Veteran Irish screenwriter Ron Hutchinson writes for Culture about his new six-part RTÉ thriller Acceptable Risk, starring Elaine Cassidy, which premieres on RTÉ One this Sunday night.
Acceptable Risk is a six-part thriller set in one of modern Ireland’s most important industries, pharmaceuticals.
I wanted to explore the impact of globalization from the angle of those working for international corporations in a Dublin far from the tourist image of the city. This Dublin is one of vast, sleek, anonymous office buildings such as those along the Quays, all of which have levels of security that suggest they’d rather we didn’t know what’s going on inside.
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It’s the Dublin of offices with sweeping, Masters-of-the-Universe views, executive dining rooms, private clubs, conference rooms that can seat fifty people, chauffeured cars, huge houses in the best neighborhoods and the company jet ready to whisk you away to London, Geneva, Hamburg or New York. It’s a world which offers a high salary and a great lifestyle to those who are part of it – but from them it asks total loyalty to the firm and the industry its part of. That means sometimes having to look away or hold your tongue when you see something you’re not meant to see.
In her search for the truth, we ask questions about how much it’s possible to know even the person you live with and sleep with and implicitly most trust.
Because it’s a thriller, it starts with the murder. In this case of someone whose wife believes him to be involved in international sales; a well-paid, high pressure job which takes him away from home in one of the most exclusive parts of the city every couple of weeks. This time he doesn’t come back. He’s killed on a trip to a medical conference in Montreal and a gun is found in the safe in his hotel room.
The first shock to his wife is learning of his brutal killing. The second is that he owned a gun and took the risk of smuggling it to Canada. More shocks and revelations follow. Soon, as she struggles with her grief and tries to deal with that of her two young children, she begins to realize that everything she believed about her husband was untrue. He’s lied to her about not just who he was but what he did for the company. The company closes ranks when she starts to ask what his job actually entailed and gives her no help in disentangling the web of deception he weaved about his real identity.
Just how far are you entitled to go in doing wrong to achieve a greater good? How far will you go to cover it up when exposure threatens?
Determining to get the answers, she starts to dig deeper and deeper. The trail seems leads back to something in the past of one of the most important executives in the company. It also leads to a re-examination of the circumstances of her first husband’s death, five years previously. In the light of her new suspicions, his passing no longer seems to have been an accidental drowning in one of the city’s iconic canals but murder.
In her search for the truth, we ask questions about how much it’s possible to know even the person you live with and sleep with and implicitly most trust. That search is set against the background of a major Irish industry with a moral dilemma at its core. It takes enormous amounts of money to research and develop the drugs which all of us reach for when we get sick. To make those enormous amounts of money the drug companies need to stay in business. Sometimes staying in business may mean cutting ethical corners, corrupting officials or committing bribery.
Because it’s a thriller, it starts with the murder.
Just how far are you entitled to go in doing wrong to achieve a greater good? How far will you go to cover it up when exposure threatens? The Irish have always had more than their fair share of enthusiasm for hashing such moral conundrums. In the many years of colonization overt action went hand-in-hand with reflection on the theoretical underpinnings of resistance. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that today’s Ireland is undergoing another colonization by international capital in its faceless commercial monoliths which now grace – or wreck – the Dublin skyline?
Acceptable Risk starts on Sunday, September 24th on RTÉ One @ 9.30pm