I have a long-standing theory about storytelling: everything's better when you set it on a submarine. And Vigil — currently streaming on Peacock — is further proof of how submarines upgrade dramatic stakes. Yes, Peacock, the fledgling streaming service that's slowly earned a spot on our best streaming services list, has another show you need to watch.
As anyone who's ever watched anything from Das Boot to The Hunt for Red October will tell you, submarines are tight, enclosed spaces that leave little space for characters to hide. You can't step outside for a breath of fresh air in a submarine. You can't stretch your legs by going to visit the other submarine down the road. Add to that sense of confinement the idea that at any moment, someone could be trying to hit you with a depth charge or a torpedo, or that something could go wrong with the sub mechanically. Not only are you trapped underwater, there's a chance you might never make it back to the surface.
Vigil has figured out a way to ratchet up these stakes even further: what if, in addition to setting our show on a submarine, we also threw in a murder mystery?
That's right — Vigil has pioneered the entirely new genre of submarine-based crime drama. You really should be streaming this show, which is the dramatic equivalent of combining chocolate and peanut butter — two great tastes that taste great together.
UK audiences have already had their crack at Vigil, with the show airing on BBC One last August. Vigil's a more recent arrival in the U.S., where the show landed on Peacock at the end of 2021. It's a six-episode series, so you could binge your way through Vigil in the course of a weekend.
And binge you shall, as Vigil keeps the twists and turns coming throughout its run. Once one episode ends, you'll find yourself jumping to the next one, just to find out what happens next.
The less said about Vigil's storyline, the better, as this is one of those mysteries that best left to unfold in front of you in real time. Just know that the plot is set in motion by the death of a sailor aboard a Trident nuclear submarine, and since the death occurred while the ship was still in Scottish waters, a detective chief inspector from the police is dispatched to investigate. To say that there's more to the sailor's death than meets the eye turns out to be the understatement of the year, as soon, the police, the Royal Navy and British Intelligence find themselves suspiciously eyeing one another.
While "murder mystery on a nuclear submarine" is the sort of thing that buys you a lot of audience goodwill from the start, Vigil helps its own case with some outstanding performances, particularly from the leads. Suranne Jones is particularly enjoyable as Detective Chief Inspector Silva, who finds herself trapped on a submarine with someone who's a murderer and dozens of other people who aren't particularly inclined to cooperate with her investigation. She's flinty and determined, but also struggling to keep it together, having endured her own water-based trauma that we gradually learn about via flashbacks.
Rose Leslie is another standout as the police detective back on land, trying to run down the loose ends of the case in Scotland, transmitting all the clues to Silva via coded messages beamed to the HMS Vigil. It's Leslie who also has both the Navy and M15 breathing down her neck, and she does a good job adding just the right twinge of paranoia as things escalate over the course of the series.
The nature of Vigil would suggest we're just going to get these six episodes and nothing else. There are only so many murders one can solve onboard a submarine, after all. So block out some time, head over to Peacock and add Vigil to your streaming rotation. It's a compelling enough thriller so that you won't mind being trapped in the confines of this submarine.