Review: Game of Silence 1×1-1×2 (US: NBC)

Sleepers for 2016 (via Turkey)

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

For some time now, I’ve been banging on about how Turkey was the new hot country for adaptations in the US: Son, The End and The Edge were all being worked upon for US TV just a couple of years ago. Of course, you must have been thinking I was barking mad because there have been literally no US adaptations of Turkish TV shows since then.

But look! Here’s one! I was right! I was right! I’m not crazy at all!

Game of Silence is based on Show TV’s multi-award winning 2012 show Suskunlar, which ran for 56 episodes over two seasons. It, in turn, was based on the true story of four boys who were sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison for (allegedly) stealing baklava. Yep. Kids. Nine years. Baklava. That’s a pudding, in case you didn’t know, and that’s Turkey for you, in case you don’t remember Midnight Express.

Anyway, all manner of horrible things happen to the kids while they’re in prison, including a whole bunch of things they don’t want to tell anyone about. Then a couple of decades later, one of them comes across one of their abusers in the street and before you know it, kills him. He’s arrested and so he and his friends call their errant upmarket lawyer friend to defend him. Except it turns out that the dead man had all manner of criminal friends and… well, you can guess the rest.

Here’s a trailer for Suskunlar:

Relocating the action to Houston, Game of Silence is pretty faithful to Suskunlar, giving us the same format of three poorer boys/men (Michael Raymond-James, Larenz Tate, Derek Phillips), one lawyer boy/man (David Lyons from Revolution and Sea Patrol), one girl/woman (Bre Blair from The Unit) they grew up with, one nasty child prison (the daftly named ‘Quitman’) and all manners of secrets catching up with them all in the present day. The boys cause a fatal car crash in the US version that winds them up in the jail, and we get frequent flashbacks to before and after.

But it’s also a modern day thriller, as Lyons tries to persuade his childhood friends when they come to him for help that killing everyone is probably a bad idea and that they need to build a legal case against the former governor of the prison (Conor O’Farrell) and his various cronies. They, in turn, are being chased by both cop Deidrie Henry, who suspects they have secrets, and their now grown-up fellow dormie and criminal gang leader Demetrius Grosse (Banshee, Justified).

Despite all the odds, Game of Silence is pretty good and while it has a few problems, quite a lot of them stem from the bits of the original that don’t quite work in the US – US prisons have a lot of problems, Turkish prisons have a lot of problems, but those problems aren’t necessarily the same. Maybe I’m wrong, but prison-organised fight clubs, murders and child abuse parties with local dignataries probably weren’t going down in the late 80s, even in Texas. 

That aside, I did enjoy the slow pace of the show, the insistence (at this stage) of not going revenge-happy but sticking to the characters’ beliefs, the nostalgia-tinged, almost Stephen King-ish flashbacks to the 80s, complete with Depeche Mode et al soundtrack. I also like the surprising daring of the show – sure, it doesn’t show everything happening, but it really doesn’t pull any punches in terms of what it implies. Indeed, it’s almost a 15-rated Sleepers:

The trouble is that there’s not much about it that’s enjoyable. Everyone’s miserable. Fair dos – who wouldn’t be? But unless your idea of fun is a joyless revenge thriller about childhood abuse, with subdued, non-descript, traumatised characters, Game of Silence is going to be a hard slog over numerous hours of TV, rather than just a single movie. Still, as joyless revenge thrillers go, this is definitely one of the better ones.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.