Third-episode verdict: Game of Silence (US: NBC)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

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

Does a show have to be miserable to be good? Some people, usually quite pretentious/depressed/Buddhist ones, will argue that all life is suffering and therefore to depict life correctly, you must depict suffering. Always.

Whether that’s true or not, if a TV show is good but miserable, will you still want to watch it?

Game of Silence, NBC’s remake of Turkey’s Suskunlar, is prime misery, with a bunch of childhood friends finding their past catching up with them decades later, when one of their number bumps into one of the men who abused him in prison and kills him. The gang the dead man was with – largely composed of people who were also in prison – end up killing him and before you know it, there’s a mounting war as the remaining friends try to find evidence that will put the baddies in prison, and the baddies try to stop them.

Just like ABC’s American CrimeGame of Silence is surprisingly grown-up and well made for network TV. While it’s nowhere near as realistic as that show and is often downright unbelievable, it’s surprisingly nuanced. Rather than simply go in all guns blazing, our heroes try to put together a legal case, collecting evidence along the way. And rather than paint the abusers as nothing but monsters, the show is at pains to show that it’s the penal system that caused the problems – both the heroes and the abusers did terrible things because of the nature of prison life, becoming hardened and inhuman. There are frequent flashbacks not just to the heroes’ childhood and what happened to them, but also to the abusers’, and there are side plots that illuminate this central thesis and argue that prison should be the last possible punishment for crimes, as it makes people more likely to become worse versions of themselves, not better.

The show is also, while unwilling to actually show anything happening, more than happy to describe and imply paedophile parties, repeated raped, physical abuse and more, as well as depict all the traumatic effects that can have on the psyche.

The trouble is that none of this is fun to watch. It’s not helped by the lack of humour, any real human warmth, or decent acting. To be fair, the show does try hard to depict some real camaraderie between the friends, but everyone’s so traumatised and/or soon-to-be-dead, that it doesn’t work. The fact, as the title suggests, that no one’s talking about this with anyone except each other, means that everyone else in the show is an outsider to this group of not especially joyful people.

Game of Silence is a good show, not a great one, and it would really have benefited from better casting and a bit of humour from time to time. I’ll probably stick with it for a couple more episodes, but I’m not expecting to be enjoying myself as I do.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with female leads? Yes, although might be a bit exploitative
TMINE’s prediction: With bad ratings, this is unlikely to last more than a season, if that.


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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