Galway and the Irish brogues are additional attractions for American viewers.
Out of the first three episodes, the first, “The Guards,” and the third, “The Magdalen Martyrs,” are the best. The second, “The Pikemen,” recycles too many elements from the first, most notably, Taylor getting mugged while in a drunken stupor. Still, it helps to watch all of the episodes sequentially to keep up with the ongoing stories such as Taylor’s relationship with Kate Noonan, a lovely young member of the Garda (police) played by Nora-Jane Noone, and Cody, a potential sidekick who shows up in “The Pikemen.”
Episodes 4 – 6 recently became available on Netflix. “The Dramatist” is a refreshing change of pace. After a few months off, Taylor is sober, and with fewer drunken escapades, the primary story takes center stage. “Priest,” episode 5, uses the all-too-common, drawn-from-reality story of sexual abuse by a Catholic Priest. Though it’s familiar territory, there are a couple of unexpected twists along the way.
The sixth episode is “Shot Down.” Jack is on the road, away from Galway, and finds himself helping the family of a young girl that witnessed a murder. It’s rural Ireland; poverty and family conflicts play strong roles in the story. At least for now, this is the final episode in the series.
Though Jack Taylor is recommended viewing, binge watching is probably not the way to go. A few days between episodes will keep the story and characters fresh. Jack Taylor was first shown on Ireland’s TV3. Hopefully, there will be more episodes in the future. There are books in Ken Bruen’s series yet to be filmed.
Note: Jack Taylor is also available on AcornTV.