Imagine that your boss (and you may not have to try too hard with this one) is a spoiled, arrogant, idiotic, coked-up sex pest who only got where he is because of family connections. Imagine, too, that he’s making a nuisance of himself at the work party, and that he’s so out of his head that he collapses. And then you and three of your besties, naturally enough, decide to ritually humiliate this tool by sticking him in the boot of your car and taking him to some remote woods, where you photograph him with his pants down, looking like the pathetic idiot he is, ready for joyous release to the internet. But then suppose that you leave him out in the cold and rain for so long, and in such a state that, young as he is, he ends up dead. Then. You’ve. Got. A. Problem.
What do you do? In The Pact (BBC One), as the title suggests, four women who work on the shop floor in a brewery decide to wreak their revenge on the boss, Jack Evans (artfully played with a perma-sneer by Aneurin Barnard), but, when it goes fatally, tragically wrong, they panic and organise a cover-up. The only sober one, Nancy (Julie Hesmondhalgh), exercises some leadership and tells them to keep schtum about it and hope for the best. This becomes especially difficult for fellow conspirator Anna (an intense Laura Fraser) – highly strung even by the standards of an accidental killer – because her lovely, kind hubby, Max (Jason Hughes), happens to be the detective assigned to the case. Even more conflicted is Louie (Eiry Thomas), who is Jack’s auntie, though that doesn’t stop him from being cruel to her. The fourth woman, Cat (Heledd Gwynn), has more to fear because she’s only recently been released from prison.
The collective vow of silence proves to be surprisingly successful in this first episode of four, and the police soon alight on another suspect (Mandy, who’s innocent, played by Sophie Melville) with whom Jack has been having an affair. It’s clear where all this is leading... not that the murderous quartet will grass on one another, at least not for now, but that they’ll be torn apart as they watch the blameless woman charged and facing a lengthy time in jail. Even though they don’t like her much, because she got a promotion and is almost as loathsome as Jack, can they watch her be imprisoned for something she didn’t do? How and when will the pact disintegrate? Or will the group prove that they can organise a cover-up as well as a piss-up in a brewery?
There’s potential here, and the writing (Pete McTighe) and the cast are strong (Rakie Ayola is also excellent as the intimidating lead detective, as is Eddie Marsan as Jack’s grieving dad), but the premise does seem far-fetched. You see, I’ve been to a good few office parties in my time and indulged in some highly questionable behaviour, but I don’t think I’d ever leave a boss of mine for dead in the woods with his trousers around his ankles, listless in the dank night air, just for a laugh. I mean, you really wouldn’t. Would you?