The compelling, five-part miniseries, “Thirteen,“ opens up with an aerial view of a residential neighborhood. When the camera stops panning, it focuses in on a house with a red door. Within seconds, the door opens, and out steps a bewildered looking, unkempt, scrawny, twenty-six year old woman with a pallid complexion. The woman’s name is Ivy Moxam, the protagonist of the series, who is completely embodied by actress Jodie Comer (Doctor Foster). After taking a few moments to get her bearings, Ivy’s survival instincts kick in. She runs down the street, distancing herself from the house in Bristol, England, where she has been kept a prisoner in a cellar for the past thirteen years. She turns and runs down an alleyway, coming out on another street, which she hurries across, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a car, before she steps into a phone booth and dials the number for the police.
Upon their initial questioning of Ivy, which is closely monitored by Chief Superintendant, Burridge (Ariyon Bakare), Detective Inspectors Crane (Richard Rankin) and Merchant (Valene Kane), seem skeptical that Ivy is really the person she says she is. They have had girls pretending to be Ivy show up in the past, who through DNA tests, and family identification, have proved to be ruled as frauds. “Thirteen,” however, doesn’t linger with the ‘is she or isn’t she’ question for very long. A DNA test does, in fact, determine that Ivy is telling the truth as to who she claims to be.
Ivy is allowed to return home to her family who, collectively, never truly expected that they would see her again given the lengthy duration of time since her disappearance. Ivy’s family is comprised of: her mother Christina, portrayed by BAFTA nominated actress, Natasha Little (The Night Manager); father, Angus (Stuart Graham); and sister, Emma (Katherine Rose Morley), who is engaged to be married, and lives in the Moxam home with her Fiancé Craig (Joe Layton). Christina attempts to make everything appear as it was when Ivy first went missing, including having Angus, who she is separated from, and who is living with another woman, Sofia (Melina Matthews), move back into the family’s home. Furthermore, Christina wants to keep the fact of their separation, as well as a breakdown Angus had suffered over Ivy’s kidnapping, hidden from Ivy.
Additional recurring characters that appear throughout the series in varying amounts of screen time, include, but are not limited to Ivy’s teenage boyfriend, Tim (Aneurin Barnard). He can’t believe it when he hears the news that Ivy has been found, and it doesn’t take long for him to arrive at the Moxam home, to see her. As they spend time together, he makes sure to remove his wedding ring, as well as not mention to Ivy that he is married to Yazz (Kemi-Bo Jacobs). He never tries to take advantage of Ivy, nor does he promise her a future with him, knowing that he can’t deliver on such a claim. He does, however, do nice things for her, such as make her an IPod mix of music from each of the years she has been missing. Another member of Ivy’s past, who has come back into her life, is her best friend from school, Eloise (Eleanor Wyld).
As Crane and Merchant attempt to track down Ivy’s abductor, things are not as cut and dry as they first appeared. Ivy, for her part, can’t or won’t, give the detective inspectors much to work with, other than that she was kidnapped by a man, who said his name was Leonard, and she knows from her time with him, that he liked eating fish. The other details she provides as to her captivity, over time, begin to contradict the police investigation, especially, when they examine the house where Ivy was held prisoner. For starters, the inspectors find a passport photo of Ivy, who had stated to them during questioning that she never once left the house before her escape. Additionally, they find her clothing hanging in an upstairs bedroom closet, as well as discover several strands of her hair on a pillow on a bed in the same room. Is Ivy purposely misleading the authorities? Did Ivy over time become a victim of Stockholm Syndrome? Crane and Merchant barely have time to explore those questions before they are thrust into a new kidnapping, of a little girl named Phoebe (Isabel Shanahan), which is perpetrated by Ivy’s abductor, whose identity, the authorities have learned in the interim.
Will Ivy reveal what, if anything, she is hiding about her former captor? Does she have information that can assist the police in finding Phoebe, so that another girl, as well as the girl’s family doesn’t have to go through the same tragic ordeal that she and her family endured? Does Ivy put herself in the path of her former captor as a way of luring him out from hiding?
The miniseries was created, and the episodes written, by Marnie Dickens (Hollyoaks). The first three episodes were directed by Vanessa Caswill (My Mad Fat Diary), and episodes four and five were helmed by China Moo-Young (Call the Midwife). The episodes comprise the crime, drama, mystery and thriller genres. The show premiered on BBC Three on February 28, 2016 in the U.K. I didn’t get a chance to see it until it was shown on BBC America on June 23rd. Unlike many shows or films that have dealt with the sort of subject matter “Thirteen” delves into, the series takes place entirely in the present, and is devoid of flashbacks. Instead of concentrating on Ivy’s kidnapper, revealing possible triggers in his past which led to his heinous behavior, or the reason he chose to take Ivy in the first place, it deals with the aspects and after effects of the crime from the victim’s point-of-view. For those of you who enjoy strong, character-driven drama, “Thirteen” should be worth investing the approximately 60 minutes of your time it takes to view each of the five well written and well paced episodes.